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"Life on the Fringes" explores Orthodox feminism

July 1, 2000
Life on the Fringes by Haviva Ner-David
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Life on the Fringes by Haviva Ner-David

Haviva Ner-David's book, Life on the Fringes: A Feminist Journey Toward Traditional Rabbinic Ordination, was published on July 1, 2000. The book, which is part memoir and part halakhic commentary, tells the story of Ner-David's integration of feminism and Orthodox Judaism over a lifetime and argues for the ordination of women as Orthodox rabbis.

Haviva Ner-David was born and raised in a modern Orthodox family in the New York City suburbs, attending traditional day schools where girls and boys sat separately for daily prayer and boys were taught to recite the traditional blessing thanking God "for not having made me a woman." Though raised with a love of Jewish tradition, she also struggled to accept traditional teachings about women's limitations. Study at New York's Drisha Institute and a subsequent move to Jerusalem left Ner-David with a thorough education in Jewish law and the conviction that new roles and opportunities for women could be found within tradition. Her book explores both her personal journey and many of the specific halakhic issues that have been taken on by feminist Jews. Throughout the book, Ner-David also reflects on what she will teach her sons and daughters about Judaism, feminism, and the roles of men and women.

In Jerusalem, Ner-David found a teacher who was receptive to her desire for ordination. Like his student, Rabbi Aryeh Strikovsky believes there are precedents in Jewish history for Orthodox women rabbis. On the eve of Passover 2006, Ner-David was ordained as a rabbi in Jerusalem. Rabbi Strikovsky signed her ordination, but did not give Ner-David the title of Rabbi, noting that it is the role of the community to determine her official title. Two other Orthodox women, Mimi Feigelson and Eveline Goodman-Thau, claim to have been privately ordained, but their ordinations are not recognized by any Orthodox seminary, synagogue, or official body.

See also: "Breaking barriers: Orthodox women rabbis" and "Blu Greenberg and Orthodox feminism" onĀ Jewesses With Attitude; Spiritual Journeys: Reading Discussion Series.

Sources:New York Times, December 21, 2000; Haviva Ner-David, Life on the Fringes: A Feminist Journey Toward Traditional Rabbinic Ordination (Needham, MA, 2000); www.jpost.com/servlet/ Satellite?apage=1&cid=1145961278294&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull.

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Jewish Women's Archive. "This Week in History - "Life on the Fringes" explores Orthodox feminism." (Viewed on April 19, 2014) <http://jwa.org/thisweek/jul/01/2000/haviva-ner-david>.