Monday, December 28, 2009

Women of the Wall

My dear friend Na'ama sent this article to me from the New York Times (funny since she lives in Portland, OR), about a group of women who have worshiped and fought for religious equality at the Kotel (Western Wall in Israel) for more than 20 years.

Despite tremendous opposition, threats of physical violence and the potential for fines and jail time, these women have come to the Kotel at the start of every Hebrew month (traditionally a time for women to pray together). They pray out loud when the custom is for women to be quiet so as not to tempt the nearby men with their voices. They read from the Torah when the custom is for only men to do so. They wear tallit (prayer shawls) when again the custom is only incumbent upon men. These practices are not strictly forbidden, rather they have evolved to have profound force since women are considered exempt from the commandments under Orthodox interpretation.

From the article, "The Kotel is defined in Israel as a national and holy site that is open to all. In practice, the women say, it operates like an Orthodox synagogue, with separate prayer sections for men and women and a modesty patrol to ensure that visitors are appropriately dressed."

I've been to the Kotel. I dressed in what I considered a demure outfit and still found myself pushed around by the so-called "modesty police" because a sliver of my collarbone peeked out, in Jerusalem, in August. It's unfortunate, but stories like this are part of what deters me from ever wanting to live in Israel on a permanent basis.

While I respect Orthodox interpretations with their strictly divided gender spheres, I don't think that gives anyone the right to exert their believes as the sole option. I wish the Women of the Wall nothing but hatzlacha (success) in their critical mission to bring greater religious pluralism to their society and I hope that with God's help, I can join them in joyful prayer on my next trip to Israel.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Repost: MLK National Day of Service with Jersey Cares

Spend MLK Day repairing the world with your Jersey Tribe friends and make President Obama proud on this National Day of Service.

There are several projects sponsored by Jersey Cares going on around the state, but in the interest of geography and convenience, the Jersey Tribe will be staking out a painting project at a camp for underpriviledged children in Edison. The first 20 people to RSVP will be guaranteed registration at our group spot. Additional people may have to register individually or may be shut out of the space-limited project.

If you'd prefer to do a different project in another location please visit the Jersey Cares site directly ( to complete your registration. We will coordinate a post-activity lunch for all Jersey Tribe participants.


And yes, it would appear that this new Jewish volunteer group endeavor of mine, aka JERSEY TRIBE, has somewhat co-opted this blog. What can I say, I only have so much creative juice in me and right now I'm finding the effort to bring young Jews together for philanthropic, social and charitable activities a bit more rewarding. Give me 6 months - I may change my mind.
In the meantime, comment here if you're interested in participating!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Hannukah Care Packages for Jews in Uniform

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm starting a group for young Jewish adults in New Jersey to get together and do a little good in the world while making new friends and having fun. If you happen to be in North Jersey on Tuesday night, December 8, and you want to be a part of this event, just leave a comment and I will send you the information offline.

Show your support for Jewish men and women serving in the United States Armed Forces this Hanukkah season. We will be assembling care packages and signing cards for service members who are also Members of the Tribe.

Bring some (meatless
) food or drinks to share with your fellow volunteers and $5 to cover the cost of the supplies. I will provide the care package supplies and cards, a DVD of the Hebrew Hammer and a few dreidels.

PLEASE NOTE: If you can't make it to the event but would like to contribute money toward to the purchase of care package items, leave a comment with your email and I will be in touch offline.

Special Thanks to Sara Levenstein, Jonathan Hakakian and the Erwyn Group for their generous donations to this event. And don't forget - Hanukkah starts Friday, December 11.