The ninth of Av is the day we mourn the destruction of the two Temples, Solomon’s and Herod’s, as well as the fall, 65 years later, of the city of Betar. The land of Israel was depopulated and the city of Jerusalem ploughed over.
JOFA, the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, is an organisation that was set up in order to encourage Orthodox women to be able to find more expression within the realm of Orthodoxy and traditional Judaism.
It’s a summer evening and the congregation is getting ready for the Kabbalat Shabbat service, the welcoming of the Sabbath, on Friday. Someone taps out a beat on a tabla drum, a guitarist tunes his strings, another person takes a flute from a case.
I once heard a rabbi say in his Shabbat morning sermon : “Without God, Judaism falls down like a pack of cards.” There was a time when such a comment would seem so self-evident that you would wonder why anyone would make it.
We are now in May, the arbitrary date that signals the start of attendance at Shabbat services which count towards the gaining of priority points for admission to local Jewish schools. It continues until the end of October, or until the requisite eight synagogue visits that are deemed to demonstrate commitment to Jewish practice have been made.
The Western Wall has lately become a battleground in the struggle for egalitarianism. The arrest of women for praying in a tallit at the sacred site has sparked anger across the Jewish world and fuelled demands from non-Orthodox Jews in particular for equal religious rights.
Early leaders of Reform Judaism thought that men and women had moved past ritual and ceremony. In the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in London and classical Reform temples in the United States the service was reduced to hymn singing, responsive prayers and a sermon. It soon became clear that this was leaving congregations cold.
Acouple of months ago a young Arab woman from Qalansuwa in central Israel set off to do what we would consider a mitzvah. She was a teacher of Arabic in a Jewish school and she went with a Jewish friend to go to the shivah of a colleague in Jerusalem.