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April 29, 1988 - Image 108

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-04-29

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

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Male Leaders Caused
'Theological High Noon'

BEN GALLOB

N

ew York — The con-
troversy over Pope
John Paul II's
meeting with Austrian Presi-
dent Kurt Waldheim last
summer shows there is "a
desperate need" to place more
women in policy-making posi-
tions in major Jewish
organizations.
The controversy, which
"threatened to disrupt two
decades of progress in
Catholic-Jewish relations,"
was exacerbated by "irrespon-
sible, self-styled Jewish
leaders with macho men-
talities promoting militant
demonstrations against the
pope for their own purposes?'
So charged Annette Daum
of the Union of American
Hebrew Congregations
(Reform), the only woman in-
terreligious director of a ma-
jor Jewish religious organiza-
tion. She made her argument
in Naamat Woman, the of-
ficial publication of Naamat
Women U.S.A.
Daum asserted that the
"demonstrations" by Jewish
leaders at the Vatican had
alienated many Catholics —
"including those who are
critical of the meeting (of the
pope) with Waldheim and the
Vatican's continued refusal to
develop full diplomatic rela-
tions with Israel."
She criticized "even the
more responsible national
Jewish agencies," which she
contened "remain bastions of
male supremacy which foster
personal and institutional
rivalry more suited to the
football field."
The UAHC official contend-
ed that "the Waldheim crisis"
should alert the Jewish com-
munity "to the desperate
need for Jewish women to
move into the power structure
of the Jewish community at
the highest volunteer and
professional levels!'
Conceding that women "are
not innately different" from
men, Daum insisted never-
theless that research in-
dicated that women "are
socialized from an early age
to be cooperative rather than
competitive," a quality she
said was now vital to the
Jewish community.
She argued that Jewish
women in particular are sen-
sitized to the need for shalom
bayit (peace in the household)
and to consideration of clal
Yisrael (Jewish peoplehood),
as "the overriding concern of
our community."

The official contended it
was no accident that the
Waldheim controversy "in-
volved the ultimate male
authority in a totally
masculine hierarchy." Nor
was it an accident, she added,
that Jewish agencies that
prefer "diatribe to dialogue"
were most likely to jockey for
publicity, "leaking informa-
tion to the press about dissen-
sion among Jewish represen-
tatives, which made a united
approach much more difficult
to attain?'
"All delegates to the
meeting with the pope in
Rome were men operating in
a male-dominated environ-
ment . . . a theological high
noon;' she said. She declared
that "participants constantly

'The Waldheim
controversy
involved the
ultimate male
authority in a
totally masculine
hierarchy."

used male imagery in repor-
ting the results, speaking elo-
quently of the unique oppor-
tunity to meet "man-to-man;
noting the 'fraternal affec-
tion' that developed between
this 'band of brothers! "
She argued that the Jewish
community had been brought
to "the brink of disaster by
dissension among male
leaders" and could no longer
afford to exclude women,
whom she declared "had an
enormous stake in the pro-
ceedings." She warned that
too many Jewish women,
"who have unique talents and
skills to bring to this field,"
were still haunted by the
"Women of Valor syndrome,"
continuing to juggle career, _
children and kitchen, with lit-
tle energy left for the Jewish
community.
She predicted that if this
pattern continued into the
21st Century, the conse-
quences could be disastrous
for an increasingly
fragmented Jewish communi-
ty. She said men must help
restructure family relation-
ships to give qualified women
more opportunities to imple-
ment their "crucial role" in
helping to shape "a more
democratic, egalitarian
Jewish community!'

Jewish Telegraphic Agency

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