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Letters

THE STATE VS. JEWISH DIVORCE
In your article “Women Unbound” (Summer 1993), you state:

“New York State and Canada have passed legislation prohibiting civil divorce until the religious divorce has been signed.”

New York Domestic Relations Law 253 requires the plaintiff to swear that he or she has taken all steps solely within his or her power to remove any barrier to the defendant’s remarriage following the divorce. Accordingly if it is the wife who is suing for divorce there is no requirement under New York State law for the defendant husband to do anything about a get.

In an effort to use economic persuasion. New York enacted, in 1992, amendments to Domestic Relations 236 which allow a court, where appropriate, to consider the effect of a barrier to remarriage in awarding alimony or distributing marital property.

The New York statutes do not refer specifically to the get, but they are worded in such a way that they are inapplicable to any other religion. As an attorney, 1 frequently have to explain to my Christian clients why they must swear to affidavits totally irrelevant to them.

When Governor Cuomo signed the first version of the “get law,” he noted in his memorandum the existence of constitutional questions. The inequities of Jewish laws as they are applied must be addressed within the Jewish community. There is a quickly reached limit to what civil law can do. I submit that there is an even more quickly reached limit concerning the extent to which we as Jews want civil law to intervene in religious concerns.
Sandra W. Jacobson New York City, NY

WEARING FUR? NOT!
I eagerly reached for the Winter ’93 issue of LILITH, assuming you were going to address the horrendous animal suffering behind every fur coat “Inheriting Fur.” Instead, however, I felt you skirted the issue, barely mentioning the historic ruling of one of Israel’s Cheif Rabbis that it is a violation of Jewish law to wear furs.

And the answer to your question of what’s a daughter to do when she inherits one of these symbols of suffering? Oy! So, how could you have not thought of it? Cut it up in little pieces and donate it to an animal shelter. Orphaned puppies and kittens love to snuggle up in fur pieces; they remind them of their original owners, as they should each and every one of us.
Jayn Brotman Cincinnati, OH.

WHY CAN’T A WOMAN GIVE LIKE A MAN?
In response to “Jewish Women’s Philanthropy – What Do We Need To Know?” [Winter 1993], I’d like to add an additional motivation for giving: There are certain charitable expectations from professionals in the workplace.

Professional women often don’t have a clear understanding of these expectations. Women are clearly not cued into the rules of the “network,” one of which is that you give not because you “feel good about it” or because “it is a good cause,” phrases your respondents used to describe why they give, but because you are expected to give at a certain level, and that “giving appropriately” is one of the keys to professional advancement. As long as their giving is not commensurate with that of their male counterparts, women will be held back professionally.

The biggest question in Business and Professional Women’s divisions of Jewish Federations is “Why don’t professional women give commensurate to their male counterparts?” Candidly cluing women in to the rules of the network will help our goal of increased giving, as well as promoting career advancement and community leadership opportunities for women.
Linda M. Reich, Pittsburgh PA Director of the Business and Professional Women’s Division of Pittsburgh

WOMEN CANTORS—DEFINING “PROFESSIONALISM”
As Vice President and Membership Chair of the American Conference of Cantors (the Reform cantors’ organization), as a graduate of the School of Sacred Music at Hebrew Union College- Jewish Institute of Religion, and as a woman, I would like to respond to Cantor Helen Leneman’s article on the Women Cantors Network (Fall 1993.)

Cantor Leneman states that “bonding and networking in a small intimate group does not exist at larger and more impersonal conferences.” Not only are women full and equal members of the ACC, we are also its leaders. Our current President, Cantor Vicki Axe, is a woman, as are three of the five officers, myself included. Over 50% of our Executive Board are women. Issues that we women face are dealt with both formally, in workshops and seminars, and informally, over lunch or on the phone. We feel that only in unity is there strength and growth.

Cantor Leneman refers to a “caste system” within the cantorate, separating out those who did not graduate from a cantorial school. Most of the members of the Women Cantor Network are not members of the ACC because our organization accepts as full members only graduates of the School of Sacred Music (Reform) or of the Cantor’s Institute (Conservative). She states that the cantorate was, historically, a profession that was learned by apprenticing with another cantor. Many other professions—medicine, law, teaching and social work—also used to be apprenticed professions. They too now differentiate between those who are graduates of professional schools and those who are not. The School of Sacred Music and the Cantor’s Institute have raised the academic credibility of the cantorate, given the cantor greater status in the Jewish community, providing high standards of cantorial scholarship and empowering women to be leaders of the Jewish community.
Cantor Judith Kahan Rowland New York, NY