Virtual Talmud

Virtual Talmud

Retooling Our Mission to Our Youth

For all the efforts that are going into attracting and retaining the next generation of Jews, one step is sorely missing: adequate and effective training for youth leaders. Most congregations hire staff for youth groups who are self-taught. Perhaps they were youth leaders as young people, or have some teaching or camping experience. What a far cry from the very organized and directed training I see going on in the evangelical Christian community.
Every so often I get a flier from a church group that holds national training institutes for youth leaders. The programs look so dynamic. I know from neighbors that some of these churches run dynamic services for their youth. Their kids are always reaching out to unaffiliated classmates (and unfortunately also affiliated ones) to bring them with them to some church youth event. The point is that they know how to successfully excite and motivate the unaffiliated.
Where are we going wrong and what can we do to get it right?
We, Jews, need to retool our youth leadership training now. Let’s take a page out of the church groups and train our youth staff and leaders in the most effective outreach techniques and how to make dynamic and moving services. Let’s have a series of regional national conferences with our great musicians like Craig Taubman to bring ruach (spirit) to the group, dynamic motivational speakers, and training in outreach methods, which use the best practices adapted from church and community organizing methods.
Megachurches have made a megabusiness of training youth leaders who then train the youth in their local churches. We need to do the same. We need to teach our kids how to reach out to their peers, and not just their friends, how to engage newcomers in a deep and consistent way. We need to teach our kids to reach out to everyone, not just the cool kids. We need to teach them to be loving and welcoming to the unpopular kids as well.
We are at a desperate junction, in danger of loosing almost an entire generation of unaffiliated young people. We need a Birthright-style investment to identify and train leaders and our youth who are affiliated for congregational and college-based youth work. It is all very fine to debate what it means to engage in a Jewish act, but what we need now are the tools to effectively transmit our religious values (across all the movements) to the next generation. Every marker shows that adults who are synagogue affiliates are more Jewishly engaged than those who are not affiliated. Therefore we should be doing what we can to bolster that affiliation into the next generation through our youth groups. To do that, we need to build more effective youth training.

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laura t mushkat

posted July 26, 2007 at 3:47 pm

I think outreach programs would be most helpful along with the youth movements which are currently being used.
With kids today a lot of their spare time is taken up with athletic events that they participate in mainly to help them get into college.
It is often practice or some such that they have to go to for this. If not atheletics something else takes up their time. Many get jobs.
I do not know how churches reach these kids but you are right-author-we need to do something to interest these kids.
Onetime going to shul or temple was fine for holidays or life events.
With the baby boomers getting on and their predecessors even older, less and less can do active things in the congregation thye belong to.
Many no longer have the funds, or the physical ability to run things. We may have to depend on younger and younger people of interest to do these neccessary things to keep the religon going.

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Jim Barrens

posted July 26, 2007 at 8:10 pm

I’d like to suggest the Jewish Organizing Initiative, a respected organization that’s experienced in grassroots community organizing. If you don’t already have it, their URL is:
Please let me know if I can be of assistance.
Jim Barrens

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Carolyn Gold

posted July 26, 2007 at 8:34 pm

One thing the churches do that our congregations don’t: They welcome everybody, whether they can pay or not. Our reform congregation used to do that. Now they charge so much that it costs more for 30 weeks of Sunday School than it cost for temple membership when we moved here 30 years ago. Same thing for the conservative shul down the road. In addition, there was no vacation bible school for Judaism, but the churches will gladly welcome our children with colourful pictures, wonderful imagery, and the open arms of promised salvation. Our kids got nonsectarian play dates casually supervised by a nanny. The only difference today is that we are now on a fixed income and cannot afford all the different fees they want to charge. Everything is now an option. But there is still no Jewish vacation bible school for our kids.
There is also the matter of keeping up with the Jewish Jonses. The temples have been taken over by doctors, lawyers, and businessfolk. If you aren’t among the upper crust, your young child doesn’t get invited to play dates, and your older child doesn’t get invited to bar mitzvah parties that cost more than a wedding reception. It isn’t enough that you have to have a Jewish mother to be considered Jewish; you also have to have money or you don’t count. This elitist attitude is rarely found at the fundamentalist churches.
The so-called dynamic educational materials the Jewish religious schools are using are the same ones used when our son was in Sunday and Hebrew School at age 5 in 1977 and our daughter in 1985. Both called them boring; both went to Sunday and Hebrew School as though to their doom; and both have walked firmly away from Judaism as adults. So have at least half their classmates. Hebrew school enrollment has dropped sharply, necessitating yet another increase in class fees, again cutting out the working poor.
Something is very wrong with this picture.

