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November 05, 2004 - Image 38

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-11-05

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

jnonline OTHER, VIEWS

) Unmixing The Media

An Israeli editor takes the U.S.
news media to task for oversimpli-
fying the muddled Mideast. See JN
Online Writer Don Cohen's report,


) Save My Spot

In his Jewish.com column
"This Normal Life," Brian
Blum explores why the "Save
my spot" phenomenon is one of
the hardest things for the
immigrant to Israel to
get used to.

) Jewish.com Store

Do all of your Chanukah shop-
ping at the Jewish.com Store
(wwvv.jewish.com/store) and
get a Lovable Star Bear (valued
at $19.99) free with any order
totaling $200 or more through
Nov. 15. Use Coupon Code
2421 on Shipping Page when
checking out.


How long will it take before U.S.
troops will be able to leave Iraq?
1 year? • 2 years? • 3 years? • 5 years?

To answer, click on


Last week's question:

Last week's question:
Will your presidential vote be
guided more by Jewish or non-
Jewish concerns?
46% said Jewish
54% said non-Jewish




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Inspired And Invigorated


n Simchat
Torah night
this year, I
walked home briskly,
excited, invigorated,
impassioned. I was
one of 40 women in
the Beit Midrash of
Israel of Oak
Park (YlOP) who
gathered among
musty furniture and
fluorescent lighting
to present creative
spiels on each Torah
portion. One by one, we went
through Sefer Bereshit (Book of
Genesis) in dance, song and poetry,
one woman inspiring the next.
After 10 o'clock, I traversed dark-
ened Southfield streets with Margery
Klausner, an old friend whose back-
yard abuts mine. We are Orthodox
women, married with children — a
far cry from our high school days at
North Farmington. We
walked quickly, cool air
pinking our cheeks.
"This is what I've been
yearning for!" I
"It was really great," she
And when I skipped
across the dark lawn,
under tall trees, to enter
my lightened holiday
home — my husband
reading at the table, awaiting my
arrival to say Kiddush, our two chil-
dren asleep upstairs — I was ener-
gized about Judaism.
The next morning, it was stand-
ing-room-only in the Beit Midrash
as more than 100 women crammed
in for a glimpse of what they'd heard
about from the night before. The
last unclaimed parshiyot quickly
went to eager takers.
One woman spent five esoteric
minutes on the entire Book of


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11/ 5



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door closed. "Sorry," we said. "This
is for women only." Not to stick it
to them. Just to preserve a sanctuary
for female learning.
Singing. Literary inflection.
Poetry. Legal analysis. Empowered,
enacted, invigorated. That's what the
women of YIOP feel when it comes
to learning Torah together.

Torah True

And learning Torah — really steep-
ing oneself in the depth of ancient
text — is the key to leading a
dynamic, Jewish life. For as much as
we focus on the outside — attire,
behavior or peer group — the true
test of an observant life is knowing
why we choose one blessing over
another, what insights a particular
Torah passage offers, how we can
elevate ourselves above the weary
details of the mundane.
"Knowledge is power," said

"And while I do find some of the gender limi-
tations stifling, for me Orthodoxy is empower-
ing because it taught me to stand alone before
God and know the words that I uttered."

By the time we left shul for lunch,
the women of YIOP had presented
creative acts on every parshah in the
entire Torah.


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Divine Discovery

Before I became Orthodox, I
thought Orthodox Judaism was anti-
quated and sexist. When I first
stepped inside an Orthodox syna-
gogue, I expected to feel a sharp
intake of breath when I saw men
and women seated separately; I
expected to feel mournful when only
men got up to lead davening or read
And while I do find some of the
gender limitations stifling, for me
Orthodoxy is empowering because it
taught me to stand alone before
God and know the words that I
Yet, I returned to Michigan in
1996 amid trepidation, fearing a
right wing, inaccessible religious
community. Meeting women in wigs
and skirts, I feared it was more
closed-minded than the liberal
Maryland community I'd left, where
women wear pants and few cover

Lynne Meredith Schreiber is a

Southfield-based freelance writer and
author of five books, including "Hide 6-
Seek: Jewish Women and Hair
Covering" and "Living Inside: The
Poetry Of Prayer."

their hair. Here, I was hard-pressed
to find women who looked like me.
While Detroit's Orthodox com-
munity doesn't compare with "mod-
ern Orthodox" centers in Potomac,
Md., or Riverdale, N.Y., it offers
Young Israel of Oak Park as a home
for thinking, inspired individuals.
Still, I missed the full-on passion-
ate Simchat Torah celebrations I'd
experienced in other locales. Here,
women stand behind the mechitzah
(divider) and watch men dance with
Torahs, children hoisted onto shoul-
ders, little hands kissing velvet cov-
erings. A few women create circles
of simchah dancing, but most
demur, so accustomed are they to
watching from the sidelines.
This year was different. Men kept
pulling open the Beit Midrash door
to peer inside, wondering what was
so captivating that more than 100
women couldn't be pried away to
watch them dance. We pulled the

Francis Bacon in 1597.
Even better were the words of
Lord Chesterfield to his son in
1747: "Knowledge is a comfortable
and necessary retreat and shelter in
an advanced age; if we do not plant
it while young, it will give us no
shade when we grow old."
But let me turn to someone from
our own tradition to expound upon
this notion. In 1844, Benjamin
Disraeli said, "It is knowledge that
influences and equalizes the social
condition of man; that gives to all,
however different their political
position, common passions, univer-
sal enjoyments."
We didn't do anything so extraor-
dinary at YlOP. And yet we did. For
every time Jews come together to
learn and share knowledge, we are
recreating our community, strength-
ening our ties with Torah and foster-
ing possibility for a future as one,
united people.

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