Jewish Law

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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.

Phoebe Chapnick-Sorokin and Family at Disneyland

Leaving My Liberal Bubble

by Phoebe Chapnick-Sorokin

Because of my upbringing, the gender separation at my cousin Zoe’s bat mitzvah came to me as a shock. Why couldn’t I stand with my dad and all my male cousins? Why wasn’t Zoe reading Torah like all the other girls I knew did at their bat mitzvah services?

2018-2019 Rising Voices Fellow Shira Minsk in First Grade

Why Keep Passover When You Love Carbs?

by Shira Minsk

Now that I’m out in the secular world, I have to decide what Judaism really means to me. I have to distinguish between the things that are actually important to me and the things I’ve just done out of habit.

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.

Good Jew or Bad Jew?

Are you a Good Jew or a Bad Jew?

by Rachel Silverman

This anxiety of “am I Jewish enough” is part of a larger historical problem, one of power dynamics and exclusionary politics. ... The “right” or “wrong” way to be Jewish has long been a narrative controlled by those in power.

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.

Ink of our Own: Women Who Scribe

Torah Scribe and Educator Julie Seltzer takes participants on a behind-the-scenes tour of how Torahs are written, and discusses the Jewish law that has long kept women from being scribes.

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
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

Miriam Spira-Luria

Although little is known of her life, legends of Miriam Spira-Luria’s scholarship offer tantalizing hints of an intelligent, accomplished woman almost completely erased from history.

Susan Grossman

As a member of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS), Rabbi Susan Grossman has helped shape the Conservative Movement’s policies on women’s rights and their roles in Jewish life.

Susan Grossman

Rabbi Susan Grossman has helped shape the Conservative Movement’s policies on women’s rights and roles in Jewish life through her work as a member of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS).
Congressman Lee Zeldin

Through a Jewish Lens: An Argument for Safe, Legal Abortion

by Madisen Siegel

My name is Madisen Siegel. I am an 18-year- old, soon-to-be-registered voter in the first district of New York. As one of your constituents, and a young adult who just moved to New York–fresh from the malls and suburbia of northern New Jersey–I am concerned about your stance on healthcare, and I am asking you to re-think your position, especially when it comes to abortion. 

Ben Shapiro

Facts Sometimes Have Feelings

by Abigail Fisher

“Torah Judaism does not support abortion, Torah Judaism does not support same-sex marriage,” right-wing pundit Ben Shapiro explained with a confident smirk to a cheering audience of Yeshiva University students. I expect it’s a lot easier to blindly subscribe to one binary view on what is seen as one of the most enigmatic documents in existence, rather than to actively engage with this foundational text, and question its claims. 

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. 

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.

Cartoon Image of a Girl Looking Embarrassed

Can I Ask You Something?

by Abigail Fisher

For as long as I can remember, I’ve butted heads with Orthodox men. There was the time in third grade when I volunteered to sing the Torah trope, but was discouraged  by a boy in my class who said that “girls don’t actually read Torah at their bat mitzvahs.” In other words, why bother? Then in sixth grade, when all I wanted was to learn advanced Talmud,  I was met with a discrediting, “okay, Abigail, okay. We’ll see.” 

2016-2017 Rising Voices Fellow Sarah Biskowitz and her Sister Lighting Shabbat Candles

The Ham Sandwich

by Sarah Biskowitz

Looking back, I now know that the comment about my sandwich choice was an extremely inappropriate thing for a coach to say to a student. It was also just rude. But most of all, it capitalized on my outsider-ness. 

Benevolent Societies and Tzedakah

Examine different ways that American Jewish women historically—and we today—fulfill the obligation of tzedakah (charity) and gemilut chesed (acts of loving kindness).

Judaism, Text Study, and Labor (Module #3)

Study several traditional Jewish texts and apply the concepts in these texts to the stories and characters in the game. Think about the lessons Judaism teaches about the responsibilities of workers and employers.

Yael Marans

Decompartmentalizing Jewish and Feminist Identity

by Noam Green

In continuing with the Jewish Women’s Archive’s goal of elevating the voices and sharing the stories of Jewish women, I decided to interview and profile Yael Marans, a childhood friend and overall mensch. 

Jackie Tabick

Jackie Tabick helped pave the way for others as Great Britain’s first female rabbi.

Jackie Tabick

Jackie Tabick, Great Britain’s first female rabbi, also serves as Britain’s first female head of the Reform Beit Din, or religious court.
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