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Thursday 3 May 2007

Girl Torah Power

*Girl Torah power *

*A new trend is sweeping the country, as more and more teen girls choose
to read from the Torah on their Bat Mitzvah, just like boys. According
to the Reform movement – the only stream that enables such ceremonies -
the number of girls wishing to get an aliyah has more than doubled in
the past five years *

Chaim Levinson


04.26.07, 16:20 / _Israel Jewish Scene_

The ritual of getting an aliyah (being called up to the Torah) and
reading from the Torah, which used to be reserved only for men, has been
undergoing a quiet revolution in the past year, as more and more teen
girls are seeking to take part in the ceremony.

In many places across Israel, young girls who decided they wish to
experience this ritual on their Bat Mitzvah, are studying their

notes and purchasing new prayer shawls for the festive event.

As Orthodox synagogues do not allow women to read from the Torah, these
girls turn to Reform synagogues. According to the Reform movement in
Israel, some 600 Bat Mitzvah ceremonies were held in its synagogues in
the past year. Most of the participants were secular girls and not
members of Reform communities.

Some 160 of the ceremonies were held in Jerusalem, and several of those
even took place at the Western Wall, in the mixed area where men and
women are allowed to pray together.

Higher demand

The Bat Mitzvah ceremonies are no different from the Bar Mitzvahs: They
include saying a prayer, wearing a prayer shawl, being called to the
Torah and reading from the Torah, for those who wish to do so.
Afterwards a toast is raised and the Bat Mitzvah girl reads a derasha.

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, associate director of the Israel Religious Action
Center of Reform Judaism, said that about 30 percent of the Bar
Mitzvahs-Bat Mitzvahs held at the movement's Beit Daniel synagogue in
Tel Aviv are of girls.

"Every year we witness a substantial growth in the number of girls who
get an aliyah. In the past five years, their number has doubled. We
believe that there are many girls who are interested in such a ceremony,
but unfortunately we do not have enough synagogues across the country,"
Kariv explained.

Orthodox criticism

Although the Orthodox Halacha does not ban women from reading the Torah,
this is not customary due to modesty considerations. "We have been
raised on modesty, and it is inappropriate to place a woman on center
stage for people to start gossiping," said Rabbi Zuriel Abrahan, rabbi
of the town of Nes Tziona.

Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, son of former Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu and
rabbi of the town of Safed, also criticized the new trend.

"I welcome the desire of young girls to integrate and get to know the
Torah better and turn the ritual of accepting the mitzvot into a
meaningful one. But I don't recommend the Reform way. I recommend to
girls to adopt the Orthodox feminine way of connecting with the Torah,
namely to light candles… and various other mitzvot for women," he stated.

"They don't need to lay phylacteries and read from the Torah like men.
I read recently that modern feminism is not about having women adopt
men's rituals, but about being proud of their own actions," he concluded.


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