Belsize Square welcomes its first megillah to be written by a female scribe

The script was written by Linda Coppleson


An extract of Megillat Esther, written by female soferet (scribe) Linda Coppleson, for use at Belsize Square Synagogue

This Purim, Belsize Square Synagogue in north-west London is unveiling a brand new Megillat Esther, written by a female scribe.

While a number of communities have used Megillat Esther scrolls written by women, the large majority are written by men.

The shul commissioned soferet (female scribe) Linda Coppleson to write the scroll, which, according to Rabbi Gabriel Botnick, is “the first of its kind in a couple ways”.

The megillah has been written with vowels and trop (cantillation symbols). While this is usually forbidden in Jewish Law, there are occasions when it is permissible – for example, when someone is unable to read the megillah without them.

The synagogue’s rabbi, Gabriel Botnick, said: “This makes the mitzvah of reading from the megillah much more accessible to a larger percentage of our community members.”

He added: “With a typical scroll, a reader must memorise the pronunciation and melody of several columns of text. With our new scroll, anyone who can read Hebrew and knows trop can fulfil this mitzvah far more easily.”

He described the new megillah as “not only historic” but also “exceptionally special, in that it so beautifully represents our community’s commitment to full inclusion in Jewish life”.

Rabbi Botnick said the new scroll would “strengthen the message we share with our students that everyone has a place within the community — there are no barriers to anyone's Jewish involvement.

He said that he hoped the inclusion of vowels and trop would mean that more people would volunteer to read from the megillah, saying: “It has been challenging in the past to find enough volunteers who felt comfortable enough to read the megillah on Purim, but already we've had more people step forward, as the task is no longer as daunting.”

Meanwhile, New London Synagogue is also celebrating a new version of Megillat Esther for communal use.

Rabbi Jeremy Gordon said the shul had produced a version with Rabbi Adam Zagoria Moffet of St. Albans Masorti Synagogue, who provided the translation.

Rabbi Gordon told the JC: “The versions I see in shuls tend to be either scruffily photocopied sheets or books so full of commentary they aren’t useable. We’ve created something which I think is beautiful, with a bunch of fun features.”

In the new version, published by Izzun Books, Haman’s name is always in red “so it’s easy to spot when to boo” and there are two commentaries by Rabbi Gordon.

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