Rabbi Herring's Rejoinder
Many of you have shared my outrage toward Rabbi Basil Herring's comments regarding the Conservative Movement's ruling to allow breastfeeding in their sanctuaries. Some of you commented here, other in private emails. Some people have suggested that his comments might have been taken out of context, as part of a larger statement. A friend has been in private contact with Rabbi Herring, and gave him a chance to clarify his comments. He gave me permission to post Rabbi Herring's reply here.
Thanks for your legitimate (and welcome) enquiry. The quote, while accurate, was part of a larger comment, in which I tried to convey that most Orthodox women with babies of that age would tend to stay home, or else coordinate with their husbands via hashkamah minyanim or other such arrangement. I certainly did not say or imply that nursing mothers would not be welcome in the synagogue, even with their babies, but that most would and do, prefer to be home with such an infant rather than nurse them in public.Unfortunately, I am still not satisfied with his explanation. I agree to some extent that some women with small infants that need to nurse on demand may not feel comfortable going to shul on a weekly basis. But his statement that most women who are nursing prefer not to attend shul shows Rabbi Herring to be a bit out of touch with what goes on in Orthodox shuls across America. I know many women, including myself, who attend shul with an infant in tow. Most, however, would not attempt to nurse their infants in the sanctuary. As I said in my first post on this subject, I wish Rabbi Herring had just stated that the Orthodox movement does not allow breastfeeding in shul for tzniut and decorum reasons. To state that the issue is not relevant whatsoever to Orthodoxy is just misinformed. I hope to see a further clarification of the issue that takes into account the many Orthodox nursing women who do attend shul.