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posted July 26, 2007 at 11:25 pm

1/ Nothing wrong with that picture. Reform Judaism in America was founded by wealthy Midwestern German Jews who wanted to avoid the poorer Eastern European immigrants (that’s why their seminary is in Cincinnati-not exactly the Lower East Side). If you want an inexpensive place there’s always Chabad.
2/ I checked that jewishorganizing website. Its basically a Boston area organization. Under ‘programs’, well, I didn’t find anything specific. OTOH I don’t live in New England so I wouldn’t know.

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posted July 27, 2007 at 10:31 am

Dynamic youth leadership would be great, although I do not think it will overcome parental apathy. If kids see their parents jazzed about Judaism they are much more likely to incorporate into their lives. If kids are active in a Temple youth group and see that their parents could give a flip about Judaism, they will come to wonder why they are expending the effort while their parents don’t.

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Marge Eiseman

posted July 27, 2007 at 11:24 am

I think having ordained youth ministers also helps the churches in recruiting and keeping enthusiastic young adult leadership (they can have parsonage and other benefits!). Just a thought…

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posted July 27, 2007 at 12:42 pm

Outreach can make a significant difference between a mediocre or a vibrant, thriving Jewish community. First, as a community, I think we have to decide what being Jewish and Judaism mean. Many Jewish communities are reflections of the more well to do of the Jewish community rather than of all Jews in that community. Is the current reflection of the Jewish community what we want? Is it building a solid Jewish community today and for tomorrow?
I think we can look at the challenges of modernity and secularism in our society and the rule of money and power in our synagogues as obstacles or as distractions that keep us from our goals. I realize these are major issues that are iceburgs in our path to a thriving Jewish community. I also think by working together we can successfully overcome each of these issues in ways that benefit all Jews, Judaism and G-d.
If we choose to focus on building strong individuals, couples and families of faith that love and appreciate Judaism and being Jewish, we will generate solid programs with caring workers and leaders within our institutions. It may be accurate to say we have no or few Summer programs for our kids and the Christians have dynamic programs with well trained leaders. As the playing field exists at this time, how can we have synagogue based programs that build our kids so that all who want to can attend?
Can we overcome the power of money and the negatives of modernity so that our kids (and us too) are able and want to be a substantive part of a dynamic Jewish community? The real answer is of course, yes. Some portion of the answer is a commitment of thought and time from us. I think a large part of the goals is to have our children and their children and their children be an integral, irreplaceable part of dynamic Jewish community that is Torah literate and is working honor G-d. In my view, it is implicit that mutual respect and appreciation of our fellow Jews is thought, felt and practised. This means that the branch of Judaism one adheres to (Orthodox, Reconstructionist, Conservative, Reform or ….) is respected and appreciated.
It is not too late. There are many, many wonderful people and programs now that are making a significant positive difference for Jews and Judaism. By remembering we are a community and that the focus in Judaism is saving the entire community, we can overcome anything. By working together in a unity of purpose and focusing on building up the Jewish community for the betterment of all Jews and for G-d, the entire world will benefit.

