Where can an Orthodox rebbetzin, a radical Jewish Renewal poet and the world’s only certified soferet (female Torah scribe) meet—across continents and ideological divide—to discuss Torah and politics, family and gender roles? This is my corner of the Jewish women’s blogosphere, and it’s not your mama’s Sisterhood.
Web logs, or “blogs,” personal publishing websites, make it possible for people to connect who might never meet in “RL” (“real life,” that is, offline).
Blogs offer Jewish feminists the chance to speak publicly—and, if we want, anonymously, like Voices from the Other Side of the Curtain, where the talk is about God, self-esteem and ghosts (the shadows of children who’ve left frumkeit behind). Renegade Rebbetzin defies stereotypes of a rabbi’s wife, blogging about her crushes on celebrities and taking jabs at congregants. Such blogs, setting forth things their writers can’t utter aloud, reach people both within and beyond the world they describe. The confessional nature of blogs make subjects that might be verboten in other media (like dating and single life) fair game.
Many writers proudly publish under their own names. Aviel Barclay, the soferet, blogs joyously on Netivat Sofrut about her love affair with Hebrew letters and words. “Fixing another Torah today…” a recent post began. “1 feel so exhilarated when 1 correct G-d’s 4-letter name!…I sense a deep tiqun [healing] not ‘just’ of The Name, but of everything…”
Blogs can take on a life of their own. Danya Ruttenberg, editor of the book Yentl’s Revenge, began the blog Jerusalem Syndrome to chronicle her year abroad. The site has outlived her time in Jerusalem, becoming a forum for Ruttenberg’s fans to meet the feminista behind the printed page. (My favorite other posts: instructions for how women can make our own tallitot k ‘tanot, fringed undergarments once restricted to religious males.) She also contributes to the popular progressive collective blog JewSchool.
Some blogs wear the badge of feminism more prominently than others. Author Naomi Chana of Baraita, whose posts leap gracefully from analysis of liturgy to gender roles to Shabbat recipes wrote recently:
“Some of you … might be under the impression that I am a liberal feminist because I have, y’know, said so [or] from…my commitment to egalitarian traditions of prayer and education…. But the latest argument to hit certain sections of the Jewish blogosphere informs me that, no, actually I am a liberal feminist… because—hold on to your seats, folk—this one time I co-sponsored the kiddush.”
Baraita attracts a diverse crowd of articulate readers who contribute their own ideas about religion and feminism, and continue the threads of conversation.
The Jewish blogosphere in general skews conservative. Are religious liberals less likely to pontificate? Or maybe they don’t identify themselves denominationally. One way or another, I’ve befriended more religious conservatives in the blogosphere than 1 ever would have met at shul. Our writing connects us in ways that might never be manifest otherwise. In a time when Jewish communal divisions are all over the news (think “disengagement), it’s a blessing to be able to find common ground: we have things to say, and blogging allows us to be heard.
Netivat Sofrut once reminded readers “there is Torah in these pages,” and asked us to say the blessing for studying Torah before delving in. In this Jewish feminist blogosphere, we’re writing the Torah of our lives, filling in what was hidden in that holy white fire, and we’re doing it side by side. It’s a hell of a Sisterhood.