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Shalhevet news online: When we know it, you'll know it

The Boiling Point

Shalhevet news online: When we know it, you'll know it

The Boiling Point

Shalhevet news online: When we know it, you'll know it

The Boiling Point

Girls will no longer carry Torah at junior-senior minyan

Shalhevet rabbis yesterday authorized a group of junior boys to lead the Beit Midrash minyan in Sephardic nusach on Mondays and Thursdays, and the boys indicated that girls would not be carrying the Torah.

In a move that came as a surprise after weeks of open debate over the issue, Judaic Studies Principal Rabbi Ari Leubitz said he wanted to allow a service that followed Sephardic ritual and customs, which are followed by about a third of Shalhevet students.

There are no Sephardic rabbis on the faculty, so he turned it over to four students who had been requesting it. They are Jojo Fallas, Adam Wannon, Jordan Banafsheha and Rony Shemtov.

“On Mondays and Thursdays they are authorized to run a Sephardic minyan.” Rabbi Leubitz told The Boiling Point.

Since the Torah is only taken out on Mondays and Thursdays, that means junior and senior girls will not have the opportunity to carry it in the upperclassmen minyan. Girls will continue to carry the Torah through the women’s section in the freshman-sophomore minyan, which meets in the Media Center.

“Women who want to join the minyan in the Media Center on Mondays and Thursdays may do so,” Rabbi Leubitz said.

Yesterday, the first day the boys were in charge, Jojo Fallas took the Torah down the aisle on the boys’ side of the mechitza and then handed it to Aviva Prins, who carried back up the aisle on the girls’ side. This had been the custom all year, though an increasing number of boys had been complaining about it.

When Jojo saw Aviva waiting to take the scroll, he hesitated for a moment and then passed it over. But he later said it was a mistake.

“Women were allowed to carry the Torah today because we did not feel that they were properly informed of what was going to happen,” Jojo said in an interview later. “The girls were supposed to be told that if they wanted to carry the Torah they should go do the other minyan, and frankly it is uncomfortable for everyone involved to ask them to do that.”

Senior Leah Katz, who has been outspoken in defense of girls’ right to carry it, thought the change was extreme.

“Let me get this straight,” Leah said. “They’re hijacking the entire upperclassmen minyan to satisfy their personal vendetta?

“If they want a Sephardic minyan where they would not be made uncomfortable by women carrying the Torah, they have my blessing,” she continued. “However, I really don’t think that their discomfort should be able to make this drastic change in the structure of the entire minyan.”

Rabbi Leubitz said changes could be made if the decision was protested sufficiently, but he has yet to see this.

This change is the latest in a series of administrative decisions regarding davening. Effective this year, students had only been offered the option of attending two minyans, grouped by grades. Leaders of previous years’ Yoga Minyan, Discussion Minyan and Basketball Minyan, for example, have been told to submit proposals to the Agenda Committee, which has been working with Rabbi Leubitz on a way to decide what will be required for approval.

Rabbi Leubitz has said that once approved, these so-called “experiential” minyans, which add experiences to davening in addition to prayer, would be permitted to operate two days per week.

But Sephardic prayer differs from usual Shalhevet davening primarily in the customs and tunes, or nusach, used by the leader.

“The Sephardic issue was something we wanted to expedite,” Rabbi Leubitz said. “It’s not an experiential minyan, it’s just a different nusach.”

Jojo Fallas wanted to clarify that the identity of the upperclass minyan Mondays and Thursdays is now Sephardic, having to do with a range of customs.

“The point of the minyan is not to take away women carrying the Torah,” Jojo said. “I think it was just easier to solve both issues with the same minyan.

“Personally, I have no problem with women carrying the Torah,” he added.

The issue of whether girls should carry the Torah at Shalhevet minyans was first raised at Town Hall Sept. 15, after members of the Agenda committee learned that some boys had been complaining about the practice.

In most Orthodox synagogues, the Torah stays on the men’s side of the mechitzah, or dividing wall, along with all the ritual functions and objects of the prayer service including tefillin, aliyot, and the leading of prayers and Kaddish.

