Volume 8 Number 88
                       Produced: Mon Aug 23 23:27:35 1993

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Giving up on Orthodoxy
         [Anthony Fiorino]
Women and Minyanim
         [Leah S. Reingold]


From: Anthony Fiorino <fiorino@...>
Date: Thu, 12 Aug 1993 17:06:36 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Giving up on Orthodoxy

from Leah S. Reingold

> A final point: several people have objected to my earlier assertion that
> many women are leaving Orthodoxy because they are being held back from
> the type of religious opportunities (learning, laining, semicha, etc)
> that they crave.  I contend that such women are not hooked up to this
> list to speak for themselves, having given up on traditional avenues. .
> . .   I have spoken PERSONALLY with scores of women from campuses around
> the country who were raised to be Orthodox, but who were able to advance
> far in the secular world, wanted parallel opportunities in the Jewish
> world, and therefore left Orthodoxy for precisely the reasons that I
> outlined earlier.

I have a mix of reactions to these comments; they are a bit
contradictory.  My immediate reaction is to feel that it is terrible;
why should anyone feel "forced out" of Orthodoxy?  But then I thought
about what kind of circmstances would force me to give up Orthodoxy, and
it occured to me that the circumstances would have to quite extreme.  So
I thought, perhaps one can simply dismiss as marginally affiliated
people (men or women) who leave Orthodoxy because of such
dissatisfactions.  After all, if someone truly believes in Orthodoxy,
then to give it up would simply be incompatable with their beliefs about
the world and about G-d.  The demographics indicate that there is an
ongoing return to traditional Judaism (see Returning to Tradition, M.
Herbert Danzger, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989 for a
sociological study of the baal t'shuva movement) and the number
returning to Orthodoxy exceeds, probably substantially, the number
leaving.  Thus, if many more find in Orthoddoxy something deeply
satisfying rather than something deeply disturbing, then perhaps the
"patient" is not quite as sick as others might think.  This is, more or
less, the same Orthodoxy which was declared dead by non- halachic
Judaism 50 years ago (see the symposium entitled "If Orthodoxy is the
Answer, What is the Question?" from Moment magazine a few years ago).
It is precisely by maintaining its norms that Orthodoxy has attained its
current strength.  If individuals are lost, that is very sad on an
individual basis, but long before there was a Conservative movement,
there were Jews who left observance, and the suggestion was never
implemented that halachah be changed to save such people.

In fact, part of me feels the reaction is somewhat appropriate.  As some
of the more radical proposals have come across mail-jewish (hints that
perhaps women should be rabbis, women should have aliyot), I have found
myself thinking "but there is a variety of Judaism which provides all of
this.  Why attempt to change what isn't willing or able to change, when
one can simply affiliate with a different movement?" As an example -- I
would not bother attempting to put demands on Lakewood or Torah v'Daas
to introduce secular studies into their curricula.  I would simply
attend a yeshiva which had an open attitude towards such studies.
(Although one might say that all of my options are "Orthodox," I don't
know that the people from Lakewood would agree) Why attack RIETS for not
admitting women?  They are as interested in admitting women as Lakewood
is in introducing an advanced English literature course into the kollel.
(As an aside -- what about R. Halivni's new yeshiva?  Is he admitting
women?  There's at least a chance of that happening, versus the zero
chance that RIETS will accept women.) I am not suggesting that people
leave Orthodoxy, chas v'shalom.  But ultimately, one must weigh one's
commitment to halachah and to the institutions of Orthodoxy against
one's desire for things to be different.

I feel a little bit that this is an attempt at strong-arming.  One
doesn't determine halachah by threat.  To say "unless things change, x
number of people are going to leave Orthodoxy" -- this is a threat.  How
far is one willing to take such a threat?  What other dinim might we
revise while we've got a gun held to the head of Orthodoxy?  This whole
methodology is problematic, even if the point is 100% correct in this
case, because it can be used by any group with any perceived complaint
against halacha -- "we're going to leave Orthodoxy unless . . . "

The point I am not quite understanding, I think, is the state of being
attached to Orthodoxy, yet disagreeing so vehemently with it.  Feeling
that Orthodoxy is right, but simultaneously feeling that much of it is
wrong.  Identifying with Orthodoxy, yet being unwilling to conform one's
world view to the world view of halacha; wanting instead the halachah to
conform to one's world view.  It seems to me that there comes a point,
if one begins changing Orthodoxy to conform to the desires of groups of
Jews, that the entity called Orthodoxy will no longer be Orthodox.  What
I mean is that the authoritative nature of Orthodoxy as a way of being
Jewish (meaning, being Orthodox is the only correct way to live as a
Jew) rests not upon simply the title "Orthodoxy;" there must be an
integrity and emet (truth) within the system.  Though G-d may laugh when
a Sage exclaims "Lo bashamayim hi" (it [the halacha] is not in heaven)
(bava metzia 59), that doesn't mean that we are free to create halachah
in any way we see fit, as individuals or as a community.  The people to
be trusted with finding the balance between ridigity and flexibility are
the poskim, those qualified to give authoritative psak.  And if they
read the sources differently than I do, then I have to live with that.

