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Thursday, July 14, 2005

Interesting New Ruling

The article in the Jewish Week about the new ruling that allows women to breastfeed in the sanctuaries of Conservative Synagogues does not really affect me one way or the other. I am a big supporter of a woman's right to breastfeed her child, and have done so with all of my children, but obviously, the tzniut issues that come into play for an Orthodox woman are something that limited my doing it in public. My problem, however, was never with the act of breastfeeding per se. But even though I find the thought of a woman exposing herself to nurse, even discreetly, to be inappropriate in a synagogue, I am not a member of the Conservative movement, and therefore I have no opinion on whether a woman attending services in a Conservative Synagogue should be allowed to nurse there or not. So the article would not have stuck in my craw if not for the comments in the article by the Executive Director of the RCA Rabbi Basil Herring regarding the practice:
“The issue hasn’t come up,” said Rabbi Basil Herring. “In the Orthodox world there would be a general understanding that it would be best for the mother and baby to be following the traditional role of staying home. If she does come to synagogue, it would not be in the pews where she would be breast-feeding.”
Huh? Are you kidding me? He couldn't think of a better way to express that the Orthodox movement does not allow breastfeeding in their sanctuaries? He couldn't talk about the importance of a woman's modesty, or the distraction to others who are praying? He had to make it about a woman's place being the home? I'm sure he would have managed to alienate a whole slew of his constituents, if he had any, with his insensitive remarks. Luckily, he does not serve as a pulpit rabbi these days, so we are spared his special brand of inclusiveness.

Check out Miriam and Shanna's takes on this as well.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't have much of an opinion on this topic, but I did find the name of RCA's executive director unintentionally humorous: Rabbi Basil Herring?
I'll bet his wife's name is Rosemary Herring nee Fishbein. And their kids are named Piranha, Trout and Nemo.

9:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Believe it or don't.Her name is SHERRY.
More importantly,other comments he has made show that he isn't the brightest bulb in the circuit.

10:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think people are blowing this a bit out of proportion.

I think (although I admit it's not very clear) that he was saying that a child that is young enough that he/she needs to breastfeed constantly would most probably not be in shul anyway (yes, I know go to any shul and you'll see screaming 2 weeks olds, but I think he was talking in the ideal sense)

What does everyone else think?

11:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Rabbi"Herring is alot of schmaltz.Forget the tznius accpect what about the self respect?
he is not being progresive he is a fool
Ortho we agree

12:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about proper decorum in a shul?It showes that the conservitive movement has no value for that.They showed how little derech eretz they have

12:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what does amshi say?

12:52 AM  
Blogger Shifra said...

Yeah that was a stupid comment.
The Orthodox shul I attend has a comforable rocking chair for nursing moms in the women's lounge (outside the ladies room).

There is no reason a woman shouldn't come to shul if she wants to. Also I've seen some woman who are able to nurse so discreetly in public you'd never know what they were up to. I don't think I could pull that off but for the women who can Kol Hakavod! Still, the sanctuary of the shul is prob not the right place for feeding babies even if it's with a bottle or a spoon.

10:14 AM  
Blogger and so it shall be... said...

How idiotic. Rabbi Herring's vapid comment is just more pathetic example of the inter-denominational one-upmanship Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform seem destined to engage.

The background fro this story is the pathology of Conservative to incorporate every pseudo-solution to every PC issue into their religious worship. The breastfeeding decision is ludicrous. Do woman NEED to breastfeed in the main sanctuary? Obviously not.

Still, does Rabbi Herring need to turn the Conservative stupidity of issuing yet another dopey Religious Proclamation into another chapter of the never ending debate: We're better than you because...?
Again, obviously not!

10:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

idiotic. Rabbi Herring's vapid comment is just more pathetic example of the inter-denominational one-upmanship Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform seem destined to engage.

no there is no one-upmanship here,since the movement is devoid of any substance they have to find other issues to be current

11:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Still, the sanctuary of the shul is prob not the right place for feeding babies even if it's with a bottle or a spoon.