This has been the tradition for centuries and is still the case in Haredi communities throughout the world, including in Los Angeles.

But in recent decades, most Modern Orthodox shuls, including the nearby Beth Jacob, B’nai David-Judea, and the Sephardic synagogue Nessach, bring the Torah through the women’s section. Only B’nai David allows women to carry it.

Proponents of women carrying the Torah say that there is no halachic, or legal, ruling against it.  Opponents say that the halacha (law) is unclear, and so it’s better not to make changes.

At Town Hall, some accused girls of wanting to carry the Torah just to prove their equality with men. Girls disagreed.

“I am a feminist, but I’m not doing it for feminist reasons,” said senior Deanna Grunfeld, who sometimes carried the Torah in the Bet Midrash minyan. “I actually feel a spiritual connection.”

Some boys who were against it said their reasons were religious, but others said that they found it distracting, and that it made them uncomfortable.

“My only problem is that it doesn’t follow our tradition, and I don’t think it’s right to stray away from traditions,” said Adam Wanon.

Agreed Michael Lenett, “It takes away from my davening experience. I have this spiritual connection, and when I see the girls carrying the Torah up their aisle, I lose it.”

Not all boys in the school, however, shared the same opinion.

“When I’m praying, I’m not concerned about anyone else, I’m just focusing on myself,” said freshman Alex Schwartz. “So if they want to carry the Torah, I think we should let them.”

All the teachers who spoke and at least half the students argued in favor of women carrying the Torah.

When the discussion was over, Agenda Chair Leona Fallas took an informal vote on whether a separate minyan could be established for those who wanted male-only carrying.  A strong majority voted yes.

But in the days that followed, the issue didn’t die. A handful of boys continued to press for a minyan where girls would not carry the Torah;  meanwhile, many of those same boys pressed for a separate Sephardic minyan. The current decision apparently meets both sets of concerns.

Related: New Sephardic minyan lets students feel at home 11/12/2011

VIDEO: Two problems solved at once as Sephardic minyan debuts 11/11/2011

Related: About 50 students attend school’s first Sephardic minyan 11/7/2011

EDITORIAL: On women and Torah, Shalhevet should lead  11/4/2011

Related: Shalhevet stands alone among Orthodox schools in letting girls carry Torah, survey finds 11/3/2011

Related: Tradition may rule, but law says girls may carry the Torah 11/3/2011

Related: Sephardic minyan approved; no changes to Ashkenazic minyans  10/31/2011

Meeting yesterday began process of minyan decisions, Rabbi Segal says 10-26-2011

Related: Blocking of girls from carrying Torah fails to materialize at first Sephardic-led junior-senior minyan 10/11/2011


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  • L

    Little Miss FeministOct 12, 2011 at 2:02 am

    Mr. Malesuperiority, posting a comment you don’t even believe in to look cool to your friends really sets a good example of how awesomely superior you and your gender are.

    If feminism is wanting women’s rights because they’re equal to men, than sure, wanting to carry the torah is feminist. AND? I don’t see the problem with that. If there’s no halacha against it, and it brings me spiritually closer to God, I don’t think I should stop because you’re “offended.”

    Yes, I will shove that in your face. You’re not any better than me because you have a Y chromosome. You’ll have to get your self-esteem somewhere else.

    I’m not sure when some people became “qualified” to carry the torah, but just so you know, I’m offended when I see sexist jerks like you carrying the torah in the name of your “superiority.”

    Religion isn’t supposed to be about this. It’s sad, actually, that you’re ignorance and idiocy is so strong it distracts you from your connection with God. I wish you luck when you get into the real world and have a female boss, or a wife who tries to be your equal.

    And if you don’t mean any of your comments, apology still unaccented. You still think it’s a “man’s” world. Anyone who truly thinks that isn’t a man at all. Just an insecure little boy.