Eitan Fiorino


From: <leah@...> (Leah S. Reingold)
Date: Wed, 18 Aug 93 18:44:08 -0400
Subject: Women and Minyanim

Mr. Teitelman writes:

>"Official recognition" in the context of prayer would seemingly be
>best defined by HKBH's [the Holy One, blessed be He - Ed.] acceptance
>of one's prayer. The Rambam (cited in my earlier posting as well as in
>Eitan Fiorino's) states that "public prayer is always heard" and does
>not limit his remarks to only the prayers of those *men* present among
>the tzibbur. Accordingly, it seems that a woman *is* officially
>recognized. Moreover, one's "function" in a house of worship is *not*
>to be the chazan [cantor - Ed.], ba'al keri'ah [reader from the Torah
>- Ed.], or gabbai ["collector" - one who helps supervising the reading
>of the Torah and in calling people to the Torah, announcing donations,
>etc. - Ed.]; it is to pray. While "official recognition" and
>"function" may be *perceived* by others in terms of a public role in
>the synagogue, I think that we should keep in mind "lifnei mi atah
>omed" -- before whom we (lit. you) stand -- when we evaluate
>institutions of prayer.

In my post, which said, "...a minyan that does not officially recognize
her presence," the term "recognize" did not apply to G-d.  I meant (and
stated) that it is the minyan that does not recognize women in any
official capacity; I did not even touch on the issue of whose prayer is
acceptable to G-d, nor could I possibly know such a thing.

Furthermore, although a person's function while davening is primarily to
pray to G-d, any PUBLIC prayer necessitates various other functions,
including laining, leading davening, being gabbai, etc.  These added
duties and associated additional prayers are precisely what
differentiates public prayer from private.  Therefore, a person who
attends a minyan, but who is not welcome to perform any function except
to daven privately, cannot possibly be considered to be fully recognized
in and by that minyan.

[Note: I suspect that part of the possible communication problem
concerning this issue is reflected in the statement above about what
differentiates public prayer from private. Is it being the one who
lains, who leads davening, is gabbai etc? Or is it hearing the Torah
reading, hearing the repeatition of the Amidah, the Kaddish and Kedusha?
I believe that it is in the answer to this question that the religious
difference, or lack thereof, of a woman praying with a minyan rather
than alone lies. Mod.]

It seems to me, therefore, to be a mockery of the advantages of 'tefilla
be-tzibbur' to state that a woman ought to prefer to daven with such a
minyan instead of to daven alone or with a women's tefilla group, since
there is (and can be, in most cases) no religious difference between her
davening with said minyan and davening alone.  In response to the
argument, "but public prayer is always heard by G-d," this is
insufficient reason.  While Rambam states that "public prayer is always
heard," he does not say that private prayer is not heard.  Indeed,
private prayer (invented by a woman, no less!) is required at some
points even during public davening--during the amidah, for example.

Mr. Teitelman continues:

>Along similar lines, it is certainly very noble and considerate of a
>man who would otherwise not attend minyan to respond to a need for a
>"tenth". (And __notwithstanding my comments above and other possible
>objections to women's tefilla groups__, it is likewise noble and
>considerate of a woman who would would otherwise not attend tefilla-
>group to respond to a need for a ba'alat keri'ah.) Certainly we must
>praise the actions of people who help out their brothers (and sisters)
>when they are in need. But the "religiously conscientious" -- and it
>is to this group which I addressed my original remarks -- don't wait
>for a personal invitation to attend synagogue when and only when they
>are needed as one of the ten or to serve in some public role. There is
>a special merit of being one of the first ten at shul as well as
>serving the congregation, but this is *not* what tefilla be-tzibbur is
>all about.

Sadly, it seems that the "religiously conscientious" to whom Mr.
Teitelman refers are few and far between.  So much so, for instance,
that I have yet to hear of a shul that has never had to make a phone
call to get someone to make a minyan or lain or give a d'var Torah or
whatever.  It is all well and good to talk of an ideal world in which
people attend davening because it is the right thing to do.
Realistically, however, peer pressure plays a major role in attracting
people to shul.

My point, however, was not that peer pressure is some wonderful
attribute of public prayer.  I meant only to point out that the lack of
such pressure on women in an Orthodox minyan is one factor that leads
those women to attend other tefilla groups.  In fact, in minyanim that
assign devrei Torah to women, for example, those women feel peer
pressure to attend (and do so) nearly as much as do their brethren.

Women are not insensitive to the silent message that they receive from
many Orthodox minyanim that they are welcome as long as they keep the
children quiet, don't sing too loudly, and do not try to participate in
any public roles.  This message is precisely what gives many Orthodox
girls the idea that they don't really need to daven at all (a depressing
phenomenon noted earlier in this list), while their Conservative sisters
are as interested the boys in mastering the week's laining, leading
davening, etc.  Of course, ideally children would be interested in such
things because they are important for Jews to do.  In the real world,
however, children thrive on encouragement from others, and if they are
pushed down in some medium, they will lose interest.  Young Orthodox
girls can see from toddlerhood that their age-equivalent male
acquaintances are given public synagogue roles (e.g. end of musaf,
opening ark, etc.) and encouraged to take a public part in davening.
Not only does it seem to me as if this must make an impression on them,
but several readers have commented that these girls are discouraged from
davening in general.

This is much like the discussion of teaching women Judaica without
allowing them to receive semicha.  People can explain forever about how
the real point of learning is to learn, and that any resulting respect
or academic degree is simply an unimportant coincidence.  Realistically,
however, the lack of respect, encouragement, or recognition makes one's
endeavors far more difficult--in some cases, too difficult to continue.
Women are not respected in Jewish learning even enough to be able to
purchase religious texts without smirks from the cashier; the lack of
respect is a real force, and cannot be ignored even by those who believe
that all learning is for the sake of learning itself.

Similarly, it is clear to me why many women would choose to attend a
women's tefilla group in which they are needed instead of a minyan in
which they are not.

Leah S. Reingold


End of Volume 8 Issue 88