By COLlive reporter
Some want community rebbetzins to drop the mic – literally.
Disapproving comments have led several women to back out of their original plan to take the stage at the upcoming lecture event “Stories From the Rebbetzin.”
The event, “An Empowering Evening Featuring the Feminine Force,” is scheduled to take place on Sunday, January 6, 2019 at the Miami Theater Center in Miami Shores, Florida.
A group of 25 women, all wives of local community rabbis, attended a preparation workshop with Rosh Lowe, a former TV news reporter who founded the MicDrop training and speaking service.
MicDrop events typically feature non-professional speakers who open up on stage about a personal or impactful moment in their lives. Members of the audience later vote on their favorite speech.
“Jewish communities around the world are led by a Rabbi, and by his wife: the Rebbetzin. These women devote their days to their community, their strength to their service, and their minds to their mission,” the event page reads.
“We all know the Rabbi – his public appearance, his sermons, his prayers – but what about his partner? What passions drive this fierce and feminine force to devote her years to a life of service? What narrative is behind all the wonder woman-like work that is invested in building and cultivating community?”
But not everyone was in agreement that this event is a good idea.
COLlive.com has learned that local rebbetzins who planned on speaking were told by colleagues and community members, both men and women in their communities, that such an appearance would be frowned upon.
“As I understand it, MicDrop is not just about speaking in public,” one wrote on Facebook. “It is about exposing oneself or uncovering yourself in public. If I got it right, perhaps (some) women may feel uncomfortable doing so. As well as some men who may feel it is inappropriate.”
Mrs. Tzippy Weiss, co-director of Chabad Miami Lakes and North West Dade, said she has been one of the targets of the criticism which she says “is coming from men and women.”
The Chabad Shlucha said the 25 workshop members hail from different frum communities, and the original plan of 10 speakers has since dwindled down to 6 rebbetzins who still plan to forge ahead despite opposition.
Weiss said she has received phone calls and text messages from people saying, ‘I can’t believe you are doing this’ or ‘women speaking in front of men isn’t tznius’ (in accordance to the laws modesty).
In response, Weiss says she is following the example of the Rebbetzin Rivka Korf OBM, the pioneering Head Shlucha of Florida who helped plant the seeds of the state-wide Chabad empire and proudly spoke in public.
“The Rebbe never encouraged us to hide our voices,” Weiss explains. “The Rebbe was proud of women who shared Torah and inspiration with the world. That is what is being done here. We are giving talks about emunah, hashgacha protis and accepting Hashem’s will with love.”
The MicDrop event by Rebbetzins “isn’t about baring your soul or sharing a deep dark secret,” Weiss says. “It’s about connecting to people on a real level and sharing a story of inspiration that will hopefully teach them and help them overcome a struggle of their own.”
Women publicly speaking to crowds of both men and women is common practice today. Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis inspired audiences with her tale of survival and faith during the Holocaust, while Shlucha Rivka Slonim lectures internationally on Jewish observance and contemporary life.
The slate of teachers and lecturers at Judaism’s largest websites, such as Chabad.org and TorahCafe.com, feature both male and female experts in their fields, and Chabad Shluchos have long been addressing their communities and Shabbatons in Crown Heights, and the National Jewish Retreat of the JLI institute.
The Miami event organizer, Rosh Lowe, said he and his business partner Eli Nash have no intention of encouraging people to deviate from halacha.
“We are not looking to offend anyone or violate halacha, and I try to do things that the Rebbe would approve of,” Lowe told COLlive.com. “We believe each woman should ask their Rov if ‘kol isha’ applies to public speaking,” he says.
“I know that vulnerability allows a speaker to make the deepest connection and impact,” Lowe says. “Starting with Miriam [in the Bible], a woman’s voice is critical in leadership, and I believe it should be used to fulfill the Rebbe’s mission.
“For anyone, man or woman, who supports a woman’s right to speak, you should be at this event,” Lowe says.