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Women in the Synagogue

Ray Frank, 1861 - 1948

Excerpt from "Woman in the Synagogue,"
From Papers of the Jewish Women's Congress
(Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1894), p. 52.

The body of Frank's paper skillfully wove together evidence of Jewish women's historical accomplishments and praises of their traditional roles as wives and mothers:

"[W]hen the Lord said to Moses, 'And ye shall be unto Me a nation of priests and a holy nation,' the message was not to one sex; and that the Israelites did not so consider it, is proved by the number of women who were acknowledged prophets, and who exercised great influence on their time and on posterity.

"Evidently, the Almighty deemed a woman capable both of understanding and advising....

"From the scarcity of names mentioned, we are not to conclude that only a few women were teachers in Israel at this time; but rather that to woman was entrusted all that appertained to the domestic life; and in the performance of these duties her personality was merged in that of her husband. That she was capable of performing heroic deeds is evidenced by the legends of Jael and Judith.... [T]he narratives serve to show that weak woman was regarded as capable of performing for God and country heroic deeds, deeds from which strong men might have shrunk....

"The position of the mediaeval woman differed from that of her ancient sister.... [T]he law lived, better understood and more sacredly guarded than ever. That this was owing, in the greatest degree, to the women is shown by the numbers mentioned in the Talmud as learned mothers and teachers....

"Jewish woman had earned the right to the pulpit, though she never formally asked it of the people, but...they would not have wholly opposed it....

"[E]very woman should aspire to make of her home a temple, of herself a high priestess, of her children disciples, then will she best occupy the pulpit, and her work run parallel with man's. She may be ordained rabbi or be the president of a congregation—she is entirely able to fill both offices—but her noblest work will be at home, her highest ideal, a home....

"Sisters, our work in and for the synagogue lies in bringing to the Temple the Samuels to fulfil the Law. As mothers in Israel I appeal to you to first make of our homes temples, to rear each child a priest by teaching him to be true to himself.

"What matter whether we women are ordained rabbis or not? We are capable of fulfilling the office, and the best way to prove it is to convert ourselves and our families into reverent beings."

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Jewish Women's Archive. "Women of Valor - Ray Frank - Jewish Women's Congress - Women in the Synagogue." (Viewed on April 18, 2014) <http://jwa.org/womenofvalor/frank/jewish-womens-congress/women-in-synagogue>.