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laura t mushkat

posted July 27, 2007 at 2:07 pm

Carolyn Gold-I think you are misinformed about paying for going to a Jewish house of worship. Anyone can go and take part in every day services. You can also go to many programs and other things that are free. The only thing you might have to pay for is religous school for your children and seating at High Holidays. The reason it costs for school is that the teachers are paid. If you could get volunteers to teach, who would be knowledgeable, you still would have the costs involved with keeping the school area open and all insurance paid for, lights, upkeep etc. The seats cost due to the same problems invoved in keeping a school open but you must add things because so many people are comming who usually do not. Due to the age we live in many now include more security in their budget.
Every house of worship, be it shul or temple, knows that everyone can not afford things. Often there are “scholarships” for everything from being a member to the school or activities. My children needed this for their schooling and USY. I know others do the same.
The difference from us and churches is they pass “the hat” weekly while we have memberships. They also have costs and hit people up for money when needed. Some give a portion of their paycheck, much like Jews do. They just have other ways of naming the “dues”.
Yes, if you want to take advantage of what is being offered economically you have to let the right people know. May be hard but you must.
As for the boring school-why did you not do something about it. In my community and area there are day schools, after schools and each type of house of worship. All offer scholarships and all know they are fighting for “customers” so try to keep things interesting for all ages.
Please use your areas resources and get as active as possible. We have kids marrying outside of the religon who stay Jewish and their kids are also. This says something is going right!

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Julie Hamil

posted July 27, 2007 at 10:20 pm

I am a sunday school teacher in my church so I can tell you first hand how it is done-and it is EASY EASY EASY!
The leaders of the church have an annual meeting to train and organize the leaders of the classes, we have quarterly meetings to receive materials we will need, and monthly meetings I think (I never attend them). We order any materials needed one week in advance, the lesson books we are given are self explanitory (the students have a lesson, than we do a small craft,add in a song and of corse close with prayer), the few teachers in the room communicate with each other as to what is going on the next week for the lessons. Done!
Deut 10:12 says “And now, O Isreal, what does the L_rd your G_d ask of you but to fear the L_rd your G_d, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to SERVE the L_rd your G_d with all your heart and with all your soul.
This is my service to our G_d. I thank G_d for those children and the freedom we have to teach and learn His Word openly.
Now everyone go find your place and plug in!! Do it for G_d!!!

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David Cohen

posted July 28, 2007 at 11:39 am

Marketing and advertising can’t solve every problem. It would be a mistake to emulate the Evangelical marketing machine. There is a reason it is called “an industry”. It is called a “megabusiness” for for obvious reasons. We need to reflect upon our own unique response to retention and outreach. We also need to realize that all organizations believe that “we are going to lose this generation”. It’s the nature of people in groups. Our constant struggle is to pass on our values to each generation — it is not just a 5 year campaign to address the needs of apathetic youth. Outreach (or is it “inreach”) is love — it is who we are. When we stop loving, people will vote with their feet and walk away.
Sure, marketing works. But are megashuls really the answer?

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laura t mushkat

posted July 28, 2007 at 1:09 pm

have not yet read the other comments.
While we have every right to give our opinion I find it rediculous that Jews often compare themselves badly with Christian religous organizations and such. Have you ever talked to a Christian? They are jealous of us! They are jealous of the fact we stick together, are always helping each other and how wonderful our people keep their families together closely, and the lack of teen angst which can result in pregnancies, drinking and duis, and keeping our children on the right side of the law.
We know that most of this is not true-that we have all these problems including not getting along with each other.
I say this to point out that it always looks better on the “other side”.
They are loosing kids and young adults in great numbers to their religon of their mothers and fathers-Christianity. Why do they seem to be more successful then us at keeping their kids involved.
For our hundred they have thousands. For the few types of Jews there are, their are many more types of Christians. They just seem to be successful. What about the thousands and thousands of secular people there are in the USA? Born Christian-yes. Practice what their parrents practiced-no neccessarily. Look on the beliefnet boards and see how many have hopped from one to the other or left their belief entirely.
Could we do better? Ofcourse. Do we have teens and young adults active in Jewish life events and beyond? Ofcourse. Do the children stay active in Jewish life? Many do. Many do not. Look at the adult Jews you know from childhood. Think how they grew. If their parrents were active in Jewish life, paid attention to their kids so they would think doing what mom and dad does is terrific or ignored the children for their good works so the kids would have a hard time will tell a lot about them. What they did with their time growing up and what seemed important to them. Then complain. Or not. Know what you are talking about.

