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June 25, 1982 - Image 6

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1982-06-25

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

6

Friday, June 25, 1982

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Conference Marks Progress Problems
of Women's Participation in Judaism.

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NEW YORK (JTA) — A
sense of triumph, somewhat
marred by frustration and
disappointment, is the feel-
ing that prevailed among a
group of Jewish women
leaders who participated in
a symposium two weeks ago
on the progress of women in
Judaism over the past de-
cade.
The symposium, spon-
sored by the American
Jewish Committee to com-
memorate the 10th an-
niversary of the ordination
of the first woman rabbi,
was attended by some 40
people, predominantly
women who play active
leadership roles in Jewish
religious and academic life.
Among them were rabbis, a

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cantor, congregational
presidents and professors of
Judaica.
Noting that "10 years is
really just the blink of an
eyelash," in Jewish history,
Francine Klagsbrun, an
author and active Jewish
feminist who delivered the
keynote address, said that
the participation of women
in Jewish life has become
increasingly significant and
visible since a decade ago.
By the end of this
month, the U.S. and
Canada will have 61
women rabbis, ordained
by the Reform and Re-
constructionist semi-
naries, according to
figures presented by
Klagsbrun. In addition,
Klagsbrun said, there are
currently 19 women can-
tors and 193 women
presidents of Reform and
Conservative congrega-
tions.
Even in the Orthodox es-
tablishment, she observed,
"the winds of change are
definitely blowing," as seen
by the introduction of new
Jewish rites, such as a
ritual to honor the birth of
baby girls, and the growing
participation of women in
such activities as dancing
with the Torah during
Simhat Torah celebrations.

Nevertheless, the ac-
ceptance of women in to the
heart of Jewish life is still
tenuous, as witnessed by
the experiences of
Klagsbrun and other
women of Conservative and
even Reform backgrounds,
who were surprised to find
themselves excluded from
minyans while sitting shiva
among family and friends
who professed the same
egalitarian values.
Weidman
Susan
Schneider, editor of the
feminist Jewish magazine

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Lilith, called Kadish "the
single greatest conscious-
ness raiser," in Jewish
ritual life. When a choice
has to be made between pay-
ing deference to the sen-
sitivities of traditionally-
minded distant relatives or
to those of the deceased per-
son's closest kin, the former
it was observed will fre-
quently triumph.
This phenomenon was
viewed as a reflection of
what Rela Geffen Mon-
son, a professor of sociol-
ogy who has written ex-
tensively on women • in
Jewish communal life,
termed the "normative
dilemma" — the problem
of applying newly recog-
nized values while still
very influenced by
socialization in a pre-
egalitarian Jewish com-
munity.
As part of the same phe-
nomenon, Klagsbrun noted,
many non-Orthodox_Jewish
women who theoretically
accept the right of women to
participate fully in all areas
of Jewish life, continue to
feel uncomfortable with
their own roles in Jewish
ritual.
A major source of frustra-
tion for participants at the
symposium was the failure
of the Conservative move-
ment to ordain women. Cal-
ling this "the greatest dis-
appointment of the last 10
years and the greatest chal-
lenge that still remains,"
Klagsbrun criticized the re-
fusal of Conservative lead-
ers to initiate changes in
Jewish law that would per-
mit female ordination.
"Why can the rabbis of the
10th Century make rulings,
but not the rabbis today?"
Klagsbrun asked.
Paula Hyman, dean of
Seminary College-Teachers
Institute of the Jewish
Theological Seminary of
America, which is best
known for its Conservative
rabbinical school, acknowl-
edged that the increasing
number of women in top
academic positions at the
institution makes her no
less uncomfortable in the
seminary's ritual life.
Calling the JTS "the
place where I'm least at
home religiously," Hyman
said, "I also ask-myself low
long? How much patience
should we have?' "
While the benefit of
continuing the struggle
for a female participation

in the Conservative
movement was ques-
tioned by some rabbis
who argued that perhaps
the time has come for
Conservative women to
seek equality outside the
movement, where it can
be found, others
suggested that the posi-
tion of the Conservative
establishment can affect
women in other spheres
of life as well.
"Not being admitted to
the program at JTS alb- f-
fects women who want, e
Jewish scholars," according
to Ellen Umansky, assis-
tant professor of religion at
Princeton University.
Umansky observed that
many of the tenured profes-
sors of Judaica in this coun-
try have a clerical back-
ground that is not accessible
to women. According to
Umansky, universities pre-
fer to hire professors who
have been ordained, be-
cause of their training in
rabbinical texts.
For those women who
have benefited from the
achievements made thus far
within some Jewish move-
ments and in the academic
world, the newness of their
positions creates other diffi-
culties.
For Joy Levitt, a rabbi at
Bnai Keshet-Montclair
Jewish Center, who was or-
dained last year by the Re-
constructionist Rabbinical
College, the most serious
problem is "role modeling."
Noting that most women
rabbis are approximately
the same age, with the old-
est of them having little
more experience than the
newcomers, Levitt said she
is frequently left alone "to
handle such trivial ques-
tionslike 'what to wear,' but
also to deal with the under-
lying sexual tensions that
are peculiar to a congrega-
tion with a first woman
rabbi."
- Suggested-by the partici-
pants as problems torbe ad-
dressed in the future were
the needs created by the
predominance of dual-
career families, such as day
care centers for women
seeking greater participa-
tion in the synagogue, in-
creased female representa-
tion in determining
synagogue ritual, and
anachronisms in Jewish
liturgy that need revision in
order to take into account
the changing role of women
in Judaism.

-

WJC Cites Romanian Rabbi

NEW YORK — Roma-
nian Chief Rabbi Moses
Rosen will be honored by
the World Jewish Congress
(WJC) at a celebration
marking his 70th birthday
July 12-13 in New York.
Rabbi Rosen was elected
chief rabbi in 1948 and since
1957 has been a member of
the • Romanian Parliament
as representative of the
Jewish population. During
that period some 350,000
Romanian Jews have been
able to emigrate to Israel.

Rabbi Rosen was respon-
sible for starting hundreds
of Talmud Torah schools cryt.
Jewish children during
Stalin-era. He was also id-
strumental in founding
many of Romania's 120
synagogues.

Hadassah Grants

JERUSALEM (JNI) —
The Hadassah Medical
Organization plans to grant
two full scholarships for its
school of public health to
Egyptian students.

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