My thoughts exactly!

(Thanks for the link, MomOf4!)

11:27 AM  
Blogger Me, Uncensored said...

I'm a goy so I have no dog in this fight either -- but I'm thinking this whole thing could be solved by a special room for nursing mothers. Maybe stick a video camera in a corner somewhere and the nursing room could have closed circuit TV?

At my church the room overlooks the sanctuary and has one-way glass, so Mom doesn't miss anything and still has privacy.

11:44 AM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

bishul, it would be nice if you could refrain from attacking the Conservative movement. We aren't perfect, by any means, and I often do not like the rulings made by our leaders (or their own statements), but the movement certainly isn't "without content"!

And just a point of curiosity - why did you choose your blogname? I've always wondered, since your responses always seem like the opposite of "goyische cooking"!

3:37 PM  
Blogger and so it shall be... said...

bishul. you cut n' pasted my first paragraph, but didn't take the time to read the next two.

i'm acknowledging that Conservative Judasim has long been a religion that worships current events.

But that doesn't make Rabbi Herring's comment, or motivation for making it, any more reasonable.

3:41 PM  
Blogger CJ Srullowitz said...


Can anyone allow, lulei demistafina, for the POSSIBILITY that Rabbi Herring's quote was either taken out of context or abbreviated?

I think that his point may simply have been that most of the women in his congregation who have newborns stay home with them. There is a wealth of rabbinic literature on the matter of bringing children to shul, breastfeeding or otherwise. Though, admitedly, they are generally quiter when breastfeeding (except for the occasional burp).

In any case, I think we can ALL agree, lulei demistafina, that "Basil Herring" is one of the great names of all time.

5:12 PM  
Blogger Dan Eisenberg said...

my wife doesn't nurse in the sanctuary however I think she could. She uses the Maya Wrap and her body is never exposed. Most of the older women in shul think the baby is sleeping. Sure there is a little adjusting, but since there is no ervah exposed what is the big deal.

6:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

rebeca it's an inside joke.

11:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

breasts of a nursing mother aren't considered ervah.

6:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have noticed a woman breast-feeding in my Conservative shul. It took me a while to notice--she sits in the back, and wears loose blouses, so her skin is not exposed (baby's head completely under the blouse).

bishul akum: She wasn't exposing herself, the baby was quiet, and in this way she could hear the Torah reading and the drash.

There's breast feeding and there's breast feeding. Some mothers expose themselves while breast feeding a lot more than other mothers (the cooperation of the baby in keeping mom covered is probably also important).

Still Wonderin': How exactly do you define breast feeding and shul attendance as current events?

12:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

bishul akum: She wasn't exposing herself, the baby was quiet, and in this way she could hear the Torah reading and the drash.
you are being naive.there is a time and place for evreything.would this be allowed in the national cathedral?

2:55 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:12 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Bishul, do you think they would allow chulent and kugel in it?

3:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

krum i would imagine not.you don't have to be uo to show a sense of decency

5:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where's the lack of tznius? Don't most nursing mothers cover up with a blanket or something?(I had a cloth thing that snapped around my neck). In my experience, NOTHING is ever exposed when nursing -- the baby is covered completely too.

The only thing I've heard is that it is not modest for men to *know* that you are nursing -- but that would not apply in the women's section behing the mechitza?

6:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Still, the sanctuary of the shul is prob not the right place for feeding babies even if it's with a bottle or a spoon.

Well, I would never feed a baby in the sanctuary with a bottle or a spoon. I would, however, nurse discreetly during a part of the service I couldn't easily walk out on, like Megillah reading on Purim or Shofar blowing on Rosh Hashanah... if it would keep the baby quiet, I could stay, and I wouldn't have to find someone afterwards to read or blow for me again. (Not always so easy to do, outside of big communities.) If the baby was going to scream anyway, well, then we'd leave. Any other part of the service, we'd leave. But the men would never even know, and I'm not sure any women noticed either. I'm very discreet.

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