Lisa Schlaff spoke at March’s conference on women and prayer about her experiences with the “partnership minyan” Darchei Noam. She pointed out that explaining a partnership minyan can sound like ordering at Starbucks: “I’ll have the mechitza with women-leading-psukei-and-men-leading-musaf, please.”
The Torah: A Women’s Commentary — published in 2008 by the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) — includes full English and Hebrew Torah texts interspersed with commentary; introductory essays; and an overview, poetic “voices” and “another view” for each weekly portion. It encompasses the commentary of 100 authors, from across the spectrum of Jewish practice and belief, and incorporates the work of 140 poets. The Torah: A Women’s Commentary is attractive and useful, but it is unclear whether it does — or should — meet its creators’ expectations.
I find this publication situation a bit reminiscent of the 1941 Cooper/Stanwyck movie, “Ball of Fire”: Professor Bertram Potts and fellow lexicographers are about to publish their long-researched dictionary when Potts realizes that language usage has changed — “cats” are spending “dough” — while they’ve been in their study. Much has changed between 1992, when the URJ commentary was conceived, and 2008, when it appeared — and those years are not clearly reflected in the new volume.
I was similarly struck when Alison Lavie spoke at the conference, “This is My Prayer–Va’ani tefillati: Jewish Women in Prayer,” on March 1 (2009). Her comments centered around her personal discovery of women’s prayer traditions from various points in Jewish history. To some Israeli audiences, “Why didn’t I know about the women’s traditions of my ancestors?” might have been a reasonable refrain; to a U.S. audience — one self-selected for an interest in prayer, and women’s prayer at that — the question drew many puzzled looks and mutterings long the lines of, “Good question. Why didn’t you know about women’s traditions?”
Various compilations of Jewish women’s prayers have been available in English for nearly 20 years. And, while Lavie’s recent English publication, A Jewish Woman’s Prayer Book, was a welcome addition, it was not “groundbreaking” for U.S. readers — and her remarks were not news to many in the conference audience.
Continue reading New “Ball of Fire”?
The schedule for “This is My Prayer–Va’ani tefillati: Jewish Women in Prayer” — the March 1 inter-denominational conference — is available now. Registration closes February 24 — NO ON-SITE REGISTRATION — for the event, which takes place at the Abraham Joshua Heschel High School, 20 West End Avenue (at 60th Street), New York City.
Continue reading “this is my prayer”
Shabbat Shirah is marked at Temple Micah (DC) — as in many congregations — with extra emphasis on the Song of the Sea, the Israelites’ praise-song to God after their escape from Egypt (Exodus Chapter 15). At Micah, the much-anticipated annual celebration incorporates special readings and musical selections; each year presents several settings of “Mi Chamocha” [“Who is like you, God?”] — the pre-Amidah prayer, taken in part from Exod. 15 and recalling the Israelites’ offering of “a shirah chadashah” [new song].
Continue reading Song and Survival
I recently picked up The Best of Simple, a collection of short stories by Langston Hughes, and was struck by an amazing prayer that the main character says he would offer, were he “a praying man.”
Continue reading Langston Hughes’ Simple Prayer
Many contemporary women and men are searching for “a place,” in the Jewish world. We frequently bemoan the lack of singing, fellowship, learning or youth programs at our various synagogues. We struggle with issues from the pettiest to the most fundamental in our worship communities. We all know of clergy and other Jewish professionals who were treated badly by their congregations or vice versa.
Continue reading Searching Out a Place
Women and men are invited to an interdenominational conference on women and prayer, cosponsored by the Jewish Theological Seminary, Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, Women of Reform Judaism, Women’s League for Conservative Judaism and NYC-based organizations. Will take place at Heschel high school in Manhattan, March 1, 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.