Marcia Jarmel (03:19)
Jarmel grew up in a Jewish American home, with parents who adapted to the surrounding culture. In college, she did not identify with Judaism. At a friend’s Orthodox wedding, she met women choosing traditional lifestyles and felt the need for such a community.
Ruth Birdman (08:10)
Jarmel meets the Chabad Lubavitch women's leader, Rus Birdman. Birdman became observant in her early twenties, choosing Ruth as her new name. The women attend a gathering, where attendees show warmth, purpose, and strong community.
Women's Roles (05:15)
Orthodox Jewish women wear wigs after they marry; Birdman has hers restyled. Many women stay at home to raise families, but some work, allowing their husbands to study the Torah. Before marrying, Birdman spoke at educational programs worldwide.
Aspects of Chabad (06:52)
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson is Crown Heights mystical leader; Birdman believes he communicates with God for her. Jarmel questions this belief and the 613 rules Orthodox women daily observe. Birdman explains their purpose and how Shabbos is healthy.
Religious Heritage (07:01)
Miriam recalls how Birdman welcomed her to the Orthodox lifestyle. She loves Judaism, finding spiritual depth in Torah chants, but is no longer part of the Chabad community. Raised in a non-traditional Jewish home, she found answers from Christians and traveling to Israel.
Rules for Women (05:40)
Synagogues have dividers between men and women, meant to reduce distractions. Jarmel examines Orthodox mikvah bath laws. Birdman explains that a woman’s role in Chabad is intimate, private, and central to the culture; purity laws are spiritually symbolistic.
Expectations of Conformity (07:17)
Women keep the most important Torah laws; Birdman and her husband build their relationship through devotion. Miriam asserts that Orthodoxy demands conformity. Her homosexuality makes that impossible, but she is not comfortable in gay communities, where spirituality is met with cynicism.
Cultural Continuity (07:11)
Birdman’s non-traditional Jewish family call her Darcy; some question her Orthodox lifestyle. Birdman's parents credit people like her with preserving Judaism. Miriam shows how the Reconstructionist Movement preserves traditions while allowing for change.
Culturally Diverse (03:10)
Birdman discusses Chabad in relation to her intelligence and personality; she feels intellectually fulfilled and happy. Miriam misses the romanticism of Hasidic communities, but feels her life is meaningful. Jarmel remains skeptical of Orthodoxy, choosing modern ways while incorporating Jewish traditions into her lifestyle.
Credits: The Return of Sarah's Daughters (01:44)
Credits: The Return of Sarah's Daughters
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