Thursday, April 30, 2009

Celebrate the Long Chain of Tradition for Women Torah Scribes, Don't Hide It!


Someone is out there consistently claiming in article after article to be the first female Torah scribe in history, when she knows she isn't.

She knows me, Shoshana Gugenheim, R' Linda Motzkin, Nava Levine-Coren - all women who learned sofrut before her. And yet she makes this claim.

And it's not only that I'm annoyed with my life's work being obscured by an untruth, it's also that I wasn't the first soferet either - it's those women from hundreds of years ago who deserve the credit! Not me and not her. Jewish women should be grateful that there is a long chain of tradition for our acting as klei qodesh - holy vessels - serving as scribes for our communities.

"Service" being the operative word here.

So I wrote a letter to the Editor of The Jewish Week about today's article, the original Jewish Week article can be read here:

Shalom to you, Mr Rosenblatt -

I'd like to comment on April 30th's "36 under 36" article.

Jen Taylor Friedman is not "the first woman in history to adopt the title of soferet, female Torah scribe", as Randi Sherman writes. Aside from myself earning Orthodox certification as a female Torah scribe in 2003
click here,
something Friedman cannot claim, there have been many women who preceeded me in sofrut history as well
click here

R' Ya'aqov Ha-Levi Sapir, in his 1864 book "Even Sapir", mentions a Torah scroll written by a Yemenite soferet named Miriam Benayahu, from the famous Benayah family of scribes. A fragment of this scroll now rests in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Yehudah Asher Rotah's writing, Devarim She-bichtav, speaks of a specific case of a woman who wrote a Sefer Torah generations ago.

There is even a woman called Ha-soferet who appears in the books of Ezra and Nechemiyah - that woman, or one of my predecessors, deserves the credit which Friedman is claiming.

I understand that not being "first" doesn't make much news, as I had little success in correcting the media when they also named me the first soferet in history. However, the truth must stand.

As Kohelet/Ecclesiastes 1:9 states: "...there is nothing new under the sun." So it is also for female Torah scribes. We should be happy that a long tradition exists for us.

Kol tuv,
Soferet Avielah Barclay

Copyright © A. Barclay
Cross-posted on Facebook

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