The haredi women's band Bereishit is making history once again and gaining recognition in the world of culture, with a women-only performance at the Khan Theater, set to take place in a few days' time. According to Jewish law, men are not permitted to hear women singing, other than close family members.
Soloist Keren Moshe related something of the process that led up to this development, adding that she hopes it will be just the first of many such performances.
"It was a long, long process that took a lot of time," she says. "Many women wanted their voices to be heard, and each one contributed her part - talking to people who needed to be persuaded and so forth. As for myself, I presented our case to everyone I could, explaining that we represent something of quality and that we deserve to be given this opportunity. It's something very new that's developing right now, with women wanting to broaden their horizons musically, lyrically, culturally," she adds.
"In recent years, I tried to open doors for us wherever I could," she continues. "I even spoke to the then-Minister of Culture, Miri Regev, and she really wanted to help. I wrote dozens of emails explaining the importance - the necessity, even - of enabling something like this, of enabling such a performance to happen without compromising on halachah [Jewish law]. There's no reason why women should not perform for other women; no reason why this should bother anyone," she notes.
Asked to comment on the various cultural venues that continue to refuse to open their doors to women-only performances, Moshe is optimistic. "Now that the Khan has opened its doors to a women-only performance, other venues will realize that they have nothing to lose by following suit," she says. "How many people are going to object?"
Moshe sees in this decision of the Khan Theater a new openness to haredi society, rather than a cold economic calculation in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic, with less people in general willing to frequent theaters out of fear of contagion.
Regarding the logistics of ensuring that only women are employed at the theater to take care of all the technical aspects of the performance (lighting, props and so forth), Moshe admits that the arrangements will be more complex than in other venues, due to the particular features of the Khan, but stresses that her group has come to an arrangement whereby any ancillary staff needed will only be on-site before the performance and not during it.
Popular inspirational speaker Rabbanit Yemima Mizrahi will be joining Bereishit's performers, combining her own collections of lyrics. And what about secular women? Will they be joining the audience?
"Several secular women came to our last performance and they had nothing but praise for us, telling us how moved they were," Moshe says. "They felt that there was something uniquely powerful about a women-only performance, and they told us that next time, they'd be back and would be bringing their friends too."