A Woman’s Place: On Sukkah Walls
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A Woman’s Place: On Sukkah Walls

JOFA project aims to add portraits of female scholars to those of the rabbis.

Hannah Dreyfus is a staff writer at the New York Jewish Week. She covers abuses of power in non-profit and religious settings. She heads up the Investigative Journalism Fund, an initiative to fill a gap in investigative and enterprise reporting. Reach her at hannah@jewishweek.org

No longer are only rabbis guaranteed a spot on your sukkah wall. JOFA has launched a new initiative to give women scholars their rightful place on the ritual huts' walls.

The Women Scholars Sukkot Project is a Kickstarter campaign marketing posters comprised of six different Jewish women scholars. Different Jewish women artists painted the portraits of the six different scholars. In its first day of being launched, the project has already raised over 100 percent of their goal.

“This year, when we were sitting in the sukkah, we looked around at the Rebbe pictures hanging on the walls and said, ‘Where are the women?’” said Michelle Bentsman and Abigail Teller, two of the artists, in the project’s promotional video.

Similar to a recent push from the Conservative/Masorti movement to add pictures of women dancing to simchat torah flags, the project is a form of ‘tikkun’ (repairing) for the years of female absence from sukkot walls. Now, Jewish women scholars including Nechama Leibowitz, Sarah Schenirer and Bessie Gotsfeld can sit comfortably alongside the men in black.

“I didn’t grow up observant, but as I became more interested in an observant lifestyle I began to notice that female scholars were never mentioned,” said Bentsman, 24-year-old artistic director. “In the more right wing circles, female scholars weren’t even thought capable of the same level of rigorous learning. That shocked me.”

This project, said Benstman, will push past the narrow idea of “an iconic rebbe figure.” “The hope and goal is to create an image of female leadership that will give these women the platform they deserve.” Benstman herself painted the portrait of Ray Frank.

The posters are only $18 each (including domestic shipping), and are professionally printed and laminated to be weather resistant.

“We’re already brainstorming female Jewish scholars to showcase in the future,” said Bentsman.

hannah@jewishweek.org

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