How did it all begin?
Plaskow and her then-husband were standing outside of Yale University’s Battell Chapel, chatting before going in for Sabbath services. A congregant came out and urged her husband to come in to make the minyan. “While I had attended services regularly for a year and a half and my husband was a relative newcomer, I could stay outside all day; my purpose was irrelevant for the purpose for which we had gathered,” Plaskow wrote. It was “an enormously important click moment.”
In “Standing Again at Sinai,” Plaskow wrote of the challenge facing those involved with Jewish religious life: “This world of women’s experience is part of the Jewish world, part of the fuller Torah we need to recover.”
Her work, in part, enabled the changes in scholarship and liturgy that have made the Torah fuller today than two decades ago. There is a flowering of women’s Torah exegesis, like “The Torah: A Women’s Commentary,” published by the Reform movement, and new prayer books put out recently by the Conservative and Reconstructionist movements that include, reflect and value women’s perspectives. New Jewish rituals propelled by feminism and egalitarianism, like women’s Seders and welcoming ceremonies for baby girls, have become mainstream.
Yet in other parts of organized Jewish life, sometimes it appears that little has changed. “How often do you go to a conference of Jewish importance, and there is one, or maybe no woman speaking?” said Plaskow, a professor of religious studies at Manhattan College, in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, where she has worked for the past 32 years. “I go back and forth between feeling everything has changed and nothing has changed.”The article concludes that while feminist and gender studies exist, those who want to study Jewish Feminism today have to find individual professors and particular courses rather than degrees or minors in a discipline.