Kolot: Center for Jewish Women's and Gender Studies
Kolot grew out of what had been the Jewish Women’s Study Project (JWSP) at The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC). From its inception in 1990, JWSP worked at RRC to include the field of women’s studies in the curriculum and to offer co-curricular programs that reflected women’s place in Judaism. In 1996, with the hiring of its first director (Lori Lefkovitz), the Kolot Center was created and in 2000 Kolot’s director was appointed to the newly endowed Sadie Gottesman and Arlene Gottesman Reff Chair in Judaism and Gender Studies.
Kolot functions as an academic center, furthering scholarship and training rabbis and other Jewish leaders, with an activist program that generates innovative projects that affect the religious and spiritual lives of contemporary Jews across denominations. Kolot’s major national projects include Ritualwell.org, a website of contemporary Jewish lifecycle and holiday rituals and liturgy, developed with the New York-based feminist center Ma’yan. Kolot also co-sponsors events, offers a certificate in Jewish Women’s Studies with Temple University, and co-sponsors a feminist scholars circle. Kolot does consulting to the Jewish community and Jewish communal institutions on gender issues and offers speakers and learning series nationally and in Israel. Kolot presents a “Kolot Award” and a “Kol Isha Award” to women who have made extraordinary contributions to the Jewish community.
Following a groundbreaking conference on “Food, Body Image, and Judaism,” (May 1998) Kolot developed Kolot’s Rosh Hodesh: It’s a Girl Thing!, a unique program that fosters the self-esteem and Jewish identity of adolescent girls through monthly celebrations of Rosh Hodesh and which has now been spun off as a new entity that will promote the creation of groups nationally.
The two overarching goals of Kolot at RRC are: 1) training rabbinical students in scholarship that recovers the voices and experiences of Jewish women and that incorporates the insights of gender theory into Jewish studies and 2) advancing scholarship in the fields of Jewish Women’s and Gender Studies through teaching, publications and conferences. With the understanding that training rabbis has an exponential affect on the Jewish community, Kolot’s college programming committee offers major communal programs at RRC, as well as sponsoring workshops and other special services keyed to an annual theme (themes have included: “Gender in the Rabbinate,” “Jewish Feminist Men” and “Gender and the Arts”). Kolot hosts an annual Wenkart Writer-in-Residence and Kolot’s Beckerman Fund pays for the purchase of books for the RRC library to maintain a state-of-the-field collection in Jewish women’s and gender studies. Kolot pastoral training programs focus on such issues as domestic violence in the Jewish community; Kolot’s Ta’anit Esther program focuses on international women’s issues, such as sex trafficking and the plight of Afghani women.
Kolot’s Board of Advisors is comprised of Jews from all denominations and Kolot’s projects are designed for Jews across the spectrum of Jewish life. Sally Gottesman served as the first chairwoman of Kolot.