Thursday, March 19, 2015


Last week, my wonderful amazing husband forwarded the following article to me, which I am now sharing with all of you:

I read it (please do access it and at least go through a bit of it) and was constantly shaking my head. I remember when Malka Bina began her ground-breaking institution of Matan; have been involved with so many people who are part of JOFA (Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance), have watched the development of the YCT community and its addressing of women scholars and leaders, and so on. Here is another issue in which I kind of feel like Forrest Gump, in that I WAS THERE as these things happened!

And now we have Maharat, Rabbah Yoetzet and other titles for women to take leadership roles in Halachically oriented communities, if not in all Orthodox and right-pitched Jewish observance spaces. When I explain the contours of my life to others, they often reply “Oh so you are a Rabbi.” Well…… not exactly! While I have often been asked why am I not a Rabbi or the appropriate analogous role, I reply that I may function in a very similar manner, but do not carry the title because that was just not part of my experiential context in my formative years. Yes, I teach and lecture in many different venues, I advise people on various matters of Jewish observance, teach potential converts, learn Jewish texts, run a Partnership Minyan in our home monthly, and do answer various questions that are asked of me regarding Halachic matters, using appropriate resources. Professionally, I carry the title of Dr. as an academic degree. I can honestly say that I am not sure whether or not I would do anything differently if the soul that inhabits my body was born and exposed to the opportunities that are available today. Yes, I would have loved to have a Drisha or a Hadar or a Hartman Institute or PARDES or any number of other learning options that abound today when I was in my 20s, but alas, it is my colleagues and friends who have created these institutions and we have collectively paved this road for women today to take their place in our more observantly based Jewish world of learning and scholarship and leadership.

My dearest Aunt Sandy, with whom we often spend wonderful time in Israel, reminded me some time ago that when I was little, I apparently stated that I wanted to be the first Orthodox woman Rabbi. Funny to be reminded of dreams and aspirations from so long ago! But the reality is that I am in fact living those dreams and aspirations, just in a way somewhat different than new options that are available to women today.

So is this a revolution, to revisit the question posed in the article that was brought to my attention? I have a very distinct memory of that word from a high school play with this line and its double meaning, “Yes, the peasants are revolting!” Ha! Ha! No, I do not think this is a revolution but rather an evolution – a process that has taken time, decades really, to evolve as those of us in religiously observant spaces really continue that time-honored process of Gemara (Talmud) in which we consider what it is we are doing, are allowed to do, should be doing, have developed a custom of doing, and so on. We follow our Talmudic teachers in looking around, considering all of the options and possibilities, interface various aspects of our lives as observant Jews, and then reconsider the possibilities, sometimes retracting earlier positions and taking on the practices of others we have observed.

As a mother of three daughters, I am thrilled with the options that they and my younger colleagues have to achieve notice for their scholarship, skill sets and leadership in Modern Orthodox and other religiously observant spaces. I am so glad that we have evolved to this point.

As we do so, we should not forget that this is not only NOT a revolution; nor is it a totally new phenomenon. Pesach is coming and here we speak of Miriam, Yocheved, Shua and Puah, four women (and here we should include Pharaoh’s daughter as well) who took on important leadership roles, meaningful initiatives, saved lives and did so much. Truly they and so many others from the narratives of our Tanach and Talmud and years of Jewish History that has evolved are wonderful role models for today’s Jewish observant scholarly women who take their place amongst our leaders. This is what women want – the respect, consideration, and notice to which they are entitled. Hopefully we have evolved to that point!

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