I’m thankful for the challenges
Recently, for Temple Israel’s Sisterhood Shabbat, I was asked to speak about myself, my journey to the rabbinate, being the first full-time female rabbi in Cape Town, and about the theme of giving thanks for what we have.
As this article is also meant to be about gratitude, I’d like to share some excerpts from my sermon that evening:
I find it easy to feel gratitude these days, having found myself here, in this beautiful if complicated city; in this progressive, accepting and warm community — forging a new life in a new place, surrounding myself with new friends who are quickly becoming family.
It is often easy to feel gratitude at the beginning of a new journey, and I appreciate the opportunity to name my blessings, take stock of what I have.
As a female rabbi, I have learned that my experience differs in some (but not all) ways, from the experiences of my male colleagues. I experience, as most women in male-dominated professions do, subtle yet noticeable examples of discrimination and dismissal. I have experienced being asked for my thoughts or opinions after a male colleague has already been asked, or worse perhaps, answering a question posed by someone only to have them turn to a male colleague for confirmation that I have answered correctly!
I have experienced microaggressions, and belittlement in the form of compliment. I have been told that I look too-young or too-pretty to be a rabbi — all by people who then expressed surprise or even annoyance when I didn’t say ‘thank you.’ While I know that the way a rabbi presents him or herself is an important reflection of both themselves and their community, I also know that my male colleagues are rarely asked what they’re planning to wear to a synagogue service or event, and that the Jewish women of the world rarely spend their time debating the hemlines of my male-colleagues’ pants or the length of their shirts-sleeves. Whereas what I wear, wore, or am thinking of wearing — both on and off the bimah — is a subject of ongoing discussion — now a world-wide phenomenon!
At the same time, I am grateful for these additional challenges to my rabbinate. My experiences make me uniquely attuned to the struggles of other women, and to minorities who share many of these experiences of women. I am grateful to have had these experiences motivate me to become a passionate advocate for awareness and change.
Rabbi Emma is the newest member of the rabbinic team at Temple Israel. She is the first full-time female rabbi to be employed in Cape Town
Click here to read Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft’s Pesach article
Click here to read Adam Zartz’s Pesach article
Click here to read Jamie Kawalsky’s Pesach article
Click here to read Joel Merris’ Pesach article
Click here to read Adam Selikowitz’s Pesach article
Click here to read Simon Apfel’s Pesach article
Click here to read Elan Lohmann’s Pesach article
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