An Oneg From Melbourne

Back row: Bev Gelbart, Katrina Kolt, Caryn Granek Front row: Shaynee Barnett, Marlo Newton, Deborah Stone

Celebrating 20 years of study – an oneg with Women of the Wall

By Katrina Kolt on behalf of the women’s Talmud group: Shaynee Barnett, Sheryl Furman, Bev Gelbart, Caryn Granek, Deborah Maybloom, Deborah Stone and Marlo Newton,

In 1991 I celebrated my first aliyah to the Torah in Jerusalem with Women of the Wall. I returned to Melbourne, Australia and excitedly spoke of my experience to a group of Jewish women who had just begun meeting to study together. We were a diverse group of women from Orthodox and Reform Jewish backgrounds. We decided to study Talmud, as there were no options available for women in our community to do so. We moved from Talmud to Torah study and in more recent years, to topics affecting Jewish women. Somehow we always retained the name Women’s Talmud group, as we felt it reflected our desire to learn and somehow we stuck it out for 20 years!

We have observed lifecycle moments together – hoisting each other on chairs as we celebrated marriages, rejoicing on the birth of children, supporting each other through loss and grief and then celebrating some more with the birth of grandchildren. Throughout all this we have continued to meet monthly, welcoming new members and sometimes farewelling others.

Over the years, we have been teachers, rabbis, journalists, doctors, lawyers and businesswomen, but always Jewish women seeking more knowledge. We have been the founders of a women’s tefillah group, a Reform synagogue and an egalitarian Orthodox synagogue. We have published our ideas and taught in our community, always seeking to share our Jewish knowledge.

In June 2010, Anat Hoffman visted Melbourne, to speak at Limmud Oz. I was struck by her commitment to women’s equality at the Kotel and in Israeli society. Sponsorship of an oneg seemed the perfect way to mark the Talmud group’s 20 years of commitment to Jewish learning. There was unanimous support from the women– all of whom have doggedly supported Israel and equality for Jewish women. Now, on the eve of my departure to Israel I cannot contain my excitement. Not eight hours after the twenty-something hour flight from Australia, I will be praying with the Women of the Wall. I’ll be sad not to have the women of my Talmud group right there with me, but I carry with me letters from friends in Australia and the support of the women of my Talmud group.

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