Friday, August 25, 2006

A Gender Sensitive Torah

I grew up in a very secular Jewish home, and I asked to go to synagogue after I started attending my friends' bar and bat mitzvahs. When I did go, I always felt let out -- partially because I hadn't studied Hebrew and I didn't know the songs like my friends did, but I also have a strong memory of my reaction to the texts that only seemed to talk about men. How could we only be praying to the "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" -- over and over again? Why were the heroes of the stories all men? Why did God create man first? Where could I find 13 year old me in these texts?

Now, I don't mean to imply that I had a fully developed feminist consciousness at 13, just that I knew they weren't talking to me. I was delighted this morning then to learn in a post in a newsletter from The Shalom Center of a brand new translation of the Torah that calls itself "A Gender Sensitive Adaptation of the JPS Translation." It's available on for $18.48. I plan to order it.

Language matters. It matters to women that they can find themselves in sacred texts. It matters to gay people when ministers talk about "partners" instead of husbands and wives or even spouses. It matters when we speak about different types of families instead of privileging one over others. It matters that we seek to include everyone. I'm grateful to the translators of this new volume for making it a little easier to do so.


Anonymous said...

Debra: I've been reading your blog on and off ever since Andrew Sullivan pointed to it. Have you blogged about your journey from Judaism to Christianity?

Debra W. Haffner said...

Dear anonymous:

I'm glad that you've become a reader. I actually self identity as a Jewish Unitarian Universalist minister sexologist! I don't know if I've blogged about my journey to ministry, but I have preached about it. And if you send me an email to I'd be happy to share that sermon.