  • M

    Mr. MaleSuperiorityOct 11, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    Ok guys, this is getting all out of hand, let me put something out there, my latter comment (this might not make much sense but stay with me)was not necessarily what I believe in, it was more of a “what the heck im bored right now lets start some controversy” i think that everyone knows at least one really racist or offensive joke that only a certain group of friends will understand and laugh about,it was those “jokes” that i put in me latter comment, I was immature to post those sexist remarks and i deeply apologize if it offended anyone, i was not thinking clearly and it was a very bad mistake that i committed. i hope you guys accept my sincere apology. I believe that if there where no women in this world there would be no point in living. “this is a man’s world but it aint nothing but without a woman” – James Brown 🙂

    • M

      Mr. MaleSuperiorityOct 11, 2011 at 10:17 pm

      PS. the name Mr.Male superiority was just a joke that popped into my friends head and we thought it was funny.so we put it in, i do not endorse my screen-name haha

      • M

        Mr. MaleSuperiorityOct 11, 2011 at 10:28 pm

        Oh and about girls carrying the torah i could care less, just dont do it for the sole reason of showing that you can do it (in other words dont put it in my face)

  • D

    Deanna GrunfeldOct 11, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    Dear Mr. MaleSuperiority,
    Where can we even begin to analyze your mess of a sexist comment? Putting your numerous grammatical and spelling errors aside, you seem to be horribly confused about what is actually taking place around you. Just because you seem to live in this little bubble of male domination, it doesn’t mean that this is what’s actually happening in America. Open your eyes and look around. In any occupation that you can find a man in charge, you can similarly find a woman counterpart. I think Becca gave a few great examples of women who are succeeding in their field. You seem to ignorantly familiarize yourself with only the examples of male power. You’re knowledge on certain key facts is clearly limited, which makes it an even larger problem that you’re making false claims and premature judgments. In your first sentences, you questioned a woman’s capability to becoming president. You are just proving that it’s the sexist and narrow-minded men like yourself who are actually slowing this possibility. Men like you reverse all the social progress that women have strived for in the last century. When a man puts his mind to a task, he can be the best. However, when a woman puts her mind to a task, she can be the best too. Perseverance will aid anyone in excelling – and this trait is not limited to either sex.

    -Ms. Equality

  • B

    Becca OrdinOct 11, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    Okay. Here we go… If you were really a man, Mr. Malesuperiority, then you would have put your real name on your comment. Second, I am terrible at art and have never really enjoyed it. Yes I do photography and I do understand where you are coming from when people think they’re amazing when really they have no talent, but you can’t generalize that to only girls. And if you haven’t noticed I am quite athletic and would rather be playing soccera or basketball than drawing a picture. I can name you some sucessful women photographers. Want some examples? Annie Leibovitz, Maria Laxamana, and many more. You totally contradicted yourself by saying that all women do art but you aren’t able to name any women artists…only guys. I think that’s saying something. At Shalhevet, who runs Agenda? A woman. Who are the senior class presidents? Two women. Not to bring my personal life into this too much but my mother can’t cook for her life, so don’t generalize that all women can cook because that is false. In season 4 of Top Chef, Stephanie Izard won. So next time you want to generalize, again, I would check your facts. I think I just proved that when a women puts her mind to something, she can do in the snap of a finger.

  • M

    Mr. MaleSuperiorityOct 11, 2011 at 10:29 am

    Comment Removed as of request of author

    • A

      AnonymousOct 11, 2011 at 11:36 am

      “All I’m trying to say is that girls have the right to do whatever they want but they will just not be as good as guys. I think i just proved that when a man puts his mind to it, he will be the best at it.”

      Wow. Not chauvinistic at all. Now you have to be qualified to hold the Torah? Since when?

  • J

    Jordan BanafshehaOct 11, 2011 at 10:11 am

    UPDATE: Because there is no school Thursday, the Sefardim had permission to lead a sefardic minyan in the main minyan today, Tuesday.

  • A

    AnonymousOct 10, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    I am disgusted that someone would say Shalhevet should be embarassed. Shalhevet is giving women a chance to hold the Torah.. Why should only men be allowed to hold it? Does it say ANYWHERE in the Jewish religion that women are not allowed to hold the Torah? Everyone needs to calm down. If you don’t like women holding the Torah, don’t look. Turn your head the other way. Women should always be allowed to hold the Torah, and I really hope ignorant people don’t change it.

