Egalitarianism: A Choice, Not a Trend

I have been inspired Jewishly to be more open to teaching, learning and hearing women daven, read Torah and wrap Tefillin.

Yes! This statement is controversial on many levels. Women have not always been accepted and been able to do much. But, the beauty of the Conservative Movement is that they have the choice to partake in the joy of all Judaism and make it part of their everyday lives.

Sitting in the Jewish Theological Seminary, the past two weeks, I learned from Rabbi Stephanie Ruskay, the associate dean of the Rabbinical School. She posed to us the following text on egalitarianism found in Isaiah 54:2:

“Enlarge the site of your tent, Extend the size of your dwelling, Do not stint! Lengthen the ropes, and drive the pegs firm.”

The text, itself, however, challenges us with the following question: Is it enough to just open the tent and make it bigger? The answer that my peers and I decided on was, Yes. It is great to open up the tent and provide an opportunity for all to learn how to daven and leign.

However, at the same time, it is complicated. Synagogues make it the “cool thing,” but yet, it is not. Therefore, while we agree, it is ultimately the choice of the individual to choice if they want that obligation.

A few girls at my program made that choice. They chose to wrap tefillin and wear a kippah, not taking it off wherever they went. They chose to lead services and share words of Torah with all of us. It was not forced and while some in congregations may have looked at them weird, they kept moving forward and did what they loved to do: practice Judaism.

May we remember that it is a choice, not a trend. May we not judge those on their personal choice, as we are not perfect. May we be able to guide one another hand in hand on our individual Jewish journeys.

About the Author
Sam Arnold is a senior at Western Michigan University majoring in Early Childhood/Elementary Education and minoring in Comparative Religions, with the goal to receive a master's in Jewish Education and pursue the Rabbinate. He is the 4th and 5th Grade Teacher and the K-3 Team leader within the joint Religious School of Congregation of Moses and Temple B'nai Israel in Kalamazoo MI. Sam is a part of the first-ever NEWCAJE College Cohort, a Hadar Davening College Fellow, a past Western Michigan University Hillel President, and has studied underneath Cantor Leonard Gutman of Congregation Shaarey Zedek learning and gaining respect for the art of Davening. Finally, Sam looks to inspire others to live their lives filled with passion, joy, and meaning, just as he is on a daily basis!