If you have looked at a page of the Talmud, you know that Rashi–Rabbi Shlomo Itzchaki–dominates almost every page. And you may know that he lived, from 1040 to 1105, in the city of Troyes, not too far from Paris. You may not know, though, that he had three daughters and no sons, that he believed women should be allowed to do Jewish study and that his daughters in fact engaged in such study.
Troyes (which is pronounced like the French word for ‘three’, trois) is a beautiful town with medieval timbered buildings, craftwork on every door and gate, and a lovely palette of colors. The Rashi Synagogue and Mason Rashi, a center for study, have recently been developed in the historic part of Troyes and give one a sense of what it might have been like for Rashi and his daughters to study there in the past. Here’s the view from Maison Rashi to the synagogue:
Here are some more views of the center and the synagogue. The Hebrew over the synagogue door says, Pitchu li shaarei tzedek avo vam odeh yah (Open up to me the gates of righteousness and I will go in them and give thanks to the LORD).
When I am asked about Jewish life in France, usually people are asking about the anti-Jewish violence but I often respond instead by saying how rich Jewish life in France is and commenting on the fact that France has the third largest Jewish population in the world. Generally, people I talk to are surprised at the latter. It’s not that I want to downplay the problem of anti-Jewish violence–a serious problem–but I want people to know about the life there, its vibrancy and diversity.
This week, the first “The Daughters of Rashi” congress was held at Rashi Synagogue. Of course, Rashi’s three actual daughters are long gone. But there are three women rabbis in France and here they are, at the congress, paying homage to Rashi and his daughters. They are, left to right, Rabbi Delphine Horvilleur of MJLF Beaugrenelle; Pauline Bebe, the first woman rabbi in France, of CJL; and Floriane Chinsky of MJLF Surmelin (photo by Manon Brissaud-Frenk). If I may say so, each is exceptional in her own right, as even a casual internet search will indicate.
It would be sad if that were the end of it. But, not to worry! The congress was loaded with women rabbis-to-be. The soon-to-be rabbis led services, and they joined together with the rabbis to lead study sessions, on Talmud, Midrash, Halakha and spirituality. It was like being at a yeshivah! Here are photos of just some of the student rabbis. Along with French rabbis in training were some from Israel and London.
Here are photos from a few of the events as well, including some photos of audience members. These all need titles, but I’ll add those later, when time permits. This will be all for now.