Singing the RCA blues

Singing the RCA blues

Talia Lakritz pens and performs Orthodox feminist protest song

Orthodox Jewish feminists have been the target of much criticism in their community over the years.

They have responded by studying more Torah, redoubling their dedication, and forming organizations like the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance.

They have not, however, argued their case in song.

Until now.

This week, in response to a resolution by the Rabbinical Council of America opposing the ordination of women (see our stories on page 8), Talia Lakritz, a senior at Barnard College, composed a protest song.

“Dear RCA” is not only the first protest song on behalf of Orthodox Jewish feminists, it is also probably the first protest song directly responding to a resolution by any Jewish organization on any topic.

“I had a lot of fun writing it,” Ms. Lakritz said. “It was cathartic for me.”

Ms. Lakritz wrote the song and posted it to YouTube, from there it made the rounds, via Facebook and Twitter.

Musically, the song owes more to soaring Disney ballads than to Pete Seeger’s straight-ahead protests. Lyrically, it quotes from the resolution — setting the standard for all future organizational resolution protest songs — only to mock it. In a nod to a characteristic of protest songs noted 50 years ago by Tom Lehrer, it’s not afraid to put a couple extra syllables into a line. Most compelling, it puts to music and a complex rhythm the question that all JOFA asked when it heard of the resolution: “Why now? Why this? Is it really a crisis / When there are women waiting for a get?”

Ms. Lakritz is a native of Wisconsin, where she graduated from the Torah Academy of Milwaukee High School, a girls-only strictly Orthodox institution. Majoring in English and creative writing at Barnard, she is interning this year at Yeshivat Maharat, which ordains Orthodox women and is a target of the RCA resolution.

The song, though, was strictly her idea.

“They did not put me up to this,” she said.

But it was her first-hand encounter with the women studying for ordination that fueled the song.

“I’m inspired every day just being around them,” she said. “I see how incredible these women are and the impact they make.”

Given her experience, the RCA resolution was upsetting “though also sort of comical. It so did not reflect the reality of what I see. And when I have a lot of thoughts about something, I put it into a song.”

Ms. Lakritz said there’s no contradiction between being a feminist and being Orthodox. “Ever since I’ve discovered what feminism was, I proudly called myself a feminist,” she said. “I’ve always been Orthodox. Coming to Barnard is where I discovered Orthodox feminism. Feminism enhances my relationship to Judaism and God and the Torah learning I’ve been able to do because of the feminists who fought for me to learn at advanced levels.

“I am not angry at Orthodoxy as a whole; I just want more. I want to be more involved. I want to do more.”

She now has no plans to study to be a maharat herself, though she’s not willing to rule it out altogether down the line. As for us, we’re going to send her the 40-odd resolutions the World Zionist Congress approved last month in Jerusalem, and hope that the spirit moves her to the piano once again.


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