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Rabbi Goldie Milgram
Rabbi Goldie Milgram

Living Judaism

The Living Judaism feature in each issue focuses on Jewish spirituality, meaning and activism with invited columns written by rabbis belonging to the various movements of Judaism. Jewish clergy interested in writing for Living Judaism are invited to make contact with Rabbi Goldie Milgram at judaism @ 

A Community of Voices
Adena Potok, Editor-in-Chief of the Philadelphia Jewish Voice

Rabbi Goldie Milgram
Adena Potok
On a recent Sabbath Eve I sat with a minyan of friends to welcome in the Shabbat, as we do every week. Our presence with each other in this space at this time provided a hiatus of holiness at the end of a week's work. As we sang hymns of praise and wonder and supplication, various editions of the siddur in our respective hands, a tent of sound and meaning formed around us, enfolding each and all in comforting and comfortable space. This is Shabbat, our oasis in time. Sitting in a free-form circle in the living room familiar to us all we see each other's faces, hear each other's voices, and experience a bond within this group of independent and strong-minded women and men and even growing teens. We have given each other comfort, celebrated each other's joys and achievements, supported one another when needed, disagreed sometimes strongly but with respect. We are definitely connected. We are definitely distinct from one another. 

A few times in the service three women who are at various points in the 11-month period of mourning rose to recite the Kaddish, one for her father, two for their mothers. As they stood and recited the chant I listened, somehow more intently than ever before. I found myself listening for each voice, and then for the three. Would I be able to distinguish single voices when all three were in the same beat and chanting in unison? I heard each one. And when I listened for the three I heard the group. It was a little uncanny, and quite wonderful at the same time.

Something occurred to me at that extended moment. Each of these women is strong, accomplished, articulate; they can be and are individually heard. They can also and do present as a blend of voices. And, the listener can hear them, each singly and all together. We recite the Kaddish individually, but need a minyan for the response. We need to hear each other as individuals as well as groups. We need to hear all the voices in our tent. We are a community of voices.

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