July 12th, 2006


More on women / feminism in the Jewish community

Sorry if you're bored with this topic, by the way; I'm working through stuff.

So there were some visitors in synagogue this shabbat. (It's quite gratifying that I'm getting to the point where I can spot visitors as opposed to regulars I don't recognize.) Anyway, the male half of the couple asked me if I was the only woman in the community to wear a tallit. I told him that there are a handful of us, and also mentioned that there are semi-regular "egalitarian" services where women's participation is positively encouraged and that a lot more tallit-wearing women show up at those. He said something about a lot changing in 50 years but I couldn't tell whether he was being approving or critical. I didn't bother getting into an argument about whether this is actually an innovation, anyway.

It turned out that the person I'd been speaking to is rather a famous rabbi. So famous in fact that I had previously assumed (in a vague, non-specific sort of way) he was dead, as he is mentioned so much in historical accounts. And as he was leaving he said to me: Keep flying the feminist flag with your tallit! I said that it wasn't a feminist tallit, but in the conciliatory manner one uses for contradicting strangers.

I am sure the rabbi meant well (and now I know who he is I'm fairly sure he is pro egalitarianism). And no, I don't think it's insulting to be thought a feminist. It's just annoying that people should make a whole string of assumptions about my politics because of something I do for religious reasons, not gender political reasons.

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Is that "flying a feminist flag"? I don't see it as such. I don't put gender politics above religion; in this particular case, I think the differentiation between men and women is not justified and that's why I ignore it. But I don't have a problem in principle with men having different ritual roles from women. (And now that I'm a bit more mature I don't think anyone who comes to a different conclusion from me on this issue is old-fashioned or sexist, either.)

Words that might need explaining: tallit is the Jewish ritual garment, often described as a prayer shawl, usually white with black or blue stripes, and where the important part is fringes at the corners tied with knots in a specific pattern. Tallissim is the plural that comes most naturally to me; it's sort of Yinglish though and probably not a "real" word.
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My books are here! Yay yay yay yay! *dances around bouncing madly*

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In other stuff news, I decided that I need a stereo of some sort, primarily because I still have some of my music collection on tapes. My requirements were that I wanted something that would play tapes as well as CDs and radio, and relatively small and portable and not unreasonably expensive. That would have been pretty simple 10 years ago, but it's getting harder to find anything that includes a tape recorder! The high-end machines usually do, but I'm not really prepared to spend several hundred pounds on a stereo. But it seems a lot of small, entry-level stereos are selling themselves on being able to read mp3s and recordable CDs, which I don't care about (I have my computer for that!), and don't have cassette ability at all.

I shopped around for a bit and settled on this baby music centre from Denver. However, when I went to the electronics store I discovered that they had discontinued this model. It has been replaced with a fairly similar model, but the newer version is IMO uglier and the tape player is really awkward to use. So I decided to try my luck and smiled sweetly at the sales assistant and asked him if I buy the display model. Since clearly the shop had no use for a display model of a machine they're not selling any more.

To my surprise, this approach worked; the guy agreed to sell me the display model for a greatly reduced price. So I got the stereo I was intending to buy for 400 SEK for 150 instead, which equates to slightly over £10. OK, it doesn't have a remote and I didn't get a box to carry it home in. But I'm pretty pleased with myself.

My life is going to be so much better with plenty of books to read, and all my music available, and all the little silly things that make home feel like home!
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