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Slow Movement

One hundred years ago, on 18 March, 1922, Judith Kaplan, the daughter of Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan was called to read from a printed bible the week’s Torah portion in the first modern Bat Mitzvah.

Fifty years ago, Rabbi Sally Priesand was the first woman ordained from the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion.  And forty-seven years ago, South West Essex Reform Synagogue’s choir member, Rabbi Jackie Tabick was ordained from the Leo Baeck College as the first British female Rabbi.

This chronology is a proud one for our movement and for our synagogue community, but chronologies don’t include the narrative of struggle, setback, misogyny, fear and bravery.

I recommend that we spend the time to listen to Rabbi Tabick’s story on this week’s Rabbiting On podcast from Reform Judaism.

Her story will frustrate you, make you feel embarrassed, and rededicate us all to the slow work of making sure every member of our community feels included and honoured regardless of their gender identity.

In The Torah: A Women’s Torah Commentary (ed. Tamara Cohen Eskenazi and Andrea L. Weiss), there is a note that the sacrifices which begin our Torah portion are meant simply as an entrée to the main conversation with God.

A slow approach warms up the conversation, and we have a long way to go.  We still have women in our community- both older and younger- who were never called to the Torah because of their gender identity.

And these things are reinforced in subtle ways, like the walls of the synagogue with pictures of exclusively male rabbis.

Rabbi Tabick shares, “So much of what is obviously misogynistic was absolutely so normal in my life that I find it so difficult to spot it.  The disparaging sentences it’s just the norm.”

We have much to celebrate, much to learn, and new attitudes to adopt.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Jordan