I am a recovering Egalitarian Conservative Jew who has reluctantly come to the conclusion that I can no longer wear my beautiful tallit in good conscience.
No matter how one slices it, Judaism, like the broader culture, is steeped in patriarchy and objectification of women (some would say, misogyny). Despite incremental shifts in Orthodox attitudes, including the limited impact of women clergy, the prevailing tide in the U.S. and Israel is right-wing and hostile to women’s agency.
Even though the rebranded Conservative Movement talks a big game, more Conservative male rabbis still get hired and paid more than female rabbis, and more men control Conservative synagogue boards.
Jewish text and contemporary times are rife with men who abuse power over women. Irrespective of how adeptly and quickly Jews revise and reinterpret the central texts in the canon, not much will change until men and women change their expectations of men. The #metoo movement’s onus needs to shift from the longstanding muting of women, and the current tide of victims’ confessionals, to males fessing up to the perquisites they enjoy at women’s expense and men’s ceding of the dynamic altogether.
So, after many years I have stopped wearing any of my tallitot. Years ago, I vociferously advocated for tallitot to be offered by my synagogue for women just the same as men; I still think it only just. Yet, there are still pitifully few women takers and fewer girls donning them in Jewish day schools or b’not mitzvah.
It feels like the world is moving back to reactionary times for women and it is just too much to expect only women to be conspicuous and vulnerable for the sake of our ideals.