Sofrut Nation

Aviel Barclay is the only living certified female sofer(et) S”M in the world. She studied with several sofrim, got certified in 2003, and has just begun a certification program for women in sofrut, Jewish scribal arts.
If you’ve got the itch to make holy letters, check out the brand-spanking-new program’s website here. Among other things, she’s got an extended reading list and a nice chunky essay about women and Megillah. Quill it up, y’all.

13 thoughts on “Sofrut Nation

  1. Y’all should know that Aviel is cool on many, many levels. She can tell you how many fur pelts are used to make a shtreimel, and then tell you how many hits Slaughter had in ’86. And she’s also super funny.

  2. Hatam Soferet is wonderful and awesome, and talented, and knowledgable, but she doesn’t yet have the proverbial rubber stamp of certification. Finding men under which to apprentice if one is not a man is, as one might imagine, not so easy.

  3. What kind of certification are you talking about? I never heard of any official certification – I know people who just set up shop as sofrim. They take samples of their stuff to the major tefillin vendors (Tefilin Bet El or Oter Yisrael) and if it’s good quality, they’re in.
    And why should a woman have any difficulty – she is just as obligated as a man in Mezuzah and Sefer Torah according to most opinions, and anyway any Jew is able to do this work.

  4. BS”D
    Thanks for the mention on Jewschool, Danya!
    & Streimel – your comment made me laugh out loud. Why don’t we live in the same city anymore?!? I miss you 🙂
    I understand that sof’rim require certification from either private mentor (as in my case) or by a governing body, such as the Vaad Mishmeret Stam. No different than a doctor or a lawyer or a jeweller (not that I’m comparing what I do with what they do…although I did use to be a gemologist %}). When other people in a group say, “ok, yes, we approve of your knowedge/skill/general weirdness & you’re one of us”, then you are.
    Your point about women being equally obligated, Ben-David, is complicated by many Halakhic opinions (like, “no”), including those which say that altho’ we’re equally obligated to men in the mitzvah of mezuzah, that a woman-written mezuzah is pasul (not kosher). I’ve been thinking of posting on my blog about women/mezuzah women/tefilin – anyone game?
    This is why I don’t call myself a soferet STaM – I haven’t yet been able to convince my sofer-mentors that there’s Halakhic wiggle-room for them to teach me how to make tefilin…
    …so if any of you know where I can look for Halakhot permitting women to do this work, I’d be eternally grateful 🙂
    Shavu’ah tov & Happy Victoria Day!

  5. The “only living certified soferet” claim is incorrect, from last year. The same sofer who certified Aviel Barclay also certified Shoshana Gugenheim, who is currently writing the Torah Aviel started.
    Thank G-d two women have now become qualified so far! By all rights Hatam Soferet should be next.

  6. BS”D
    Hi, Sofrot ‘R’ Us – I’m sorry, but the information you have is incorrect. The link you provide does not claim that Shoshana Gugenheim was certified, which is true. She did learn with one of my sof’rim, but the sofer she learned from does not certify women, which Hatam Soferet can attest to. I was certified by another sofer who has overseen my training since ’96.
    This is one of the reasons why I wish to begin training women to be certified in sofrut. By all rights I should not be the only one, & as I have already taken on a couple of female students, I won’t be for long 🙂

  7. BS”D
    ps – I agree 100% with what Danya, Amechad & Sofrot ‘R’ Us said about Hatam Soferet. She is as dedicated & scholarly a woman scribe as I have ever met. She does meticulous work & truly cares about proper application of both Halakhah & kavanah. In short: she is a good egg.

  8. Shtreimel is right – Aviel is cool on many levels. I attended a one-day workshop she gave here in Boston last summer. She’s not only marvelously talented; she’s also very knowledgeable about the mystical significance of the letters, why they’re written in anomalous ways in certain places in the Torah, etc. I didn’t actually get much work done, as I kept putting down my pen to listen to her! The most impressive thing about her was her enthusiasm, which was infectious. It even moved an apikoros as hardened as me. We need more teachers like her, men and women.
    Hey, Aviel!

  9. Well, my gast is flabbered.
    I thought there might be some Halachic concerns with tefilin, which women are not obligated to do as men are.
    But mezuzah?
    Hopefully this is at the level of “minhag” and will resolve itself like the whole “don’t teach your daughter Talmud’ thing.
    Soferet – why don’t you post on your blog, and maybe give a heads-up to Gil Student of the Hirhurim blog? He might link and/or post a companion piece.

  10. Hey, Cipher!
    Thank you for such a sweet comment. I’m really glad you enjoyed the class at Nehar Shalom so much.
    Ben-David: sure, that’s a great idea. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if Gil knew more about this subject than I do! I’ll put something together & let you know, only thing is I’ll need your patience. I’m back & forth between my home & my Mum’s these days as her eyes aren’t well. Her name’s Karen bat Muriel, for anyone who’s interested.
    Thanks, everyone!

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