Sara Fredman

I Pretended I Could Shelter My Daughter from the Patriarchy

“For much as she may act as the coequal provider or so-called matriarch within her own family, every mother must deliver her children over within a few years of their birth to the patriarchal system of education, of law, of religion, of sexual codes.” — Adrienne Rich, Of Woman Born

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  • Rachel Ezekiel-Fishbein

    Thank you for this beautiful essay. I have been learning more about Orthodox Judaism since my JWRP trip to Israel last year, and my views about Orthodoxy have softened as I experienced the joy my Orthodox friends take in Shabbat and their generosity in sharing it with me. Your essay reminds me of the other side of Orthodoxy and in doing so, breaks my heart.

  • Lisa

    Uh…I get that some–and probably many–aspects of Orthodoxy are meaningful to you. And maybe you don’t think you can find what you want elsewhere. But there are other expressions of Judaism that offer at least much of what you want for your family and yourself, without the highly problematic aspects from which (manifestly) you strive very hard to protect your daughter. Is it your intention to “work within Orthodoxy” toward change? That’s a worthy endeavor, but it doesn’t seem that substantial change at your shul or your child’s school is likely in the next few years. Is “fighting the good fight”–at this time–really worth subjecting your own child to an upbringing so much in conflict with the values you want to teach her?

    Might it not be better to seek at least a more progressive Orthodox environment? (Yes, such places exist.) Or even to seek a non-Orthodox environment, wherein a tradeoff does indeed exist–but that tradeoff may be more acceptable (and more easily remedied “on the side”) than is the (quite different and less palatable) tradeoff inherent in your current setting. Intensive supplemental instruction in Hebrew and Judaism are available through tutoring–maybe group tutoring or a small class which you could organize in someone’s home. A fully spiritual, joyous, and inclusive approach to Shabbat and other observances might be available–if nowhere else, then in a havurah which you and others could create for some occasions.

    There are many, many people who know and love the kind of Judaism with which they (and you) are familiar–AND who have concerns similar to yours. Many of these people are building new formats that incorporate the best of the old and some of the new. Quite a few people know Hebrew and Judaism as well as do your family’s current leaders and teachers–AND many such people are willing to lead or teach in a new way, maybe as freelance or part-time instructors, circuit rabbis, cantors, and lay leaders. Jewish platforms are full of scholars seeking such work. (You know, the “traditionally-educated independent tutor/cantor/service leader with a progressive/egalitarian bent”.) And then, there is always the “cooperative” member/parent volunteer model.

    There are many options, both within established Jewish movements (Modern Orthodoxy, Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Reform Judaism, Jewish Renewal, and more) and through supplemental resources. I suggest that you explore the internet–and especially that readers offer their suggestions. (Lilith Magazine itself is replete with the very kind of information you might want; so are Tikkun and other sources.)

    In any case, I wish all the best to you and your family in your spiritual journey.