Tomorrow evening, our synagogue is hosting a very special Evening Shabbat Service presented by the Sisterhood. Given the long history of Sisterhood Shabbats at Temple Israel, it can be easy to lose sight of just how important and momentous this service is. For that reason, I hope we can all take a few minutes to think about what a exceptional moment this is not only for us as a congregation, but for Jewish women everywhere. We would be remiss if we did not feel the awe of what tomorrow night means in terms of progression within our faith. For example, together we will witness something that is not yet seen in some denominations of Judaism: women leading us in worship. While Reform Judaism is proud to have been the first denomination to welcome women to the bima—to welcome women as rabbis, women as cantors, and women to read from the Torah—in many denominations of Judaism, that is not the case. Instead, women are separated from the men, sometimes by physical barriers, and it is men, not women, who lead a congregation in their most precious prayers. But here, tomorrow night, the ideas of egalitarianism will be strong. In Reform Judaism, we assign no gender to a certain “role” in our service or in our homes, and tomorrow’s night service will, among other things, celebrate that.
I am incredibly grateful to Shari Krockover, Brenda Lipp, and Linda Cohen for their efforts in making the Sisterhood Shabbat something we can all experience. I am likewise grateful to the diverse cohort of women in our congregation who have accepted various honors and roles in tomorrow night’s service. Thanks to these dedicated women, tomorrow night we will have the opportunity to see a woman read the Torah, a blessing that has only been seen and publicly supported since the late 20th century. While at services, I encourage all of you to see this for what it is: not only a great mitzvah, but the breaking of a centuries-old glass ceiling. In hosting this Shabbat, the women in our synagogue continue not only to lead our movement in the direction it must be going, but to shine as examples of what with the rest of the world should be catching up.
As I’m sure any woman in our congregation can tell you, we have a long way to go not just in the world, but within Judaism. Women must still fight for, among other things, equal pay in Jewish jobs, for equal status in the Orthodox and Conservative movements, and for removing the barrier from the kotel. Tomorrow night, though, the Temple Israel Sisterhood reminds us of just how far we have come. Tomorrow is a night of celebration; a night when women and men can gather in our sanctuary to express joy, pride, and love for Judaism. It is a night when the women of our community will represent women all over the world as they raise our voices in prayers that reach the heavens.
I hope that you will join us for this important milestone in our Temple’s and movement’s history!