by Chase Foster, HUC student
I volunteered to help with Women of the Wall tonight, and I knew what I was going to see. However, no preparedness eases my mind as to what I saw. I do not like to unabashedly demean the Haredim and their way of life. My issues with Haredim stem from their unwillingness to recognize the way that I live my life as authentically Jewish. We share the same faith. There is only one Judaism, but there are many ways to be Jewish. I live my Jewish life with intention. I do not disregard text, and I do not do what I want. Mitzvot are commandments, but a perfectly done commandment without meaning is not preferred to one done mostly right with a pure heart.
Torah does not forbid women from reading Torah, wearing a Tallit, or performing mitzvot. Only at the Kotel is it forbidden. The perversion of the female voice in Orthodox society, which leads to the banning of women’s public prayer, is not something I look at lightly. I struggle most with the Haredi demand that it is up to everyone else to respect their lifestyle when they give no respect to others.
I believe in an active Judaism in which we place the onus on ourselves. If you can’t look at a woman without the thought of sexual deviation, if you can’t hear a woman singing without the thought of sexual deviation, that is your problem. I have learned so much from the many woman Rabbis, Cantors and Educators in my life, and I am grateful that I have their voices in my life. Until I can pray with my teachers, peers, and friends at the Wall, I will defend our right to express our Judaism freely in a free, Democratic, Jewish country.