Sunday, February 15, 2004

Q: How many Orthodox feminists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Ten, but they're not a minyan, and the change has to happen very slowly.

Steven I. Weiss is in the process of producing a detailed series of posts on the current JOFA (Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance) conference for Protocols. As much as I support the organization, Weiss' posts have only made me more glad that I am no longer in the JOFA world.

Some people are under the impression that I began to pray in egalitarian settings because I am a "feminist." Not so. I went egal because I was sick of being a "feminist." As a member of an Orthodox community, I couldn't escape the "feminist" label. Eventually, I embraced it, going to "feminist" conferences, praying in all-women "feminist" settings, joining the ranks of the protestors every time the Orthodox advisor made a decision that curtailed women's participation in the minyan. I even headed a "feminist" club for a while and scheduled a number of "feminist" gatherings, including some "feminist" services.

The problem was that I didn't have the personality to be an Angry Woman. Whenever an actual conflict arose, I passed the buck to another "feminist" or sighed and did as I was told. I required a tremendous amount of emotional support from other women to suggest even the most modest change in the infrastructure. I am very obedient, you see; I'd rather follow the rules than join a revolution.

In the end, I did what made the most sense for someone like me: I joined a community with different rules. Now I can be obedient and still read from the Torah, lead services, and express opinions that were once regarded as radical. No one at Egal thinks of me as a "feminist," and let me tell you, that is very liberating.

As I remember JOFA conferences, just about every idea expressed therein was either not quite Orthodox or not quite feminist. I mean no disrespect; after all, they are trying. Every Conservative ruling, it seems to me, is either not quite halakhic or not quite progressive. Yet I've joined a Conservative community nonetheless. I'd rather be in a community that accepts egalitarianism and struggles with halakha than the other way around. That is my personal choice.

1 comment:

Tara said...

Wow, I think this is really well put, and makes a lot of sense!

(also, a *great* light bulb joke)