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Friday, July 15, 2005

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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

even so, he still said it - and said it to a newspaper who was going to quote him as the orthodox authority or representative on the matter. And for crying out loud - of all people and RCA rabbi should know to choose his words extra carefully when speaking to a jewish newpaper like the jw.

6:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Forget the political correctness-is nursing a baby appropriate in schul? Is bringing a baby to schul appropriate? the babies defecate-an incontinent person in general may not be allowed in schul. How about problem of disturving the congregation. I'm not a halachik authority but al regal achat some problems.

10:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The bowel movements of a completely breast fed baby are considered "pure" and one is allowed to daven and learn in the presence of such a diaper. See:


Sorry I can't provide something with the actual source.

11:55 PM  
Blogger Dan Eisenberg said...

Has there been a "nurse-in" ala' Barbara Walters at Rabbi Herrings shul?

12:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From what I understand, nursing is allowed in Orthodox shuls, even in the sanctuary.

Completely taking off the shirt is looked down upon.

5:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And I still don't see where ALL breastfeeding, even by skillful women who can breasfeed without showing any skin, poses any tznius issues at all.

12:46 PM  
Blogger CJ Srullowitz said...

While I agree with you that Rabbi Herring should focus on the tznius aspect and not the attendance aspect, I disagree, lulei demistafina, with your comment that he is "out of touch." Most nursing mothers that I know don't bother with shul. There are some that I know, and I'm sure many more that I don't, who are conscientious shul-goers. But to insert your peer-group as the standard may, lulei demistafina, not be entirely accurate.

Nonetheless, you are to be greatly commended for following up with Rabbi Herring. 99% of bloggers, and many "real" journalists, would not have bothered.

1:10 PM  
Blogger Looking Forward said...

cloo jew, you do know that most of them don't... whats the word? "bother" simply because on shabbos they would have to carry the baby with them to shul. this is not alowed on shabbos. therefore, they just don't go.

not because they don't want to be in shul.

1:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Rabbi"Herring should stick to comments on
kiddush clubs.

2:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here we go again!!

Whenever one mentions something with respect to women, one has to tread gently, lest the feminist police (or Feminazis as Rush Limbaugh likes to call them) come out and give him a severe tounge lashing.

Notwithstanding that Rabbi Herring is a MO Rabbi, and I do not subscribe to that brand of orthodoxy, in this instance he got it right.

Listen, there is no commandment for a nursing mother to come to shule (unless you are a feminist and believe that women must assert their rights and be able to attend shule like men).Historically this was a non issue, and women always knew what is truly important.

A woman should be honored with having the opportunity to nurse her young. This was never an issue until the REgressive feminists perverted the woman's role, and seek to assert there leftist agenda everywhere.

How about just going back to the kitchen and using your culinary skills to prepare some nice shabas meals!

9:57 PM  
Blogger Looking Forward said...

heshy, thank you, but most women i know would rather spend shabbos resting. (after all that work on friday who can blame them?!

11:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"or Feminazis as Rush Limbaugh likes to call them"

Ahh... Nothing like the gratuitous hurling of third reich-related epithets. Especially from one jew to another.

12:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about just going back to the kitchen and using your culinary skills to prepare some nice shabas meals!

Hmm, I would, but I was taught (watch out! I learned some halacha along the way!) that we're not supposed to cook on Shabbat. Am I in error?

10:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about just going back to the kitchen and using your culinary skills to prepare some nice shabas meals!

Hmm, I would, but I was taught (watch out! I learned some halacha along the way!) that we're not supposed to cook on Shabbat. Am I in error?

10:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about just going back to the kitchen and using your culinary skills to prepare some nice shabas meals!

Hmm, I would, but I was taught (watch out! I learned some halacha along the way!) that we're not supposed to cook on Shabbat. Am I in error?

10:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoops. Burped there. Sorry, Mom.

10:50 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

No problem, Shanna. I agree with all three of your comments more than Heshy's one!

10:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The better question is can a woman pump in shul?

5:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not on Shabbat, but then she can't pump at home on Shabbat either, unless the milk is needed for immediate feeding of an infant who cannot latch (such as a premature baby) or to revlieve engorgement in the case of mastisis. In the latter situation, she must pump directly into the sink/garbage or else into a bottle that's been "contaminated" with soap or some other liquid that will make the milk unfit for drinking.

11:35 PM  
Blogger Conservative Apikoris said...

To be quite honest, I tend to oppose the recent Conservative ruling, though I also think that Rabbi Herring's remark was insensitive, to say the least.

When this was a personal issue for me, my wife and I would take turns holding the baby outside of the sanctuary. Obviously, only my wife could do the actual nursing, but she had no problem doing it in the play room. Personally, I can't see how this is a z'niyus issue, unless one has a rather unusual fetish. On the other hand, I think it's difficult to attempt to take care of a baby while paying full attention to a worship service. I've even been at a service where the woman layning Torah was attmpting to do so while holding her bay in a sling. It was real fun when the baby woke up and started crying. That, I believe was a breach of decorum.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a fan of German style Reform shah-sit-still formal decorum, but there are limits.

I think a lot of the problem is that young parents have unbrealistic expectations about what they can do and still properly take care of their children. I know I did, and it was only through sad experience that I cut back on shul activities until my kids grew up a bit.

And even now, with teenagers, I' still not back to the activity level I had "before kids," and won't be until I'm an "empty-nester." That's life, new parents have to learn it and accept it.


2:18 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

I would tend to agree with you. As I said in both of my posts, I do not think that the sanctuary is an appropriate place to nurse an infant. I am not willing to opine on the appropriateness of doing so in a Conservative sanctuary, as I am not Conservative. My beef is with the fact that an Orthodox Rabbi has an opportunity here to state his opinion that nursing in the sanctuary should not be allowed from an Orthodox standpoint, while making it clear that this in no way means that women with young infants are not welcome in an Orthodox shul. I think that Rabbi Herring failed in that task miserably.

2:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no "orthodox" (read halachik) reason for a woman not to nurse in a shul. Everything but shemona esrei can be said while nursing.

5:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The issue is not one of nursing per se but of pursuing non davening activities, which are proscribed generally.
On the other hand, Rabbi Herring has made ill thought out statements in the past on other issues, so I guess I am not that surprised.

5:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess I'm the oddball here who has not only taken all my babies to shul, but nursed them there as well.

Some women may like to stay home. Fine. Unless I was very tired, my husband and I preferred to go to shul as a family. Those shuls that didn't appreciate babies didn't have us return. Those that we joined welcomed children. Interestingly enough, we notice that family-friendly shuls are full, while those that shoo away kids are moaning about "continuity". As our rabbi told us - he's happy to see our kids in shul now, instead of counselling us in 20 years when we're trying to convince them not to marry out.

As to why I nurse in the sanctuary....quite frankly, that's sometimes the best place. For starters, in some Ortho shuls, it's the only place that's not accessible to men! If a shul has a special nursing room, great. Not all do. This past Rosh Hashana, gaining access to the special nursing area at our shul required going out of the shul, around to the rear mikvah entrance, finding that the door was locked, and chasing down the guy with the key for 20 min. If I had been waiting to nurse my baby (I was helping a bottle-fed niece), she's have been screaming her lungs out!

5:18 PM  
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