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Women singing at Shoah events not an Orthodox-Progressive issue



Beverley May

I would like to differ however on the impression created that the current debate is between Progressive and Orthodox Jews. 

In October 2014, the Union of Jewish Women and Bnoth Zion WIZO made submissions to the Board of Deputies in support of the removal of the prohibition. These focused on compromise solutions to accommodate competing rights. 


The constitutions of both of these women’s organisations include the objective to defend the rights of all Jewish women and the memberships of the UJW and WIZO span Orthodox and Progressive Jews as well as secular and unaffiliated. It is also safe to assume that the majority of their respective memberships are Orthodox women. 

In addition, two of the three applicants in the court case who are asking for the removal of the prohibition on women singing at Yom Hashoah, are Orthodox.

Statements from other secular Jewish organisations (SAUJS, Association of Holocaust Survivors, for example) also with memberships that span religious ideologies, are further evidence that this controversy is not a Progressive vs Orthodox one. 

I would go further to say that, empirically, this debate is centred in Orthodox communities as many differing opinions on Orthodox interpretations on whether a women should be allowed to sing, are discussed. 

Unwittingly and ironically, a consequence of the assumption that this debate finds itself within traditional battle lines, is the side-lining of the voices of Orthodox Jewish women who have advocated for the rights of all Jewish women in this regard.

So while we may be tempted to assume that differences between religious denominations are at play here, the truth is that this debate has not been about Halachic interpretations this time around.

Compromise, consistently advocated by Jewish women in Cape Town over the last two years, is what we should really be talking about. Then the solution, as Geoff so eloquently writes, is well within our ability to achieve. 



Cape Town


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