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April 07, 1989 - Image 37

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-04-07

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

1 *



Anat Kaplan, one of the
Israel-born members of the
Kotel group. "You won't find
many women who will
declare themselves feminists,
even if they are dedicated to
women in some way."
Kaplan describes her upbr-
inging as anti-religious. Fin-
ding something lacking in
her secular life, she began to
observve the laws of Shabbat,
kashrut and.niddah, or ritual
purity. With her husband, she
began to study Jewish texts.
Like the others in her circle,
Kaplan is trying to blend
traditional Judaism and
She says there are three
main reasons why feminism
has not taken root in Israel,
and why religious innovation
has to be imported from
One reason is the myth that
equality arrived with the kib-
butz, women's service in the
army, and Golda Meir, the
late prime minister.
Another is the guilt felt by
women that is the men who
fight and die for Israel, and so

"We don't have any
alternative to
Orthodoxy. There's
no way for women
to find their
spirituality and
their communing."

women's needs seem relative-
ly trivial.
Third is what she calls the
all-or-nothing Judaism prac-
ticed in Israel. "We don't have
any real alternative Judaism
to Orthodoxy," Kaplan says.
"There's no way for women to
find their spirituality and
their community."
"They're used to many
more options," says Geela
Rayzel Robinson, another
member of the Kotel group.
"They feel the lack of
pluralism in Israel and want
to make a statement on what
they feel their righst are."
Robinson points out that
the fight for women's rights is
not being carried out entire-
ly by Americans. Israelis have
set up battered women's
shelters and are struggling to
be accepted on religious coun-
cils. But more esoteric aspects
are, for now, in the hands of
women like Haberman.
Born in Ottowa, Ontario,
Haberman was raised in an
Orthodox home. With a doc-
torate in philosophy, she also

has studied Talmud and
Chassidut. She and her hus-
band have lived in .Israel for
two years.
"I've been learning a lot of
texts for many, many years,"
she says of her Jewish educa-
tion. "But I'm also interested
in rituals."
Reviving, updating and
creating Jewish rituals for
women is another area of in-
terest for some members of
the circle. The Rosh Chodesh
celebration is one example.
"Because women didn't give
up their gold to build the
golden calf they were reward-
ed with Rosh Chodesh as a
minor holiday," explains
Robinson, who is compiling a
resource guide for Jewish
feminist rituals.
Another custom concerns
the tomb of the matriarch
Rachel, not far from
Bethlehem. Women tradi-
tionally have gone to the site
to pray for fertility. Haber-
man updated that custom at
a pre-birthing ceremony she
held recently. Her son,
Bezalel, born prematurely,
was able to be present at his
own pre-birthing ritual.
Pieces of a red thread that
had been wrapped around
Rachel's Ibmb were given to
the women at the ceremony.
"Everyone had a piece of the
red thread and made a re-
quest and a prayer," Haber-
man says.
Robinson, a fellow this year
at the Jewish Theological
Seminary's Molton Center
Senior Educator's program,
belongs to a liturgy group
that explores and revises
Jewish prayers. She explains:
"The rabbis of the Talmud
wrote about what they
thought of Jewish spiritual
expression — and about what
women should do. Women
should write in their own
words what is important to
Haberman says all the ac-
tivities, from praying at the
Wall to pre-birthing rites, are
part of the same experience:
a creative universe that tradi-
tionally has been the purview
of men and is now taking on
a woman's voice as well.
"To hear the voices of
women together is a very uni-
que experience," she says of
the prayer gatherings.
Says Susan Kahn, who
operates a women's Torah
school in Jerusalem, "I
believe that women have the
right to express themselves
spiritually at the Wall. Men,
• Chasidic men, don't own the
Wall." ❑


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