It is inspiring that Michal focuses on the varying reasons why people attend minyan and emphasizes the positive: "Understanding what makes other people connect to elements of religion can be inspiring and thought-provoking, and so I encourage you to continue to learn why people do what they do. But be sensitive.... Not everyone shows up to shul for the same reason. That’s what makes us interesting."
Michal also writes: "I wanted to share what it means to be on the other side of the mechitza when you’re not saying Kaddish. To be trying to connect, only to be made to feel like an outcast..." Isn't it a shame that someone so committed to exploring and building her relationship with both God and her community is made to feel this way? No wonder so many women find minyan attendance a challenge when they are not compelled by circumstances!
On a personal note, women like Michal have been my mainstay during these last few months. It has been heartening to have the companionship of other women during the service, especially those whose arrival does not break my heart through the shared grief of a joint Kaddish. Standing lonely on the other side of a barrier is no picnic, and only heightens the experience of loss and disconnection that a mourner can feel - especially when compared to the camaraderie and social capital that builds among men on the other side of the Mechitza. This is one of the reasons I stopped attending daily minyan many years ago, long before I was faced with Kaddish. Wouldn't it be beautiful to see a community of women in attendance every morning - mourners and non-mourners alike - so that those of us reciting Kaddish could have someone to turn toward us and respond? I yearn for the day when women's weekday attendance can grow to a place where I can greet others with "Good Morning" rather than "I'm sorry for your loss."
Perhaps this begins by encouraging women to attend Minyan once a week, on any day of the week - not as an attempt to obligate ourselves in the time-bound commitment but to simply help us find that elusive spiritual connection long before Kaddish enters the picture. Or perhaps it begins with some important steps on the part of the community to ensure that women feel comfortable once they do arrive. Either way, let's brainstorm together how to ease the path for all. Please use the comments as a forum to share ideas and thoughts for supporting the women of our collective community.
By Michal Greenspan