On Thursday, the Orthodox Union issued a statement publicly opposing the President’s recent stance on same-sex marriage. I read it that afternoon, got up from my desk, walked into the office bathroom, and cried. If the OU does indeed represent Orthodox Judaism, as they assert, the path towards a more honorable Orthodoxy seemed too long. I conceded to myself that feminism or LGBTQ inclusion within the movement really is an oxymoron, a fantasy. It was time for me to finally break up with Orthodox Judaism.
Yet on Shabbos morning I was back in my Orthodox synagogue, holding the Torah and reading a prayer out loud on behalf of the congregation.
Participating in that part of the service—either reading aloud the prayer for the American government, for the State of Israel, or sometimes both—has been bittersweet because it is an innovative but limited opportunity for women to have an increased role in the ritual space. See, I believe that increased sensitivity and inclusion within the framework of halakha, traditional Jewish law, is not only feasible, it is a communal obligation. While this year I became less observant again (I grew up completely secular), and I haven’t currently been identifying as Orthodox, I have stayed in an Orthodox community because I feel compelled to work from within the movement to increase opportunities for women in the ritual space while remaining within the contours of halakha. Thankfully I am not the only one thus compelled; there are other people, entire organizations, and communities like mine working towards a shared vision of an ever-improving and increasingly inclusive Orthodoxy.