Wednesday, September 08, 2004

What’s wrong with being fair?

For roughly twenty years, every time I’ve gotten up to request that a mi-sh’berach prayer be said for a relative or friend, I’ve mentioned the sick person’s mother’s name, in accordance with tradition, and then added the father’s name. It seems only fair—if I add the Mothers to the Amidah, how can I omit fathers from other prayers? In twenty years, three previous rabbis—two of them graduates of the Jewish Theological Seminary—never objected to my personal minhag/custom, nor did even the most traditional members of our synagogue. But last Shabbat, out of a clear blue sky, our rabbi, who’s been with us for almost exactly a year, sprang it on me that this is forbidden by Jewish law. All of a sudden, something that I’ve been doing for twenty years has to be discussed by the Ritual Committee? That’s what we get for hiring a black-hat Orthodox rabbi from Chafetz Chaim Yeshiva (since we can’t afford to hire a Conservative rabbi from JTS or the University of Judaism). If I wanted to follow a right-wing Orthodox interpretation of halachah/Jewish law, I wouldn’t be a member of a Conservative synagogue.


Blogger Barefoot Jewess said...

Boy, as if you weren't getting enough grief already! I'm a bit confused. If Conservative halacha allows mentioning the father's name, and yours is a C shul, then shouldn't the ritual committee also have to rule that it's okay? Who gets to ultimately decide on this? (taking notes for future reference)

Tue Sep 14, 11:05:00 PM 2004  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Much to the dismay of our current rabbi, our congregation's policy is that the Ritual Committee makes the final decision. Since he can't hold an Orthodox interpretation of halachah over my head, the rabbi's standing on procedural grounds, instead, insisting that, since the mi-sh'berach prayer is a congregational prayer, not a private one, and, therefore, I'm making a change in the service, I have to follow synagogue policy and get the permission of the Ritual Committee.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that the committee’s decision is a done deal. On one hand, since two previous rabbis of our shul who were Jewish Theological Seminary graduates didn't object to my minhag/custom, I think it's reasonable to assume that it's permissible according to a Conservative interpretation of halachah/Jewish law. On the other hand, since the traditionalists in our shul are not exactly thrilled that the Conservative Movement permits women to be rabbis and cantors and to have aliyot, and since I'm the resident poster child for egalitarianism, I'm a lightning rod for those who don't approve of such things. Since the Ritual Committee is deliberately split between traditionalists and egalitarians in order to reflect the congregation's collective opinion fairly, its decision may depend on whether the egalitarians win out over the traditionalists, who may or may not take this glorious opportunity to be vindictive. Let’s just call it Synagogue Politics 101. Stay tuned--the Ritual Committee will hold its next meeting sometime after Simchat Torah.

Wed Sep 15, 01:27:00 AM 2004  

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