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posted July 29, 2007 at 9:38 am

In this affluent day and age our kids need something beyond materialism, something inspiring and motivating, while at the same time having fun. You know, kids just want to have fun! Then as they mature they want something bigger than themselves to connect too. They want to be able to give, to know who they are and what they do counts, is important.
Chabad is doing a great job with this and have even began a program for the developmentally disabled or challenged children and adults among us. It is called the Friendship Circle and my Autistic daughter benefits from it. Teens in the congregation volunteer to be a friend to a special needs person and connect with their friend once a week. This has really impacted the lifes of the young people involved inspiring a more “G-d centered life.
Special services are arranged during the Holidays along with other activities that reach out to special needs. This program is a huge success and has become nation wide. It started in a Chabad back East. (We are Californians.) Like laura says in her post “something is going right”.
But there are those kids who when young develop a passion for Judaism only to leave it for party time, drinking and sex when they leave home to attend a college or University. All we can do is the best we can, pray and trust and understand we cannot fix anyone, we can only love them right where they are at in their choices and welcome them when they return. Shalom All

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Carolyn Gold

posted July 29, 2007 at 8:57 pm

It would be nice if everything fit in a neat little package, but it doesn’t.
Someone said: “If you want an inexpensive place there’s always Chabad.”
Having been raised behind a curtain in the stifling Orthodox tradition, why would I have wanted my son to be glorified and my daughter relegated to kitchen and nursery, hidden away? Why would I have wanted her to be forbidden read from the Torah, or even to sing and dance in public? Why would I have wanted her forbidden even a friendly handshake with a man?
As to the scholarships Laura mentioned, they are no longer available for Hebrew/Sunday schools at congregations here. Reduced memberships are available if you submit a detailed financial statement. When my husband was working we paid our way without a qualm, and I was heavily involved in temple life. My son attended the temple school until after his bar mitzvah, when he refused to return, saying he couldn’t relate to being Jewish. He’s not the first and won’t be the last to say that.
Then my husband lost his eyesight and his job, and I had to go to work full-time so we could eat. We applied for reduced membership, but we had to borrow for school and attendance at required events for our daughter’s bat mitzvah and confirmation, including a mandatory weekend retreat on the other side of the state. Because I worked a lot of overtime to make ends meet, I couldn’t drive my daughter to the few social events that were inexpensive enough to manage. When I tried to arrange transport with other parents, I was told outright that it would be unkind to bother, as she really didn’t fit in. Right clothes, right car, etc. Summer sleep-away camp was out of the question. Her bat mitzvah dinner was sparsely attended, and she withdrew from the social scene. She was not a quitter. She continued to attend school until she graduated from senior study at 17, and then walked away from the temple for good. Lest you think she may have been the problem, she has made many friends “on the outside” and gets along very well where she works. But Judaism no longer holds any appeal for her, and now, being a single mother barely over the poverty line, she refuses to subject her son to the treatment she received.
For a while I tried to remain involved on my days off, but in an amazingly short time my name was forgotten by committee members with whom I had worked for 20 years. My husband, never enthusiastic about Jewish observance, was told last year he could not bring his guide dog to services, because he attracted too much attention. That was the final straw for him, though he never objected when I said I wanted to continue attending services.
In the early years services were held in an older, modest building. The rabbi insisted on limiting membership to a certain number of congregants and their families, and bar/bat mitzvah parties were not permitted to be elaborate. Just when we moved here and joined up in 1977, along came the fund drives for a splendid new building. Costs skyrocketed. The only families who could pay full price were the doctors, lawyers, and businessmen who had initiated the fund drives. It has not been enough, because the temple has had major financial problems for some years and so has had to raise fees repeatedly. The same holds true for all the congregations in the area, including the orthodox shul. The remodeling bug’s bite affects everyone.
I still believe Judaism and temple life can be a vibrant, shining light, but not the way it is now, being all about money and keeping up with the Jewish Joneses.
Carolyn Gold, who still parks the old Honda between the BMWs.

