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Rachel Adler

As a theologian, a committed Jew, and a pioneer of the Jewish feminist movement, Rachel Adler challenged her religion from within. In 1971, Adler wrote her groundbreaking essay, “The Jew Who Wasn’t There,” arguing that while halakhah (Jewish law) traditionally denied women the opportunity to take on the meaningful religious obligations expected of men, the answer was not for feminists to abandon Judaism, but to reform it. Through her writing, she offered both insightful critiques and important reinterpretations of Jewish law and tradition, opening new possibilities for women’s participation in the Jewish community. In Engendering Judaism: An Inclusive Theology and Ethics, Adler proposed a new model for marriage vows which would make husband and wife truly equal partners who could each initiate a divorce. The book also provided a religious framework for same-sex couples to marry. Engendering Judaism’s blend of innovation and commitment to Jewish tradition earned Adler the National Jewish Book Award for Jewish Thought, the first time the award was given to a woman theologian. Adler teaches at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles, where she was ordained as a rabbi in 2012.


The birthdate given for me in your profiles should be July 20, not July 2. Also I have been divorced since 2008 and would like that noted. Perhaps David Ellenson would be kind enough to emend his entry. If you would like an updated bibliography, I can send one if someone tells me where to send it.

Good Afternoon, Rachel!

Thank you for letting us know that your birthdate was incorrect. I will correct and amend the entry. Please send an updated bibliography to and it can be included in our new addition of the encyclopedia.

All the best,
Bella Book
(The Executive Assistant at JWA)

Rachel Adler
Full image

Feminist theologian Rachel Adler.

Institution: Hebrew Union College, Los Angeles.

Date of Birth
July 20, 1943
Place of Birth
Chicago, Illinois

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Rachel Adler." (Viewed on February 20, 2019) <>.


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