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Jewish Law

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B'nai Jacob Synagogue

Come, Join Us

by Hani Fish-Bieler

I remember my excitement upon hearing about Yeshivat Maharat’s  ordination of women. As a supporter of female Jewish leadership in all of its forms, I was thrilled at the idea. Evidently, Jessica Cavanagh-Melhado, a contributor to JWA’s blog, felt the same way. In June 2013, she wrote a piece entitled, We Begin to Become a Multitude. In the piece, she describes her experience attending the first ever ordination of women as open Orthodox female spiritual leaders. 

Sara Hurwitz

Upon becoming the first Modern Orthodox woman rabbi ordained in the United States, Sara Hurwitz took on the title “Rabba.”
Excerpt from the Amidah

Holy Glass Ceiling

by Sarah Groustra

On June 13th, 2013, three women graduated from the Yeshivat Maharat and were ordained with the title of maharat, or female spiritual leader. Even then, the Rabbinic Counsel of America (RCA) refused to recognize these women as part of the Orthodox Rabbinate. This is a two steps forward, one step back situation. 

Rising Voices Fellow Rana Bickel with the Pope

Pop(e)ular

by Rana Bickel

Religious leaders aren’t normally considered cool by teenagers, but Pope Francis is most definitely an exception. As a teenager myself, I can say that the Catholic Church was not at all on my radar until he started making waves. 

I Need Feminism Sign

Dress Code or Stress Code?

by Ariela Basson

I never really understood the purpose of the dress code. Was it for religious reasons? Was it to protect our male classmates from possible distraction from their studies? Was it for both reasons? I found it extremely degrading that I felt pressured to be ashamed of my body. 

Topics: Feminism, Jewish Law
Gabi Cantor at the Western Wall

Can Feminism and Orthodox Judaism Coexist? I Say Yes.

by Gabrielle Cantor

Growing up as the oldest of three girls, I have always been taught that my position in the Jewish community is an important one. I was taught that when I grow up I’ll get the opportunity to be an active participant within my Jewish community. 

Babatha

Spirited and determined, Babatha repeatedly fought for her rights in court, showing the differences between the ideal world of the Mishnah and the real lives of second century Jews.

Joseph Dov Soloveitchik

As the rosh yeshiva (religious head) of Yeshiva University from 1941–1985 and chief legal decisor for Modern Orthodox Jews in America, Joseph Dov Soloveitchik shaped Jewish practice and public opinion through the era of second-wave feminism.

Rivka Haut, 1942 - 2014

Rivka got me to other agunah rallies, including a pitiful one with five other women circling the tiny front yard of a Manhattan brownstone. It was my last agunah rally but not Rivka’s. She never gave up and never turned down a request for help. For her, it was about justice and compassion, not numbers.

Judith Plaskow

Judith Plaskow created a new Jewish feminist theology through her scholarly masterwork, Standing Again at Sinai.

Francine Klagsbrun

From Free to Be … You and Me to Women of the Wall, Francine Klagsbrun pushed to change what possibilities were open for women.

Rachel Adler

As a theologian, a committed Jew, and a pioneer of the Jewish feminist movement, Rachel Adler challenged her religion from within.
Rosie the Riveter Wearing Tefillin

JOFA: Beyond Belief - Part 3

by  Susan Reimer-Torn

In her final interview before leaving JOFA, Elana Sztokman talks about Orthodox feminism and JOFA. This is the final part of our three-part series, posting weekly.

Susan Reimer-Torn: Do most JOFA women want full inclusion in Jewish ritual life as currently practiced by men? Or are they looking for another, more woman-oriented approach to the communal or spiritual experience?

Rosie the Riveter Wearing Tefillin

JOFA: Beyond Belief - Part 1

by  Susan Reimer-Torn

Today we are excited to publish the first installment of a three-part series on JOFA and Orthodox Feminism, posting weekly. After covering the JOFA conference for the Jewish Week, Susan Reimer-Torn found she had many timely questions to explore about the state and vision of Orthodox Feminism today. Her conversations with author and JOFA executive director Elana Sztokman confirmed that much needs to be shared about the conflicts, values, tensions, and goals of Orthodox Feminism. Elana's views, both as a thought leader and an organizational executive, illuminate dark corners and sound an inclusive note for all Jewish women interested in innovation and inclusiveness, regardless of religious affiliation.

Feminist Seder, 1991

Standing with Letty

by  Avigayil Halpern

Towards the beginning of my sophomore year of high school, I was sitting in my school’s library when I caught sight of a book whose spine read Deborah, Golda, and Me. Being the nerd that I am, I am fascinated by the biblical prophetess Deborah—she is one of a very few women leaders in the Bible who are clearly respected for their power and autonomy, and rabbinic treatment of her character is a fascinating test case for differing attitudes towards women in Jewish law and literature. The book’s title was enough to get me out of my armchair to take a look. I had never before heard of the book’s author, Letty Cottin Pogrebin.

Topics: Feminism, Jewish Law
Pro Choice Protester, 2010

The name may change but the belief stays the same

by  Talia bat Pessi

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. 

Bookshelf and Books

The Talmud: Repository of Wisdom or Masculine Tool of Oppression? Maggie Anton Weighs In

by  Preeva Tramiel

Writer Maggie Anton, whose "Rashi’s Daughters” series has sold 175,000 copies, believes that studying Talmud is the most feminist thing a woman can do. “Knowledge of Talmud is the key to halacha,” she says. Anton asserts that modern Jewish law is made at a table full of Talmud scholars, and that women can have a seat at that table.

Itta Roth

Kosher, Gourmet, and Underground

by  Gabrielle Orcha

Itta Werdiger Roth, a professional chef, founded The Hester, an underground, word-of-mouth music café/speakeasy/supper club in Brooklyn that fuses local food, music, and Jewish conversat

Nina of alltumbledown the Modern and Modest project

"Modern and Modest:" Interview with Nina of alltumbledown

by  Chanel Dubofsky
When not memorizing Latin declensions, Nina, a graduate student of history, authors alltumbledown: a modest attempt at style, a blog about the intersection of modesty and daily fashion. In addition to brightly colored pencil skirts and everything sequined, she is a fan of Mad Men, the quickly-disappearing Jewish Lower East Side, and the printing press. She currently calls both Philadelphia and New York home.
Ketubah

Reclaiming the Ketubah as a symbol of equality and women's independence

by  Allyson Block

The evolution of the Ketubah in the Jewish tradition has taken an interesting turn in recent times.

Miri Shalem of Beit Shemesh and dance as a tool of social change

by  Susan Reimer-Torn

Before most of us ever heard of the small town of Beit Shemesh, Miri Shalem the orthodox mother of four children and a long-time resident was directing the town’s JCC.

Paula Hyman, 1946 - 2011

We should hear her when we need courage to oppose sexism, whether political, historical, or unconscious; when we strive to balance family commitments with demands of career; and when we seek to follow in her footsteps to chart new paths in making and writing Jewish history.

Our Bodies, Ourselves: The Manual and The Mystery

by  Susan Reimer-Torn

The subject of a woman’s body, even in its most intimate functions, was not taboo in the orthodox Jewish world of my upbringing.

Tikva Frymer-Kensky, 1943 - 2006

As a scholar, Dr. Frymer-Kensky challenged her students to study deeply and obtain mastery of their subjects; any less was insufficient. In her writing, she modeled both rigor and relevance…. She wrote in order to bring us the ancient and to create a more just present.

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