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posted July 30, 2007 at 10:38 am

Dear Carolyn, Not all Orthodox is stifling – honest, why don’t you check it out for your self before making a judgment? Then if you do not like it don’t go. Chabad does not fit into the Orthodox mold remembered by leavenics of the Orthodox movement.
I was not raised O., after years of Conservative, Chabad has been like a breath of fresh air. I need to drive – I am accepted. My level of observance is not in line with theirs – I am accepted.
Accepted, loved, treasured as a JEW. No nursery duty – no kitchen duty unless I want it – depends on the Chabad – at ours the kitchen is professional and no one but the pros – men – go inside and prepare unless catered by a pro woman.
The curtain – no big deal – ours is a see through wooden lattice type – beautiful and see through with plenty of room to see Rabbi when he speaks.
I am a hugger – it is nice to be welcomed by my sisters in the faith with a hug. The Pres. – a man – shakes hands with everyone and makes a point to say hello to everyone at every service.
The only prob I have with them at times is the woman can be to chatty during a service when I want to daven. I am the type of person that will tell them to be quiet even if it means getting in their face.
The kids service – boys and girls together – great stories – lots of fun and snacks.
The Kiddish after – men and women sit together – gals by their hubbies if so desire. The Rebbitzin teaches us and we bond together as sisters. There is a sense of respect for woman considered to be more spiritually in tune than men.
No sense of feeling less or deprived. No sense of “judgment”,I guess it depends on what you want – I want the friendship, the welcoming, and a Rabbi who has a passion for HaShem, (heard to many dry lifeless speakers), than to be called to the Torah or counted in the minyan. I count myself.
Carolyn you are so right about the money issue and every shull has it – even Chabad, but I feel the difference is that HaShem is put first and trusted the $$ will be added – yes there are pleas from time to time and membership dues but no one is ever turned away – that is my experience. Shalom to you, and please do not feel that I am trying pressure you – more sharing than anything else. You know what you need and want for yourself and your family.
I just have a problem with “judgment among the dif branches of our religion – we need to respect and honor each other regardless of branch of Judaism a part of – ALL have value. We all need each other. We are One Family – Being Jewish we just like to disagree – lets agree to disagree without judgment or thinking the other “less”. Shalom again – Chana

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Carolyn Gold

posted July 30, 2007 at 8:21 pm

Chana said: The curtain – no big deal – ours is a see through wooden lattice type – beautiful and see through with plenty of room to see Rabbi when he speaks.
I am a hugger – it is nice to be welcomed by my sisters in the faith with a hug. The Pres. – a man – shakes hands with everyone and makes a point to say hello to everyone at every service.
Dear Chana,
I would never think to judge without first-hand experience. I don’t know where you live, but here at the O synagogue in my small western Florida town (barely a zit on the map), women may not even sit with their husbands at the lunch table. Women may not join a conversation if men are present and certainly not a religious discussion, even if she can run scholarly circles around them (maybe that’s why?). It’s worse at the local Chabad synagogue. No man would even acknowledge a woman’s presence except in direst necessity, not even before or after services. The rabbi certainly does not shake hands with women. If one approaches, he flings his hands behind his back and looks somewhere past her shoulder. The curtain, however sheer, is still there dividing the genders, and women come off a poor second.
When a woman may not stand at the bima, speak of scholarly things in the presence of men, say certain prayers, initiate a divorce, or even wear short sleeves on a hot day, that atmosphere is not for me. And please please please don’t try to tell me that the man’s prayer to HaShem for not making him a woman is a lament. It’s gratitude for not being caged.
I’m delighted you found a goodly home in your synagogue. For me, not a thing has changed from the New York City shul where I spent the first 27 years of my life.

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posted August 1, 2007 at 1:25 pm

HI Carolyn – WOW – things are sure different in Southern California!
I am so happy my experience has not been like that! Even at the Chabad – I am surprised!
I certainly do not blame you for wanting nothing to do with them.
Not even acknowledge a woman’s presence!
Once I was the ONLY woman at an evening holiday service! (In a Chabad). The Rabbi personally thanked me for coming – said a woman’s presence will keep all us guys in line! FunnY – they sat with me at nosh time and conversed with me and said L’Chiam’s with me! I felt respected and that I counted.
Well, it is a very diverse Jewish world even amongst the O.
Being an older woman and not needing what I needed when I was younger – the divorce rules etc. do not bother me, and amongst the younger O. friends of mine they have managed to work it out and do not leave.
Bat Mitzvah’s are awesome – big parties – just not on Shabbos, very affirming to womanhood with joyfulness.
I do find more spiritual depth to the teachings – I guess that makes up for the other stuff for me.
You response is very kind – thank for honoring my choice.
I hope you are able to find what you want for yourself and your family in some branch of our faith somewhere. You are a very important member of our family. Shalom Dear Heart.

