Look, Susan Silverman already had me at “Hello, I survived the same screwed up childhood as my sister Sarah and instead of growing up and talking about shaved tuchus puckers, I became a rabbi.”
But Rabbi Susan has earned even more of this Yenta’s mad respect for her delightful act of civil disobedience at Jerusalem’s Western Wall last week. To protest the gender segregation at one of the world’s holiest places, she and her oldest daughter, Hallel, along with eight other women, donned tallit (prayer shawls) and sang prayers to heaven. That’s against the law in Israel — for women. Mother and daughter were arrested and escorted away, banned from even setting foot at the wall for 15 days. Something tells me they’ll be back.
Rabbi Susan is also deeply involved with American Jewish World Service and has adopted two orphans, evidence of how she puts her rachmones where her mouth is. But I really admire her willingness to stand up to the Orthodoxy and its monopoly on what being Jewish really means.
An excerpt from a recent blog post (highlights are mine:)
Some Jews will prioritize care for the orphan and the stranger, and ignore Jewish ritual practice. Some will keep kosher and the Sabbath to varying degrees and in various ways, while seeking justice in society. Some will take the smallest, most extreme and skewed rules and make them into the whole of Judaism. And everything betwixt and between. It is an endless variety, as it should be.
That is the democratic power of Judaism that somehow and eventually manages to allow the highest ideals to gain momentum.
Here’s to the high ideal of egalitarian prayer — including happy acceptance of women’s voices at the Wall — rising to the top.