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Orthodox Conundrum

Jun 5, 2023

It is forbidden to listen to the voice of a woman singing if she is not his wife. (Aruch HaShulchan 21:3)

One of the issues that bothers many poeple in the Orthodox world is the halachic concept of kol isha - that is, broadly defined, the prohibition for men to listen to a woman when she is singing. The exact parameters of this halacha are debated, such as whether this includes recordings, if it applies to a woman singing by herself or to a choir as well, and much more. There are, frankly, a wide range of opinions about many issues surrounding kol isha. But we need to acknowledge, even if it goes against our sense of fairness, that the vast majority of poskim understand kol isha as a prohibition that is fully applicable today. 

For women who sing professionally, the halachot surrounding kol isha are unquestionably challenging, and today Scott asks three Orthodox female performers how kol isha has affected them, how they navigate the challenges it presents, whether they feel cheated because they cannot perform in mixed-gender venues, if they follow this stricture as it’s traditionally understood, what kind of pushback they’ve received, and more - as well as other aspects of their experience as Orthodox women who sing.

Join Scott and Franciska Kosman, Chanale Fellig-Harrel, and Dr. Kerry Bar-Cohn as they address this important topic.

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