Jane Kanarek is a rabbi and professor at Hebrew College. She grew up in Brookline, MA, in a family of South African Jewish immigrants. Kanarek attended Brown University, and Jewish Theological Seminary, where she was ordained in 1998. She taught in Moscow for Project Judaica and in Israel at the Conservative Yeshiva, spoke at the first Bet Debora European Conference of Women Rabbis in 1999, then earned a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. She is a member of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative movement. Currently, Kanarek teaches Talmud, Halacha, and Midrash at Hebrew College’s Rabbinical School, with a focus on feminist interpretation.
Jane Kanarek grew up in a traditional South African Jewish family but rebelled against religion in her adolescence. Kanarek slowly reconnected with Judaism through a high school trip to Israel and finding community at Brown’s Hillel, where she realized she wanted to be both a rabbi and a scholar. She attended rabbinical school at the Jewish Theological Seminary near the beginning of Conservative women’s ordination and had to deal with lingering problematic views about women, though she also had supportive teachers. Her experience angered her, but she decided to use that anger productively by helping women find their voices in classical texts and claim them as their own. Kanarek found herself as a feminist through Judaism and her experiences with the inequality within. She appreciates the revolutionary difference from just a few decades ago in Jewish women’s religious freedom. She believes further change can happen through engaging with the legal tradition and people’s courage, particularly in conversation with Orthodox Judaism. She can now contribute to change as a member of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative movement, which includes more diverse perspectives than ever before. In her scholarship, she recovers women’s forgotten voices in text and tradition to use for the future, such as Rebecca’s consent in ancient marriage law. She experiences God through studying, taking a difficult sacred text, and making it come alive. Kanarek found her husband late in life and now is the mother of two young sons, all of whom make her life busy but truly fulfilling. Her advice to aspiring women rabbis is to just do it and to find your own Jewish voice in conversation with both lived and written tradition in order to create community by helping others do the same.