Thursday, May 07, 2009

From Blossom to Rashi

היום חמשה ועשרים יומים שהם ארבעה שבועות לעמר
Today is the twent
y-eight day of the omer - four weeks
מלכת שבנצח
A day of majesty in a week of endurance

Maggie Anton posted on her Facebook page that Rashi's Daughters has been optioned for a movie or TV series by Mayim Bialik.

Who is Mayim Bialik? Well, she starred in the 1980s sitcom Blossom. She'd like to get back into acting, although her life has taken some interesting turns in the time from her early fame to now. Reading this post on Jewcy, I found out:
"She's earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and has undertaken cutting-edge studies at UCLA as one of the top researchers of Prader-Willi Syndrome in the field. (Read more about the disorder here, or sift through Bialik's blog to find out about her work.) She's also testing the waters of going back into acting, with recent appearances on Curb Your Enthusiasm and Bones. And she's also in the middle of another big revival: she's experimenting with being an observant Jew."
The full post has an interview with Ms. Bialik. It's a good interview and I can appreciate her turn towards Jewish learning and practice. What makes me a bit sad is that she talks about davening:
"I haven't done that for about 2 years. It's in conflict with some of what I've been learning, but it's also in line with a lot of what I do as a performer. It's a great honor to daven, and to daven on behalf of a community. My grandfather was a chazzan in San Diego and the Bronx, and I inherited his voice. It takes a lot of learning, and it takes a lot of kavanah [concentration], but it's complicated, as anyone in this line knows.

And there's a reason that, in traditional Jewish circles, women don't lead services. I've been pregnant twice in the past three years. Going to shul has been incredibly different after having one child, and then having, thank God, two children, it's been even more different, and Judaism kind of knows that."
I hope she can find her way back to leading services--it seems like something that called to her. I just don't get the leap from women caring for small children not being able to lead services to no women being able to lead services. And I want to be supportive of women like Bialik's mentor, Allison Josephs, who (from her website, Jew in the City):
"has begun a campaign to change the public perception of Orthodox Jews and traditional Judaism through her videos and blogs. She's also editing an anthology debunking the most common myths and misconceptions people have about Orthodox Jews."
I respect these people, I respect their practice, but it's hard for me to accept a Judaism that won't allow me to participate fully just because of my gender. I don't take it personally and I know it's just a different way of practice---but it still doesn't feel right.

Maybe in the process of making the Rashi's Daughters movie, Bialik will see that the barriers that Orthodox Jews put up to deny women's role in some rituals are not Jewish Law but are custom, albeit custom so deep-rooted that it is considered law. Maybe once again she receive that honor of leading her community in prayer.

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