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Episode 28: The Torah at Her Fingertips

Batya Sperling Milner’s recent bat mitzvah was groundbreaking; it was the first held in an Orthodox synagogue in which the Torah portion was chanted from braille. In this episode of Can We Talk?, Batya talks about the highlights of her bat mitzvah and her mother, Aliza Sperling, discusses her groundbreaking scholarship on blind people reading Torah within the bounds of Jewish law. We talk about the first ever braille trope system—one created especially for Batya. Batya describes her love of Torah, her commitment to Jewish law, and her desire to be recognized for who she is, rather than defined by a disability.

Nina Baran's Tanakh

Interpreting the Torah Through a Feminist Lens

by Nina Baran

I got my own Tanakh and started doing some research. I looked up different passages, including some that I’d heard that seemed to go against my beliefs as a feminist and activist.

Episode 22: The Red Tent: Claiming Our Place in the Story

Anita Diamant's 1997 novel The Red Tent began as a word-of-mouth book club favorite, and went on to become a publishing phenomenon and the inspiration for women's organizations around the world. In this first-ever Can We Talk? episode recorded in front of an audience, we bring you a lively conversation with Anita Diamant, host-producer Nahanni Rous, JWA Executive Director Judith Rosenbaum, Rabbi Liza Stern, and Rev. Gloria White-Hammond.

Girls in Trouble: Women's Agency and Power in the Torah

Guest teacher Alicia Jo Rabins introduces two new study guides from her "Girls in Trouble" curriculum. By exploring the stories of the Sotah, and the daughters of Tzelofchad, participants consider women's agency and power in the Torah.

Harvey Weinstein

Seizing Control of the Narrative

by Sofia Heller

The avalanche of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape allegations over the past few months, catalyzed by the sexual harassment and assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein, make it clear that sexual violence is a problem deeply embedded in our society; it even finds credence in Judaism’s foundational text, the Torah.

Topics: Bible, Jewish Law
Egyptians Admire Sarai's Beauty

Sarai and the Silence Breakers

by Natalie Harder

Once a month, I meet with about ten other Jewish girls as part of the Rosh Chodesh program. We drink tea, bake cookies, do mindful meditations, and kvetch. Most importantly though, we talk about the impact our female identities have on our daily lives and within Judaism. Earlier this month, over a batch of half-baked brownies, we discussed a Torah portion that rattled the foundation of my identity as a Jewish woman.

Topics: Feminism, Bible
Julia Clardy Canoe Trip Photo

Creation on a Canoe Trip

by Julia Clardy

This past summer I attended a three-week-long canoe trip in Western Quebec. We set out to canoe white water and live completely in nature with a handful of tents, the clothes we were wearing, heavy containers filled with dehydrated food, and four red canoes. I had no idea what I was in for, and my only expectation was to learn more about the earth, and how I’m connected to it.

Tamar Cohen at her Bat Mitzvah

Near(ly) a Woman

by Tamar Cohen

Every year in the Hebrew month of Shevat, Jews around the world read Parshat Yitro, the Torah portion that contains the Ten Commandments. But the “Big Ten” are only part of this portion – Parshat Yitro also contains a visit from Moses’ father-in-law, a feast, and a set of instructions from G-d transferred with questionable integrity by Moses to the Israelites. Before becoming a Bat Mitzvah at age 12, I spent months studying this portion and its various commentaries. One line was particularly alarming to me: “Be ready for the third day: do not go near a woman.”

Drawing of Zelophead's Daughters

Finding the Founding Feminists

by Minnah Stein

Every year in July, the story of Pinchas is told. And on July 6, 2013, I was the one telling this story. Yep. Little 13-year-old me, electric green braces and all, was up on the bimah, knees knocking, chanting the story of Pinchas. And I did a great job, if I do say so myself. But as embarrassing as it is to admit now, my understanding of my Torah portion at that time was very superficial. I had spent so much time making sure I knew the words so I didn’t make a fool out of myself when I was chanting, that I didn’t put that much effort into fully understanding what I was saying, and how it affected me.

Topics: Bible, Jewish Law
Holding Hands

The Importance of Self-Love

by Shira Small

“Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Leviticus 19:34 provides the Jewish people with this inspirational and often-repeated Torah verse that seems to pop up in my own life endlessly. In Temple, in Jewish Studies classes, at home when my mother reminds me to be the bigger person—this verse follows me wherever I go. For a long time, I appreciated it and used it as a motivation to do good. But then I reached a point in my life when treating others as I treated myself wouldn’t have been the kindest path. 

Topics: Schools, Bible
San Francisco Pride

Cafeteria Judaism and Feminine Queer Identity

by Kara Sherman

Religion isn’t always easy. I often like to pretend it is—buzzwords like “interfaith” and “pluralism” pervade my discussions about faith. But every now and again, I’m reminded that the history of my faith is not easy. Judaism was, in fact, built on questions. How do I find support as a woman from a faith founded on patriarchal texts? How do I reconcile ancient laws with a modern identity of queerness?

