March 2016

By Aaron Berner

She started with a simple story; one that we all could relate to, even if some of the details were a bit different than we were used to. Tamar was a young child, no more than 7 years old, and was enjoying one of the most special family celebrations in Jewish practice, the Passover Seder. As little Tamar sat waiting for the meal, listening to her grandfather tell the long-winded version of story of the Jews’ Exodus from Egypt, however, something didn’t seem right. Even as a small child, Tamar noticed something strange about the fact that all the men in the family sat comfortably at the table enjoying her grandfather’s retelling of this crucial story in the Jewish collective memory, while all of the female members of the family hurriedly prepared the Seder feast in the kitchen. There was a disconnect in young Tamar’s mind: the story of the Exodus from Egypt is one of the strongest stories of Jewish survival, faith and redemption, and it concerns all Jews, for it is as if all of us were there when God took us out of Egypt. But the women in Tamar’s family, she could see, were being deprived of the retelling of this story.

So, rather than sit quietly and let this continue, young Tamar did something that would encapsulate her unique power, vision and ability to make change: Tamar stood up at the table in the middle of the story, looked her grandfather in the eye, and told him that the women in the family should hear the story as well. After the initial shock of this confrontation wore off, Tamar’s grandfather, to everyone’s surprise, apologized and agreed. The women would come sit and listen to the story like the men, and the family would all make the final preparations for the meal together, after everyone heard the Passover story.

With this first step, Tamar Elad Applebaum, the founder of Tzion, a uniquely-inclusive egalitarian prayer community in Jerusalem, began her personal journey to righting some of the wrongs she saw in a religious community she was always completely devoted to. Tamar’s story is a story of change through devotion. Or maybe it was change because of devotion. Continue reading