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Religious Movements

Elissa Froman, 1983 - 2013

There are so many stories about Elissa Froman.

One of her closest friends, Emily Goodstein, tells of the time she and Froman were walking down a street in Washington, D.C., where they both lived. A homeless man who sat asking for change in front of a restaurant stopped them, addressing Elissa by name. He thanked her for making an appointment for him at a local healthcare clinic.

A favorite one that her mother, Gloria, relates: When Elissa was four years old, she asked, “Are we really alive, or is G-d dreaming us?”

But Why Do They Have to be Rabbis?

Although my friends usually come into the conversation unable to comprehend why nice, Orthodox girls would want to enter the rabbinate, I certainly hope they leave the discussion slightly more enlightened. They don’t have to agree with me at the end of the day; Judaism is very fluid, and no two people must come to the same conclusion regarding the interpretation of halakha. I just hope they can understand why women like the recent Yeshivat Maharat graduates may want to choose the rabbinate or a religious leadership role.

Maharats, Misogyny and Marching On

It was a late spring-time graduation unlike any other, a landmark event in Jewish history.  On June 16th, at the Ramaz School on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, for the first time ever, with the bestowal of a parchment and the recitation of a specially chosen biblical phrase, three women became spiritual leaders and legal authorities within Orthodox Jewry: Our sister, may you become a multitude. (Genesis 24:60).

We Begin to Become a Multitude

This was the first time that Orthodox women were ordained in an institutional setting. There was a profound sense that not only was this a big moment for the three women getting ordained, but also for the men who trained them. I could hear the pride in Rabbi Jeffrey Fox, the Rosh HaYeshiva’s voice, and how much this meant to Rabbi Avi Weiss. In particular, Rabbi Weiss emphasized the desire to give a professionally recognized title to these women (even if it is Maharat, rather than Rabba), and the absolute necessity of the support of the male rabbis who have welcomed these women into their congregations. For Rabba Sara, I had the profound sense that she was creating an exciting new cohort of colleagues for herself. It’s one thing to be a groundbreaker, but totally another to bring others along with you, to create a system and a path for future generations. 

Learn to Do Good, Seek Justice, Relieve the Oppressed

I’m not sure when I realized that the true Torah value is inclusion and acceptance of our LGBT+ brethren. Perhaps it was because my mom became close friends with a gay man who’s very active in gay social life. Maybe it was because of my increased involvement in feminism; after all, the National Organization for Women (NOW), the largest feminist organization in the US (of which I am a member), lists lesbian rights as one of its top priority issues. Or maybe it was just maturity. Whatever the reason and whenever it actually happened, I began to support gay rights, both within and without the Jewish community.

Meet “Bulletproof Stockings” and “Yiddish Princess”

Today we feature female American Jewish musicians who aren’t softly crooning classic Hebrew folk songs, traditional prayers, or even hava nagila. They are not belting out Broadway tunes or love songs à la Barbra Streisand or Bette Midler. These women are rocking out to their own beat.

The Rabba Revolution Continues

Three years ago this month, Rabba Sara Hurwitz made history in the Jewish world by becoming the first publicly ordained female rabbi in the Orthodox community. Since then, the 35-year-old mother of three has been working as Dean of Yeshivat Maharat, an institution dedicated to training women Orthodox clergy, as well as working as Rabba at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, which this June will graduate the first three women with the title of Maharat — an acronym for “Religious, spiritual, Torah leaders” — marking yet another important milestone for women in Orthodoxy. Rabba Hurwitz explained to "The Sisterhood" what this all means.

The name may change but the belief stays the same

Not surprisingly, the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade kicked up a great deal of dust. In early January, Planned Parenthood announced that it will abandon the term "pro-choice" to describe people who believe abortion should be every woman's right; on January 25th, tens of thousands of  activists gathered on the Mall in Washington, D.C. for the annual Walk for Life. One of our regular guest bloggers, high school student Talia bat Pessi, shares her thoughts on the issue. 

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Religious Movements." (Viewed on September 25, 2016) <http://jwa.org/topics/religious-movements>.

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