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Mike Herzog

posted August 7, 2007 at 11:55 pm

I am a Reform Jew who has recently become active in my temple. I grew up in Nebraska where there are some but not many Jews. I’ve gotten to know many “types” of Jews and Christians — lapsed, angry, evangelical, observant, and inspired.
I believe that all Jews, not just kids, would ideally be inspired to do the important works the Torah tells us – loving our children and our spouse, communicating that love and connecting at a deep level, making friends and having fun, repairing the world. Regarding the finer points of ritual and Jewish law, if it works for you, fine. So what if you turn on a light on Shabbat? Can you find inspiration in the Torah that moves you forward on the key things that are important to us as Jews? Isn’t that ultimately waht G-d wants?
I think that we can learn from Christians in the sense that they have found ways of gaining direct inspiration from the “Word” that helps them do good works and be better people. Jews do this too, but sometimes it gets lost in all the ritual. I am very interested in “small groups”, groups within a congregation of 6 or so families that focus on each other, observe and learn about Judiasm together, and gain inspiration from each other. I want to form a Chavurah to do this in our synagogue.
We say that the Torah is our sacred source of inspiration and understanding. I very much enjoy studying it and applying these learnings to my life. I want to be inspired — to _feel_ the rightness and the closer connection to G-d.
The enthusiasm of young people — yes, a wonderful source of energy for our faith. However, I think everyone would ideally model the behaviors of gaining meaning and guidence and change from the core things of Judiasm. The social aspects, the traditions, and even following the “laws” are nice. But I believe that what will really make our religion connect with people in important ways is to focus on things that are really important. Not just rules, but ways to be truly better people by understanding and becoming closer to G-d.
So, I agree with the ideas about inspiring young people. But I’d suggest that this be part of a larger program to inspire all Jews. Many adults also thirst for abiding meaning through their faith, and the same things that work for kids (spirit, inspiration, fresh outlook) can also work for adults as well.

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Joanne Heiligman

posted August 12, 2007 at 7:41 pm

Dear Carolyn,
The treatment you describe is revolting, and though I don’t doubt your story for a moment, I wish I did. There are many congregations where such goings on do occur, but there are also many others where they do not. You do not say whether your congregation was/is the only one where you live, but often the smaller less established congregations are warmer and less financially driven than what you have described. I’m sorry that this has gone on long enough to alienate your family, and if it is not entirely too late, urge you to look at other congregations, where you might connect with those of us who share a world view which is much more in keeping with your own. Don’t give up your Jewish spiritual life because of the crass behavior of some people.

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posted November 25, 2007 at 1:48 am

