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‘Who Wants to Sit and Watch Without a Voice?’

On February 8, B’nai Jeshurun will hold a day of learning to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Judith Plaskow’s groundbreaking book, “Standing Again at Sinai.” In the lead up to the event, The Sisterhood is asking participants questions on issues surrounding feminism and Judaism. Here, Rabbi Lisa Gelber remembers remembers being the sole girl to lay tefillin in Hebrew school.

Rabbi Lisa Gelber

Is there a specific moment when you realized gender matters to you as a Jew?

When class-time was dedicated to putting on tefillin, I borrowed my father’s and brought them to Hebrew school. As I stood alone among the boys learning to wrap tefillin, I thought how bored my female classmates must be. Who wants to sit and watch without a voice?

Outside those few class sessions, there was no place for tefillin in my community. After my Bat Mitzvah, I further experienced what it’s like to be present without the opportunity for religious and spiritual leadership.

Several years ago, another mom approached me in shul. We had not seen each other in over 25 years. As we chatted, she shared her powerful childhood memory of me learning to put on tefillin with the boys (one I had long forgotten!). Those moments so many years ago actually gave me the opportunity make a difference.

One of my favorite photos is of my infant daughter snuggled against my chest in a carrier, my colorful tallit (a gift of former congregants) enfolding her and her tefillin clad mommy. Now five, I’m blessed that her Jewish world is one in which she is learning to practice, reflect and lead with respect for diversity and a commitment to her voice.

Tell us how you would answer in the comments and register for Meet Me at Sinai here.

[3]: Register for the full day of learning here.

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