In March of 1978, 20-odd women gathered in the basement of a private home in Teaneck, N.J., on Purim eve.

They were there to complete what was then a radical mission: giving Orthodox women the opportunity to learn how to chant the biblical Megillat Esther.

“There was a feeling of euphoria,” said Judy Landau, 77, one of the seminal organizers of the decades-old women’s service and the widely known Teaneck Women’s Tefillah Group, which launched in 1982.

“You don’t learn how to swing a bat by sitting in the bleachers.”

“You don’t learn how to swing a bat by sitting in the bleachers.”

Today, 40 years after the Teaneck gathering marked one of the first-ever female Megillah readings, the custom has become a hallmark for Orthodox feminists, most of whom continue to face significant restrictions in Jewish ritual life.

(A recent ruling by the Orthodox Union prohibited member synagogues from hiring female clergy or allowing women to lead other religious rituals, such as lifecycle events, in order to preserve an “ethos of gender roles,” according to the group’s guidelines.)

“I love this time of year,” said Sharon Weiss Greenberg, executive director of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance. In addition to a woman — the biblical Esther — serving as the holiday’s main protagonist, the holiday inspires “so much excitement and engagement in our tradition from women and girls,” said Weiss Greenberg. “Unfortunately, this is not necessarily the case all year round.”

Five years ago, JOFA launched Project Esther, a free app that helps laywomen, many of whom never learned how to read from the Torah, how to properly chant the Megillah and organize women’s readings. On the app, a female voice chants the traditional melody.

Weiss Greenberg said that when the project launched, there were 70 Orthodox women’s Megillah readings worldwide. Today, that number has grown to nearly 200.

“A custom that was once not spoken about is becoming normative and celebrated,” she said.

“A custom that was once not spoken about is becoming normative and celebrated.”

Landau, considered by many a “veteran” of the Orthodox feminism, has been slow to embrace the identity.

“I lived through the bra-burnings of the ’60s, so I didn’t necessarily identify with the term ‘feminist,’” said Landau, today a grandmother and a careful adherent to Orthodox law. “But,” she said, laughing to herself, “I guess I am.”

Attendees of the homegrown operation, which today attracts about 35 women each year, span the age spectrum, from one teenager who has been leining — reciting the traditional chant — since her bat mitzvah, to several septuagenarians.

“First, we faced objection. Then we were tolerated. Now our group, and so many others, are just facts on the ground.”

Landau, who has lived in the Modern Orthodox bastion of Teaneck for 45 years, marveled at the strides women have taken over the years.

“First, we faced objection. Then we were tolerated. Now our group, and so many others, are just facts on the ground,” she said. “People don’t pay too much attention to us anymore.”

She is optimistic that the same will hold true for women in other areas of ritual life

“Forty years ago, many men grumbled and said, ‘Why don’t these women just stay home and mind the cholent,’” said Landau. “They can thank us later.”