3 June 2005

The Forward writes about Aviel's journey and current work, including a taste of the debate among rabbinic voices.

25 February 2005

Another piece on Aviel's first Sefer Torah commission appears in the Jewish News Weekly of Northern California.

(The article is picked up two days later by JTA News.)

13 February 2005

Aviel is mentioned by the Boston Globe for scribing a mezuzah (her first!) for the new Jamaica Plain, Massachussetts synagogue of dear friend R' Victor Reinstein.

October 2004

The first anniversary of Aviel's certification to write Sifrey Torah is marked by the Jewish Women's Archive.

28 September 2004

Aviel is interviewed live on Studio 4 by British Columbia TV personality Fanny Kiefer.

April 2004

Aviel appears three times in The Quotable Jewish Woman edited by Elaine Berstein Partnow.

25 February 2004

The completion of Aviel's first sofrut commission, a Megilat Ester, is announced at vancouver.indymedia.org.

20 December 2003

In the Toronto Globe and Mail:

Fighting for the right to write

Vancouver's Aviel Barclay is the first woman ever to become a Torah scribe. But some authorities say she is violating Jewish law by doing it.

By Cori Howard

There are 4,000 rules to writing a Torah, the holiest book of the Jews. There are rules about spacing and size and at least a dozen on how to write the name of God. And 35-year-old Aviel Barclay is becoming intimately familiar with every single one.

. . .

"I'm carrying the torch because someone stuffed it in my backback," she says, unpacking in her modest Vancouver apartment after a recent trip to Israel. "If I was male, I would have gotten loans and there would have been no question about it. I could've done it 10 years ago. But for me, all I can hope is doing this will educate people about an obscure area of Jewish law and open the way for other women who want to do this."

. . .

"It was all very Zen," she says. "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." The rest of her journey was not so peaceful. In Israel, she was also studying at a yeshiva, a Jewish school. After they found out what she was doing, they harassed her, demanded the sofer's name and threatened to kick her out. She left.

At a second yeshiva, she heard people talking about the woman who wanted to write a Torah. They said they were lucky not to have such a heretic. She left before they found out she was there. A third yeshiva told her to deal with her feminist issues or leave. She left.

. . .

"I have not found within our traditional legal sources sufficient grounds to validate women writing Torah," says Rabbi Ross Singer of Vancouver's Shaarey Tefilah synagogue. He has spent more than a year studying this matter and consulting renowned Torah scholars. But he does support women writing a Torah for educational purposes, learning or as a reference.

While that may sound like conditional support, to Ms. Barclay, it's amazing that in the last major area where Jewish women haven't gained equality, she's getting any support at all from an Orthodox rabbi. "I respect difference of opinion," she says.

. . .

For now, Ms. Barclay is preparing herself for that state of higher consciousness. She prays every day. She meditates. She writes in her journal. She gets really excited thinking about going into the world of the letter nun and tackling the challenge of the letter aleph.

"I guess I'm a bit of a nerd that way. But really, I've wanted this honour my whole life, as grave as it is. And it's happening now and I'm ready to do it."

13 November 2003

Shelagh Rogers interviews Aviel live on CBC national radio for Sounds Like Canada.

(The interview is reprised the following August.)

October 2003

Moment Magazine publishes a history of Aviel's journey to become a soferet.

Meanwhile, Aviel gives the same saga in greater detail in the Jewish Western Bulletin: Part 1, Part 2.

The Jewish Blogosphere also picks up the story.

22 August 2003

The Jewish Western Bulletin of Canada puts the Women's Torah Project front-page!

The article illicits this letter to the editor. [For any concerned, Aviel does in fact refrain from writing Sifrey Torah when in nidah.]

In addition, Aviel's then-rabbi Ross Singer wrote this excellent letter in clarification of his position on Aviel's work in sofrut.