Faith and Feminism
Last year I met Rabbi Jennifer Singer, I and immediately looked up to her. She’s a strong, spiritual, and independent woman who commands the room with her lively personality. She’s an excellent rabbi, and I always leave her sermons with new ideas and ways of thinking.
Considering how amazing Rabbi Singer is at her job, I was surprised to find out that she hasn’t always been a rabbi; she found her calling later in life. When I asked Rabbi Singer what made her want to become a rabbi, she laughed and told me that everyone in her life, except her, knew that she would one day become a rabbi.
The first woman rabbi in the United States was ordained in 1972, and since then there have been more than 350 women who have studied to become rabbis in this country. Rabbi Singer told me that she remembers what it was like being a young girl going to temple before women in the more progressive sects of Judaism had all the opportunities for religious involvement they have today. At her own bat mitzvah she wasn’t allowed to go onto the bima and read from the Torah. This memory stayed with her throughout the years, and it influences her actions as a rabbi now.
In her own congregation, Kol HaNeshama, she helps women prepare to read from the Torah for the first time. Many of the women in her congregation weren’t even allowed to have a bat mitzvah ceremony of any sort, let alone read from the Torah. Today, Rabbi Singer helps make that dream a reality for women who didn’t previously have the opportunity.
To me, that isn’t just a mitzvah; it’s the act of a true feminist. Rabbi Singer identifies as a feminist and strongly believes that there’s a close tie between the feminist movement and women receiving more rights and privileges in the Jewish faith. Without the feminist movement, Rabbi Singer doesn’t think she would have even considered the rabbinate as an option for herself. Because of feminism, our Jewish community as a whole has moved forward.
After talking with Rabbi Singer, I realize how lucky I am to have benefitted from the impact that feminism has had on Judaism. Reading from the Torah was never something I was told I couldn’t do, and my bat mitzvah was always a given, not something I had to fight to have. Hearing her story made me realize just how fortunate I am to have such powerful and motivated women in my life who call out injustice and demand change.
Rabbi Singer makes me proud to be a Jewish woman. She intertwines Judaism and feminism in her work, and she uses her position to teach others in a progressive and forward-thinking way. She is by far the most inspiring rabbi I have ever met, and we are lucky to have her. Thank you, Rabbi Singer, for deciding to become a rabbi. You are someone we can all look up to, as a spiritual leader, and as a feminist changemaker.
This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.
How to cite this page
Stein, Minnah. "Faith and Feminism." 18 May 2018. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on September 21, 2023) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/faith-and-feminism>.