Week of December 1

Women's Role in the Synagogue

I started reading an amazing paper published by Rabbi Mendel Shapiro in The Edah Journal in 2001. The paper established the phenomenon of partnership minyanim across the United States and Israel. The most famous of these is a synagogue in Jerusalem called Shira Chadasha. When they began meeting more than twenty years ago, they were spearheading an effort that had never before been explored within Orthodoxy. Interestingly some of the reasoning that is used in Rabbi Shapiro's essay is already anticipated by responsa by the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS). What Rabbi Shapiro explores is what opportunities really are permitted under halacha for women's participation in worship services. His essay is exciting and difficult, and I'm exploring it with two of my colleagues on Long Island. 

I suppose one of the motivations for reading this paper is my discontent with the discussion around women's participation in religious services boiling down to sociology. We should be able to ground our decisions regarding women's participation in the Biblical and Rabbinic literature that is our inheritance. To be sure, changing norms around the role of women in society have provoked this excavation of the sources, but to simply mirror the developments of society without undergoing some internal process that engages with the sources of our heritage seems unworthy of the Jewish way.

Tzedekah: Coat Drive

I need to shout out to Leslie Hartman for the great work she spearheaded in coordination with Temple Beth Torah in organizing a coat drive. For several weeks, congregants have been dropping off coats they no longer use at the entrance of the synagogue. Tuesday night, several volunteers came to the synagogue to organize them into bags. Both members of JJC and TBT volunteered. In total, the Coat Drive received 290 coats. This morning, they were delivered to Andrew Howard's Cleaners, which participates in the act of tzedekah by cleaning the coats at no cost. Once they are cleaned, they will be dropped off at the Mary Brennan Inn at Hempstead, which will distribute them to the needy. We've all felt the temperature drop in the last week and are keenly aware of how uncomfortable being outside is without the proper clothing. Our congregation is extremely proud that this act of tzedekah has been performed.