Finding Feminist Defiance Through Reading Torah

LilyGrowing up in a strictly Modern-Orthodox school as a passionate and outspoken feminist, I’ve always felt somewhat trapped. Whether it was lethargically watching the men, and only the men, read Torah in my school’s minyan, or being taught in Tanach class that Vashti, Ahasuerus wife, was a rebellious and evil woman, I always seemed to find myself pondering the lack of gender equality within Judaism. How could I identify as both a feminist, and a Modern Orthodox Jew? The two labels always seemed to contradict one another. It wasn’t until October 20, 2012—my Bat Mitzvah date—that I would truly understand how I could be both at the same time.

My family, being more progressive than most in our community, are strong believers in women reading from the Torah. My older sister, Jennie, read Torah at Robinson’s Arch, the egalitarian section of the Western Wall, for her Bat Mitzvah, so it was a given that I would do the same.