Magazine article Moment

Is Judaism Good for Women?

Magazine article Moment

Is Judaism Good for Women?

Article excerpt

INDEPENDENT

Yes. To its credit, Judaism has through the millennia endeavored to liberate man from his fear of woman and woman from the consequences of that fear, in ways too numerous to delineate. As feminist author Rosemary R. Ruether put it "Judaism did more than most other ancient religions to lift woman up to the status of equality in civil rights and spiritual recognition. ... Ancient Israelite women fared better than modern Western women." There was a time, for example, when the opinions of women and their "votes" counted toward establishing halachic precedence (Talmud Bav'li, Tosef'ta Keylim 11:3; Minchat Chinuch, No. 78), and when women were equally qualified and authorized as men in rendering halachic decisions and rulings, in other words, serving as rabbis (Sefer Ha'Chinuch, No. 158). Women being called up to the bimah to chant from the Torah scroll seems to most of us totally revolutionary, when in fact it was a standard practice in ancient times (Talmud Bav'li, Megilah 23a). That this and more was discontinued over time was the result not of any changes within Judaism, but of men's insecure power struggle with the ungraspable force of the feminine, sanctioned by their masterful skill at forging God's name to their whimsical justifications.

Rabbi Gershon Winkler

Walking Stick Foundation

Thousand Oaks, CA

HUMANIST

Is Judaism good for women? The most honest answer is "It depends." It depends on the Judaism and it depends on the woman. Historically, women were not treated with dignity in Judaism. Even today in some Jewish denominations, women do not have the same rights and privileges as men. As a college student, I applied to the rabbinic program at Hebrew Union College, only to discover that women were not allowed admission to rabbinical school. Hebrew Union College ordained its first female rabbi in 1972.

There is not one Judaism that treats all women the same, and there is certainly not one woman who reacts in the same way to all situations. If my options were limited to Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, Recon-structionist or Renewal Judaism, Judaism would not have been good for this woman. Happily, I discovered Humanistic Judaism, which allows me to remain connected to Judaism without abandoning my philosophy of life or personal convictions. The strength of Judaism is in its pluralism. And Humanistic Judaism is very good for women.

Rabbi Miriam Jerris

Society for Humanistic Judaism

Farmington Hills, MI

RENEWAL

Why ask me? Let's face it, we men have had more than our say. Better to ask Sarah Imeynu--Sarah our mother--who would have laughed at the question. Or Yael, who might have taken your head off, as she did Sisera's in Canaan. Ask Rachel, the beloved wife of Rabbi Akiva; his Torah knowledge was said to be all acquired through her merit. Or Gluckel of Hameln, who with the ferocity of a lioness of Judah raised a family with a strong Jewish identity through the hardship of a dominant Christian culture in 17th-century Germany.

I hesitate to speak for them, or for the women in our midst today who are striving to answer the question: Judith Hauptman, who rethought the role of women, their obligation to pray and their rightful place as leaders; or Anat Hoffman and the Women of the Wall; or Sara Hurwitz, an Orthodox Rabba. But one thing is certain: Though the paradigm shift has seemingly been slow to come, in the great scheme of G!d's plan, 2,000 years is like a second. In Genesis 2:18, we read, "And the Lord G!d said, 'It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a counterpart to him." In the unfolding of Jewish thought and practice, we stand together, men and women, at the threshold of the kind of partnership that G!d has had in her mind all along. We await this full realization "for the sake of the unification of the Holy One, blessed be He, and His Divine Presence, blessed be She." On that day, G! …

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