Monday, January 02, 2017

Female scribes (sofrot)

THE LATEST ON FEMALE SCRIBES: Female ‘sofrot’ inscribe themselves in history books. Women across the Jewish denominational spectrum are binding together to pen holy texts according to ancient tradition (RICH TENORIO, Times of Israel).
In the early 2000s, women interested in scribal arts were forced to procure their equipment through subterfuge.

“The only way for a woman to purchase scribal materials such as kosher parchment and ink was to engage in an act of deception, by either sending a man to make the purchases on her behalf, or misrepresenting herself when making the purchase (i.e. not letting the seller know that he was selling to a soferet),” said Rabbi Linda Motzkin of Temple Sinai in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Slowly, however, female scribes began taking their work out into the open, and next year will mark a decade since the completion of the first sefer Torah credited to a soferet, or female scribe.

Since then, the profession has been putting down roots: Sofrot have continued developing professional networks while the next generation is studying scribal arts (safrut). There are about 10 sofrot who have been involved in writing a Torah, and 30 others who have been involved in Torah repair.

While Sofrot have largely come from Reform and Conservative Judaism, recently the profession is reaching out to Orthodox communities as well.

PaleoJudaica was already noting female scribes back in 2005 (see here and here). The completion of the Torah scroll by Jen Taylor Friedman (who is also the creator of Tefillin Barbie) was noted here. And for more on female scribes from antiquity to the present, see here, here, and here.