Given all of this, I tend to avoid places like Shira Chadasha (a Torah-egalitarian shul in Jerusalem), the reason being that it feels like a place that puts every last ounce of its energy into women’s rights and dealing with the â€˜issue’ of women in Orthodoxy. Â Since I’m quite happy with my role in my Modern Orthodox community, why should I move to a place like Shira Chadasha, when my first glance at their Shavuot course schedule seems to show that the leadership ponders women and Jewish law more than they ponder the endless list of other nuances when it comes to Torah, Jewish philosophy, and prayer? Â If I needed to read Torah aloud or count in a minyan to feel spiritualy fulfilled, this would be the place for me- but if not, why go? Â Why care about their plight?
This, I feel, is why the Orthodox feminist movement is losing many, many potential supporters. Â Sure, inherently, they will lose ultra-Orthodox and the very right wing end of the Modern Orthodox community no matter what they do or say, but there is a whole community of Modern Orthodox women who are intent on finding spiritual fulfillment and new ways to learn Torah, but who aren’t looking for synagogues and organizations that frame Judaism in terms of western values (like women’s rights). Â What was so appealing about the title and description of Tamar Ross’s book was that it started with the words Expanding the Palace of Torah, instead of a call to oblliterate oppression that many people, such as myself, don’t feel exists in our modern and dynamic Orthodox communities. Â It seems to be a modest attempt at reexamining the role of women within the bounds of Jewish law – not because our western societies tell us that this is what is right – but because an insatiable desire to deepen our relationship with our tradition and the essence of who we are as Jews, warrants examination and re-examination. Â That is something that an Orthodox woman can identify with.
Rather than utilizing all of their resources to defend what they do halachically, I think that the Orthodox women interested in redefining their role within Orthodoxy should talk less about women, more about Torah; less about activism, and more about truth; less about oppression and more about spiritual hunger. Â Speak the language of the Jewish community rather than the Western societies where we come from, and new halachic understandings can be seen as the spiritual heightening of the people rather than unwelcome activism.