The Story of Job

Job and Josie

by Josephine Rosman

One of the most challenging parts of being Jewish is learning how to struggle with stories from Jewish texts that initially seem to contradict my values. When I come across these stories, I have to decide if and how they fit into my own personal relationship with Judaism. The story I have struggled with the most is the Book of Job (Iyov).

Topics: Activism, Bible
Rising Voices Fellow Emma Mair at her Bat Mitzvah

The First Hero

by Emma Mair

Robert Lappin, Jewish philanthropist and the man who’s foundation sent me to Israel this past summer, has said that interfaith families who choose to raise their kids Jewish are the heroes of Judaism. With Jews making up only .2% of the global population, Judaism is both the oldest and the smallest monotheistic religion, meaning that families who tackle raising their children Jewish in this Christian-normative society are much needed. 

Topics: Children, Bible
Josie Rosman at her Bat Mitzvah

Whose Bat Mitzvah Is It Anyway?

by Josephine Rosman

Becoming a bat mitzvah was the most spiritual event of my life thus far. Being surrounded by my friends, family, and community as I claimed my place as a Jewish adult was exactly as awe-inspiring and invigorating as I’d been promised it would be. The only dark spot of my day came just after services, during the celebratory brunch, when my uncle informed me that my interpretation of the Torah was wrong.

Tamara Cohn Eskenazi

For Tamara Cohn Eskenazi, editor of The Torah: A Women’s Commentary, becoming a rabbi was the culmination of a lifelong examination of the intersection of women and faith.

Tamara Cohn Eskenazi

As editor of The Torah: A Women’s Commentary, scholar and rabbi Tamara Cohn Eskenazi recovered the stories of women mentioned throughout the Bible and treated them with the academic rigor usually reserved for the patriarchs and other biblical men.

"Lilith: Demoness or Heroine?" with Alicia Jo Rabins

Join Alicia Jo Rabins: poet, musician, composer, and Jewish educator, as she introduces Girls in Trouble, her new curriculum based on her songs about women in the Bible. Learn about all that this curriculum has to offer and how to use it in your classroom, and participate in some of the activities from Alicia’s lesson about Lilith. Plus, hear Alicia perform her song about Lilith, live!

The Daughters of Zelophehad

The Fight to Break Barriers Continues

by Maya Jodidio

The recent presidential election proved that women haven't broken the highest glass ceiling just yet. For centuries, however, women have been breaking barriers and surmounting obstacles. In one of the first recorded cases, five revolutionary biblical women, Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah, were the first females to inherit land from their father, Zelophehad. 

Open Journal

Finding Myself and God in a Still, Small Voice

by Aliza Abusch-Magder

Teenage chaos is inevitable. I speak from experience when I say, plenty of mistakes are made and it can be hard to find our voice. We don’t always know how to grow. We don't always know how to learn from our mistakes. For the first time, our questions don’t have answers. 

Drop of Water Causing a Ripple Effect

The Magnitude of Miriam Through Midrash

by Abigail Fisher

For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled to make the Torah meaningful to me.  In first grade, the boys in my class had already found strong and charismatic role models in Moses, Aaron, Abraham, and countless others. I, and the other girls in my class, were left to search for leaders in soft-spoken and often overlooked sisters and mothers. 

2016-2017 Rising Voices Fellow Katy Ronkin at her Bat Mitzvah

Niddah v. Ronkin: How I was able to Reclaim the Mikveh

by Katy Ronkin

It’s so disheartening to me that our religious text calls something as natural as a woman’s period, “impure.” A period is nothing to be ashamed of, and this text only adds to the stigma surrounding them. 

Miriam Holding a Timbrel

The Forgotten Sister: Miriam

by Madisen Siegel

Miriam is one of many strong women described in the Jewish texts, and is far too often forgotten when we retell our stories. Two stories stand out to me in illustrating that Miriam is a truly wise and courageous woman: when Miriam saves her brother Moses in his youth, and when she leads the Jewish people in celebration after they successfully cross the Red Sea to safety. 

Topics: Feminism, Passover, Bible
2016-2017 Rising Voices Fellow Eden Olsberg at her Bat Mitzvah

Her mouth opens with wisdom, and words of loving kindness are on her lips

by Eden Olsberg

Laws, tradition, and God are words that typically come to mind when you think of Judaism. In my Bat Mitzvah parsha (Torah reading), Lech Lecha, these words are relevant, but not the ones that stuck out to me.

2016-2017 Rising Voices Fellow Isabel Kirsch at her Bat Mitzvah

Public Responsibility: From Biblical Consent To Planned Parenthood

by Isabel Kirsch

When I first read my assigned Bat Mitzvah parsha (Torah portion), Ki Teitzei, my response was one of shock and disgust. The parsha discusses the guidelines for punishing an engaged virgin who lies with another man, outlining different punishments depending upon where the activity occurs.

Sarah, Hagar, and Abraham

Are You There God? It’s Me, Hagar

by Diana Myers

The matriarchs are complex women, who do not always behave “perfectly,” or in the manner we would expect of our biblical female role models. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the story of Hagar, Sarah’s one-time slave, and Abraham’s one-time concubine.

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