I have always maintained that I don't care very much about the gender of the person leading services. I prefer egalitarian synagogues given the choice, but I am perfectly comfortable with the fact that many sections of the Jewish community don't believe women should take public ritual roles. With this background, I surprised myself by how strong my own emotional reaction was when I walked into synagogue on Saturday and heard a woman leading the morning service.
The Great Synagogue is supposed to be partially egalitarian, which in practice means time-sharing among other things. Although they are meant to have egalitarian services regularly, actually they happen when someone gets round to arranging them, as far as I can tell, and it's hard (for a relative outsider, at least) to know about them in advance. Anyway, I hadn't managed to catch one until now, so this was the first time since I came to Sweden that I had heard a woman's voice over the PA or seen a woman on the bimah at all. It was interesting to observe the different demographics too; there were several women, wearing tallits, who are never seen at the non-egal services. The men's section was also rather depleted, but I don't recognize faces well enough yet to be sure whether they had boycotted the service or just decided to sit in the mixed section in honour of the egalitarianism.
The rabbi gave a sermon in which he encouraged, in rather strong terms as far as I could tell from guessing at the Swedish, the congregation to vote in favour of full egalitarianism when the issue is put to the vote. I was also spotted by the people who are obviously active in the egalitarianist movement within the community, and they invited me to join them for weekday services (which are egal already, and I hadn't known until this weekend that they even existed).
So, today I showed up and indeed I was the tenth man. I've never done that before. The thing is, most of the kinds of communities that do weekday services are also the kind that don't approve of women getting involved, and I've never felt particularly keen to get up early for a service where at best my presence is irrelevant and quite likely actively unwanted. Of course, since the community is "partially" egalitarian, it makes entire sense for the weekday services to choose the pro-women side, because that makes it more than twice as easy to get a quorum. And the whole point of women having the same rights as men religiously is that we also have the same obligations. They actually needed me there in order to have enough people be able to say some of the prayers and read from Torah. And they gave me an aliyah and I really felt that I was able to do something for the community, which hasn't been easy up to this point (for various reasons, not by any means all to do with gender).
I'm not saying I'll show up regularly twice a week. But I think I will make an effort to be there when it's not too inconvenient.
While I'm on the subject, I owe my feminist friends an apology for this post. The post in my head was meant to be pointing out the incongruity of seeing these half-naked women prancing about on campus in the name of feminism. But I allowed the post by email function to tempt me into posting too hastily, and I got distracted onto being grumpy about protest marches as a way of achieving political goals, and what with a poor attempt at self-deprecating humour, it ended up looking like a rant about how feminism sucks. Which was really not my point at all.
So, many thanks to redbird and adrian_turtle for giving me serious and thoughtful answers and not being impatient with my ignorance about feminism. I am ignorant, but not as ignorant as I came across in that post, and I do appreciate people making the effort to explain their beliefs rather than assuming I'm the enemy. Thank you both. And my apologies to you and to any other feminists who may have read and not wanted to comment, for implying (even unintentionally) rude remarks about your beliefs.
I was really reluctant to create a gender tag, because I don't care about gender. But I find myself using it a lot recently, so there you go.