Women and the Torah

Photo: Courtesy Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune

A group of Jewish women, members of the Congregation Solel, a Reform temple in Highland Park, Illinois, walked into the sanctuary holding a copy of the Torah, the sacred scripture of Judaism. The women smiled for the camera, as a photographer took their picture holding the Torah.

The event was a way of protesting the arrest of Anat Hoffman on July 12, 2010, for carrying the Torah at the Western Wall (the Kotel). Hoffman is the leader of a group called “Women of the Wall.” The Israeli Supreme Court has ruled that women cannot read the Torah at the Western Wall, but they can carry it. Women of the Wall is an organization that promotes and encourages women to pray at the Kotel.

According to an article written by Becky Schlikerman and published in the Chicago Tribune, the women’s “demonstration highlights a difference of practice between Orthodox and progressive Jews that more often plays out behind the closed doors of a synagogue. Because women don’t touch or read the Torah in the most traditional Orthodox Jewish settings, they also are forbidden from doing so at the Western Wall, the remnant of the wall that surrounded the sacred Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. Many progressive Jews interpret the restriction as a violation of their right to worship in the Holy Land.”

The photo of the women carrying the Torah will be sent to Israel in order to convey a message to the Jewish authorities there that there is more than one way to practice and live Judaism.

Religious equality between men and women has been a divisive issue throughout the ages. In general, religious leadership has been the domain of men. However, as women seek to make a greater contribution to their faith communities, they seek a relaxation of restrictive rules that do not allow them to fully exercise their gifts and talents.

Claude Mariottini
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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2 Responses to Women and the Torah

  1. Nate says:

    >I'm uneasy seeing a Torah scroll used as a prop in a photo-op. I think it undermines their argument that they are to be taken seriously as faithful Jews according to more orthodox sects.


  2. >Nate,You have a point there. The women were trying to send a message to Israel and they believed the photo was the best way to show that in America, women in Reformed congregations have the freedom to carry the Torah.Claude Mariottini


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