The past two weeks have been historic for Jewish women. Orthodox women in both Israel and New York were ordained as clergy – although with a variety of titles from Maharat to Rabba to Rabbi, but effectively all as rabbis. While Yeshivat Maharat is now the veteran institution with five years of experience at this, Yeshivat Har’el appears more liberal in calling women “rabbi” or “rabba.” Israeli Orthodoxy thus effectively caught up with and then surpassed American Orthodoxy, creating a bizarre and beautiful historic twist in which organizations seem to racing against one another to demonstrate the greatest commitment to women’s advancement in religious Judaism.
I first met Bonna in London in late 1985. She and Shmuel and Tiferet were living on the attic floor of an old house in Hampstead while she finished her Phd. I had never met a couple like Bonna and Shmuel before. They moved to their own beat. They were quirky, charming, funny, eclectic. I couldn’t locate them on any axis of people I had met before in my life.
Aurora, the daughter of Rosario. Lesléa, the daughter of Florence. The mothers are invoked; their names are eternal.
Aurora Levins Morales and Lesléa Newman came together on a recent Sunday afternoon in Boston under the auspices of Keshet—a national organization dedicated to the inclusion of LGBT Jews in all aspects of Jewish life — to talk about their mothers and their dynamic relationships with them. They spoke about loving and fighting and ultimately grieving for their mothers.
At my cousin’s Israeli wedding, her groom made a single concession to formal dress: He agreed to keep his shirt tucked in during the huppah ceremony. Whether because of its socialist roots or the hot and sticky weather, Israeli style tends toward the casual. This can include sandals and t-shirts for business meetings, and short sleeves sans tie for charity dinners.
Ever since I was a little kid, my mom used to tell me that I could be great. “Naava”, she would say to the frizzy haired, scabby kneed little girl, “Remember that nothing can stop you—the sky is the limit!” So, I decided to try and make my mark on the world. I would invent something, do something, a game changer that would make the world a better place. And try I did. Little did I know how many outward obstacles would be on my path to greatness.