Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Responsibilities without rights

Monday, February 16, 2004

So our beloved president springs it on the Board of Directors that, with our usual weekday morning minyan leader moving to senior housing out of state, our cantor living in the ‘burbs except on weekends, my husband often unavailable, especially during his busy season, our part-time rabbi not contractually obligated even to attend minyan, much less to read Torah, and our only other qualified Torah reader generally unavailable in the morning due to his work schedule, I'm the only one left standing. Assuming that I understood the board's vote correctly, whenever there's no qualified man available, any qualified woman may read Torah at a weekday morning service. For the moment, I'm the only qualified woman. (I hope to change that.) This puts me in the rather interesting position of being allowed to read the Torah but not being allowed to have an aliyah. I'm not quite sure whether I should feel honored or insulted. Or is that honored or exploited? Or "all of the above?"

This congregation has always been far more concerned with getting their money's worth than with encouraging learning—"Why should he read when we're paying someone to do it?" Well, now that there's no professional available, there's almost no one else who knows how. The irony is that the three of us congregants who have this skill all learned it elsewhere—my husband and me from our twenty-some years membership in an egalitarian and participatory congregation, and the other gent from being a native Hebrew speaker. Now, they'll be stuck with me occasionally, whether they like it or not. I might also add that, without another qualified Torah reader present, the minyan will also be without a qualified gabbai to assist and correct me. And, when I don’t have sufficient advance notice to prepare—I ain’t that good—the minyan will just have to put up with me reading from a book instead of from the scroll.

Though it wasn't discussed at the board meeting, it's likely that I'll also end up leading services on days when the cantor, the rabbi, and the hubby are not available, for pretty much the same reason—who else knows how? Let's not even discuss the halachic (Jewish religious law) issue of whether someone who, according to a more traditional interpretation, is not obligated to pray (a female) can "substitute" for someone else who is obligated to pray (a male) by leading prayers—I don't think any other congregant either knows or cares.

. . .

Thursday, April 29, 2004

I'm now in the rather interesting position of having served as both baalat tefillah (prayer leader) and baalat koreh (Torah reader) in a shul that won't give women aliyot. I'd love to see our traditionalist members try to explain that one to the Rabbinical Assembly's Committee on Jewish Law and Standards.


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