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Rachel Adler

As a theologian, a committed Jew, and a pioneer of the Jewish feminist movement, Rachel Adler challenged her religion from within. In 1971, Adler wrote her groundbreaking essay, “The Jew Who Wasn’t There,” arguing that while halakhah (Jewish law) traditionally denied women the opportunity to take on the meaningful religious obligations expected of men, the answer was not for feminists to abandon Judaism, but to reform it. Through her writing, she offered both insightful critiques and important reinterpretations of Jewish law and tradition, opening new possibilities for women’s participation in the Jewish community. In Engendering Judaism: An Inclusive Theology and Ethics, Adler proposed a new model for marriage vows which would make husband and wife truly equal partners who could each initiate a divorce. The book also provided a religious framework for same-sex couples to marry. Engendering Judaism’s blend of innovation and commitment to Jewish tradition earned Adler the National Jewish Book Award for Jewish Thought, the first time the award was given to a woman theologian. Adler teaches at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles, where she was ordained as a rabbi in 2012.

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Feminist theologian Rachel Adler elaborated upon her novel approach to Jewish law in her work Engendering Judaism, in which she both identified Judaism's goal as the "creation of a better world" and delineated the way in which an "inclusive Judaism" would enable both women and men to achieve this messianic goal.

Institution: Hebrew Union College, Los Angeles

Date of Birth
July 2, 1943
Place of Birth
Chicago, Illinois

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Rachel Adler." (Viewed on November 29, 2015) <>.


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