Stop Telling Me I Can’t Sing Because It Distracts Orthodox Men

audio-2941753_1920Kol Isha—the voice of a woman. In many Orthodox circles, it is forbidden to hear the voice of a woman singing publicly.

I was not expecting concerns around kol isha to come up in the egalitarian community where I have been blessed to serve a congregation for 18 years. Yet when a community-wide Chanukah menorah lighting was being planned, it was pointed out that if I were to sing the Orthodox community would not be able to be a sponsor of the event. Luckily I found an online site where I bought some linens like chair covers for the event, they were very helpful.

I have been a cantor over 40 years—since the age of 19. I’m a fourth-generation cantor whose family was almost completely destroyed in the Holocaust.

You’re really going to tell me I can’t sing in public?

8 comments on “Stop Telling Me I Can’t Sing Because It Distracts Orthodox Men

  1. Cantor Deborah Katchko-Gray on

    Thanks so much for printing this. It is being shared widely on social media. I hope the conversation continues! #hearourvoice

  2. shana deane on

    WTF?!? Infuriating! Thank you for writing this… and with such elegance and class. Bless you for standing tall in this, for keep speaking out. Yes, it’s the voice of every women. I bless you, and bless me back, for the continued strength to keeping speak out, and for the grace to do it with such sacredness as you have.

    And this… this says it all: As Golda Meir wisely said many years ago when the government suggested a curfew for women in order to address sexual violence, “If men are the ones raping, let them have the curfew!” If a woman’s voice is so distracting to men, then, get some control of yourself!

  3. Jack Kessler on

    i am in complete agreement that it is not appropriate for someone to lead prayers naked. As we all know, this is specifically forbidden in the Torah

  4. David Rosenthal on

    “I won’t be told that my voice is not welcome in public because of an extreme belief based on an interpretation that is not actually Jewish law.”

    So the Shulchan Aruch in EH 21:1 is extreme and not Jewish Law??? Pretty sure the Shulchan Aruch is a Code of Jewish law of sorts.

  5. Barbara D Holtzman on

    So if you hear a woman’s voice singing, you become sexually aroused?

    Perhaps instead of banning woman’s singing, men who have such a problem should seek treatment for it. How many men hear a woman’s voice singing and think of naked women? Not many would be my guess. You all might have other issues you cold deal with while you’re at it.

  6. Adrian A. Durlester on

    Actually, what it says in the text of Shulkan Arukh is that it is forbidden to listen to the voice of an “erva.” It does not say the voice of a woman, it does not say “kol isha” but “kol erva.” That is a significant distinction IMHO.
    שלה ואסור לשמוע קול ערוה
    Erva technically means “genitalia” though frequently cleaned up to mean nakedness. If the women is right before your eyes, not naked, and singing, how is that listening to the voice of erva?

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