    • A

      Adam KellnerOct 11, 2011 at 9:04 am

      I don’t think anybody said that Shalhevet should be embarrassed, but rather that it is detrimental to their davening. From a moral standpoint, I completely agree that girls should be allowed to carry the Torah. However, I don’t know the halakhic aspects to it. The thing that really bothers me is that most of the people who are all “rah rah” for girls carrying the Torah haven’t studied the issue at all but are soooo passionate about how unfair it is. I think that before anymore arguments and discussions on the issue progress, the school needs to teach the halakhic side of the debate. Then and only then can the Shalhevet community find a correct, fair solution.

      • J

        Jordan BanafshehaOct 11, 2011 at 9:51 am

        Actually someone did say shalhevet should be embarrassed: David said

        GOD BLESS”

  • J

    Jordan BanafshehaOct 10, 2011 at 11:18 am

    Update: for now the sefardim will only have 1 day in the minyan but there will be a meeting setup between rabbi Leubitz, Rabbi Segal, Sefardic minyan members, and others to come up with the final solution.

  • A

    Adam KellnerOct 10, 2011 at 10:14 am

    Everybody seems soooo upset that this decision will most likely not allow the girls to carry the Torah. I’m not saying that it doesn’t irk me at all(it does), but I feel that we are missing a very important issue with this decision: it violates our minyan’s minhag. The minyan is an Ashkenaz minyan that davens nusach Ashkenaz with Ashkenazi customs. Breaking that minhag and one of the defining factors of our minyan is an extreme problem. I completely believe that Sephardim should be given the opportunity to daven in the nusach that makes them feel most comfortable and helps them connect to God as best as possible, but not at the expense of an established minyan. I hope, for the Sephardims sake as well as the upperclassmen minyan’s sake, that the school authorizes a nusach sephardi minyan. This would settle everybody’s issues and help prevent further conflict. And if the Sephardim don’t have the strength and push to get it done, then the administration needs to be asking itself whether or not they should address the subject at all.

  • S

    Sustainable DaveOct 10, 2011 at 2:40 am

    “At Town Hall, some accused girls of wanting to carry the Torah just to prove their equality with men. ”

    I’m a tad confused why, if this were true, it would be considered a negative thing for women to want to be equal to men? I’d be interested in hearing an explanation from those who accused the girls of this, but doubt it will be forthcoming.

    How sad is it in this day and age to hear that young jews are squabbling over such an arcane and frankly ridiculous notion as to who carries the torah and where. The Torah belongs to everyone and should be treated as such.

    My two cents. Good luck and keep fighting the good fight.


  • D

    David IOct 9, 2011 at 11:03 pm



  • J

    Jenny NewmanOct 9, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    Dear Shalhevet Boiling Point,
    I am extremely confused by the school’s decision not to allow women to carry the Torah during Mondays and Thursdays in the regular upperclass minyan.
    With all due respect to the many practices within the Shalhevet system, this seems wrong. I don’t disagree at all with the notion that both Ashkenazic and Sephardic cultures should be recognized, but why is it that the school split things up so that the Sephardic students got both days of Torah reading? If the primary issue is one of nusach, as Rabbi Leubitz mentioned, why is it that the minyan can’t use the Sephardic nusach and take one extra minute to reach out to its female students?
    On the other hand, if this really is an issue of men not wanting women to carry the Torah, why don’t they – the men – leave the regular minyan, rather than forcing the girls to do so? Why are you asking the girls to leave their minyan twice a week just so that they can carry the Torah? It doesn’t make sense, and it isn’t practical. Why should the teachers in charge of davening have to run around keeping track of girls switching minyanim twice a week?
    It just doesn’t make sense to me.
    Jenny Newman ‘11

  • A

    Adam KellnerOct 7, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    Rabbi Leubitz told me today that there would only be a nusach sephardi minyan once a week. Can you please confirm with him that this is correct?

    • J

      Jordan BanafshehaOct 9, 2011 at 4:52 pm

      That is false, Rabbi Leubitz has told us that we would have nusach sephardi twice a week. For right now the days are monday and thursday, but they may change.