Dear Carolyn, if you are still there, and to all the “Carolyns” out there,
First of all, let me preface this by saying that I came from a conservative and modern orthodox background, and I chose Chabad.
Have you ever tried discussing these issues with the Chabad shluchim (emissaries) in your area? (They work together, equally, as a team, and either or both would be GLAD to meet with you and discuss your issues.)
Some of your points you mention have a validity to them — yes, it is true that the rabbi will not shake a woman’s hand, just as the rebbitzen will not shake a man’s hand. Physical contact with the opposite gender, other than with one’s immediate family is not approved of in the Torah. There’s a reason for it. And while no Chabad rabbi will tell you that you can’t touch your male friends, they have the equal right to be able to be careful about this issue themselves; if you are allowed your belief, they are also allowed theirs. You can’t imagine how many “touchy feely” people there are, who can’t say anything without being all over you. Men and women sitting together at social events varies from one shul to another. If they don’t sit together in your shul, try discussing it with the shluchim. What do other members of the shul want? Sometimes there are separate tables for men, women, and couples. I have NEVER EVER heard that in any Chabad House women may not join a conversation if men are present, irregardless of its topic. You say “No man would even acknowledge a woman’s presence except in direst necessity, not even before or after services?” You say you live in a small Florida town. How many really strictly Torah observant people are in the shul? This is something that maybe, MAYBE you might find in Satmar, but definitely not in Lubavitch! A rabbi who “flings his hands behind his back” is probably a young, new rabbi, doing it out of his awkwardness, not knowing how to respond to your flinging out your hand at him, and not wanting to touch “something which is not his!” Chabad rabbis do not ‘look somewhere past your shoulder.’ Chabad rabbis look you straight in the eye and will gladly discuss absolutely ANY ISSUE with you. Yes, the sheer curtain or latticework is there “dividing the genders,” because we (hopefully)go to shul to pray to the One Above, not to gaze at the apparel or lack thereof of the opposite sex. There is a time and place for everything. Want to meet a nice Jewish man? That’s fine at the social events. Speak to your shluchim. There are systems in place to help you in your search. It simply isn’t appropriate during prayers. In Chabad, women are very valued. Ask a Chabad rabbi, and if he knows his stuff, he’ll admit to you that women are on a higher level spiritually than men. Did you ever wonder why men have to wear yarmulkas and women don’t? The word “yarmulka” is from the Aramaic words “yira malka” the fear of the King. Women innately know there’s a G-d who is higher than we are — men need a gentle reminder — in the form of a yarmulka. Why do they wear tzitzis? Again — to REMIND them of the mitzvos — the combination of knots and strings equals 613 — the number of commandments in the Torah. Women do not need the reminder. Since the bima is generally in the men’s section, except at a social event, the women won’t speak from there; ask your rabbi — in a non-confrontational way — when and where women might speak out. Same with speaking of scholarly things –if it’s a mens class, it may not be the right place. There should be mixed and womens classes as well; whether a man is present or not is totally irrelevant. If a woman is unhappy in her marriage, and all attempts have failed to improve it, she can initiate divorce procedings, and there are various kinds of pressures which can be applied to coerce her unwilling spouse to co-operate. If one Bais Din isn’t helpful, find another which is. I believe there are various support groups as well, which will help in putting on the pressure. Again, while short sleeves are not considered appropriate shul attire during prayer, Chabad rabbis do not tell women what to wear. People come to our shul in all kinds of inappropriate attire. Is it possible that someone offered you a light scarf and asked if you would mind wearing it over your bare arms? I have been to Chabad shuls in Florida, and believe me the women were NOT all wearing long sleeves. I will not tell you that the man’s prayer to HaShem for not making him a woman is a lament — that’s a new one to me. There are numerous explanations, and I’m sure there’s a better one according to chassidus. But a simple explanation I like is as follows: There are three blessings together: thanking for not being a gentile, a slave, and a woman. (In our shul women omit the last one.) The reason is that we are thanking G-d that we are Jews, free, and in the case of men, not a woman) because a gentile does not have the opportunity to observe the 613 commandments (he has 7 — the 7 laws of Noah.) A slave (in the time of the Temple) could not keep MANY of the mitzvos. A woman does not usually keep SEVERAL of the mitzvos. That’s the reason for the descending order. That’s all. If you will speak with Chabad or I imagine most orthodox women, we have enough to do without looking to put on tefillin and count for a minyan. We don’t have to prove ourselves equal, because we KNOW we are equal — equal but different. We can celebrate our femininity. Our husbands respect and love us. Tefillin isn’t a game — it’s an obligation which MUST be done within a time specific time limit EVERY DAY except for Shabbos and holidays. Same with praying with a minyan — it isn’t on a lark once a week or when we feel like it — it’s 3 times a day, EVERY day. They have their mitzvos and we have ours. To the woman is entrusted that which is MOST PRECIOUS — the education of the next generation of Jews, and the safeguarding of the laws of family purity.
Dear all Carolyns — PLEASE CALMLY think this over and come to discuss these issues with us. We are waiting for you with open arms! YOU are the reason we are out here! We would be much more comfortable in Brooklyn, Israel, etc. We would rather not put our children’s future at risk. We are really here JUST FOR YOU! Even if we haven’t met yet, we love you. Please realize that we are also people — some of us are young and maybe nervous. Some of us may not have a ready reply for everything, but will certainly look it up for you. Some of us are juggling our multiple responsibilities as school principals, rebbetzins, mothers, youth directors, and cheif cook and bottle washers. If your rebbetzin can’t speak to you immediately, ask her when would be a good time.
One last thing. Try one of these sites: and
Gotta run now! Love you! Leah

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