mazal tov, women’s torah project

Mazal tovs to the Women’s Torah Project on finishing their Torah!

“The first Torah written and embellished by an international community of women,” as they say. I’ve written three Torahs at this point, so I know well how nice it feels to finish writing a Torah.

The Women’s Torah Project started about ten years ago when a Reconstructionist congregation in Seattle decided it wanted a new Torah-scroll, and moreover, one written by a Woman. With commendable energy, they set about creating a suitable Woman, underwriting training for a soferet, and then set about creating a suitable Torah.

This was about the same time as I was learning, to give you an idea.

Their project encountered stormy waters, poor things, and they hove to just about the time I started writing my first Torah. I was fortunately-placed in smooth waters with calm winds, and made steady progress with writing my own Torah as they were trying to get back on course.

This would have been of no consequence, except that there was a prize in sight; the unclaimed territory of Torah Written By Woman. As with much unclaimed territory, it had (almost certainly) been occupied some centuries before by other ladies, but history didn’t write their names down, so as with indigenous occupants, they go more or less unregarded, poor dears. So I reached my goal of writing a Torah, and incidentally set foot on the land of Torah Written By Woman – and the Women’s Torah Project, having announced its intention of capturing this territory in a blaze of publicity some years earlier, was becalmed – I’d taken the wind out of their sails, as it were, by completing a Torah first.

Oops.

So I felt kind of sorry for them, and I was glad for them when they found a new goal. They redefined themselves as a project envisioned by Shoshana Gugenheim some years before, a project in which a team of women collectively write the Torah, as a sort of symbolically feminine endeavour.

This is Not My Sort Of Thing at all, so I didn’t participate, although they most graciously invited me. Anyway, I had another Torah commission by that time. And then another. But I sent them a couple of my students who I thought would benefit from being part of the project, and over the years I’ve given them quite a lot of general advice and mentoring born of experience; it’s nice to be able to do that.

Raised glasses in particular to the project’s organisers, who thought they were undertaking a two-year project, and gamely kept fundraising and organising for the best part of a decade. Takes a particular kind of dogged fortitude, that.

Other news in the world of Women’s Torahs – my superstar student Julie Seltzer, who did a bit of work for the Women’s Torah Project, but is now employed by the Contemporary Jewish Museum of San Francisco, writing a Torah for them as part of an exhibit; this Torah is also approaching completion, and I’m jolly pleased about that too.


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