Unbalanced Balance

by Rebecca Einstein Schorr on 07 June 2012 @ 8:17 am

I have been fortunate, I think, that I have not had to assume any pulpit as the first woman rabbi. No matter where I have been, a female rabbi, rabbinical student, or, in once case, cantor has laid the gender groundwork for me. My presence in each of my pulpits has, to one extent or another, been seen as a female presence. In fact, folks would often comment on how balanced it was to have a woman up there with the other (male) rabbi.

Image: istockphoto.com

Though I left my full-time pulpit nearly a year ago, I have been helping out our local synagogue until an interim rabbi begins, God-willing, in July. But the balance is off; the cantor is a woman. She is phenomenal. And not just because she has a stunning instrument. There are lots of great voices. But with our cantor, there is something more. When she davens, it’s the real deal. She prays with such kavanah that one cannot help but be swept along with her. And as a musician, it is an amazing experience to sing with her.

But it feels unbalanced.

There are no male voices coming from the pulpit. The liturgy, read and sung, lacks the timbre of the lower register. As fantastic as our voices sound together, there is something missing. For me.

Sure, Dr. Freud might suggest that it has to do with the change in pulpit partner for me. After all, not only was the individual on the other side of the bimah male…he was my dad.

But it’s more than that.

The aural balance is just off.
As is the gender balance.

In the days when the bimah was the sole domain of the menfolk, women lamented that girls would not aspire to it because they had no role models. So what will boys think if they never see a male rabbi or a male cantor on the pulpit of their home synagogue?

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Camille 07 June 2012 @ 10:47 am at 10:47 am

I totally agree! I LIKE a man on the bimah, whether rabbi or cantor. I’ve been to services where there were two women, and where there were two men. You’re right: something was missing. BTW, looking forward to seeing you this weekend.


2 Brianna Soloski 07 June 2012 @ 11:37 am at 11:37 am

You pose an interesting question. The temple I sometimes (rarely) go to has a female cantor and while she’s wonderful, I wonder what people really think. The temple also used to have a wonderful band that performed once a month, bringing something new and exciting to the bimah each time. Unfortunately, the cantor let them go when she started and there has been something missing ever since. That little boost of fun at the end of the month really made a difference in so many things.


3 Laurie 07 June 2012 @ 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm

I would hope the boys see it as normal and balanced! Knowing that just down the street or over at the other synagogue, they see themselves in the male rabbis. Thankfully, at this time in history, there are role models for all of us who aspire to fulfill our potential.


4 Nina 07 June 2012 @ 3:36 pm at 3:36 pm

Rebecca, good for you for saying this. I think many people would be scared to say something so –gasp– potentially unpolitical correct.


5 Lynda 07 June 2012 @ 7:07 pm at 7:07 pm

Amen! So honest and truthful A breath of fresh air. Woman do not need to take over but should work in harmony together with men.


6 Ruth 07 June 2012 @ 8:38 pm at 8:38 pm

A very touch subject. Why is it that there are not enough men in the reform synagogue? Let us encourage our male family members to come with us. As far as an example in this my husband as I can be a role model for all 3 of our children regardless of gender.


7 Irene 09 June 2012 @ 11:57 am at 11:57 am

I have to disagree. For me, kavanah trumps gender balance every time. I much prefer someone who feels and is able to communicate that feeling to others. It sounds like you and the cantor are a great team!


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