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June 07, 1991 - Image 20

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-06-07

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Young Israel

Continued from Page 1

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Bloomfield query, but passed
it on to the Council of Young
Israel Rabbis.
"The National Council
does not function as a re-
ligious body," Rabbi Sturm
said. "We're an ad-
ministrative organization
run by laymen. All questions
pertaining to Halachah go to
Rabbi Bomzer of the Council
of Young Israel Rabbis."
Rabbi Sturm said that
questions of this nature are
usually handled by the local
synagogue's rabbi.
"This was an unusual case
because the Young Israel of
West Bloomfield has no full-
time rabbi," he said. "When
this issue arose, they turned
to the National Council, and
we in turn, turned to the
Council of Young Israel
"If and when the syn-
agogue hires its own rabbi,
he can make his own deter-
mination," Rabbi- Sturm
However, not all Young
Israel rabbis rule according
to the Rambam or like the
In Detroit, Rabbi Eliezer
Cohen of the Young Israel of
Oak-Woods, one of four
Young Israel synagogues in
Detroit, said some age-old
halachic attitudes are not
keeping up with the chang-
ing times.
Rabbi Cohen said there are
no halachic problems with a
woman running for syn-
agogue president.
In an article he wrote last
December, Rabbi Cohen said
rabbinic authorities need to
do more to develop a more
enlightened view of
Halachah with regard to
"Today, when a woman of
ability, with leadership
qualities, wishes to con-
tribute to the Orthodox
community she is relegated
to some secondary position
and it is made clear that as a
female she must not have a
position of authority," Rabbi
Cohen wrote in his syn-
agogue newsletter.
"We in Orthodoxy must
shake off the vestiges of such
attitudes and permit women
to fulfill themselves, when
no Halachah stands in the
way, and use the creative
Halachah process to stretch
the restrictions to the possi-
ble limits.
"If we don't, we risk not
only losing the most capable
of our women from Or-
thodoxy but also our very
claim to justice, truth and
compassion," he said.
However, Rabbi Reuven
Drucker, of the Young Israel
of Greenfield, and Rabbi
Elimelech Goldberg of the

Young Israel of Southfield,
disagreed. They both said
they never faced such a
question, but if they did,
they would not allow a
woman to run for president.
"According to halachic
guidelines, it's not per-
mitted," Rabbi Drucker
said. "However, there are
plenty of other areas in
which women can serve."
Women already play a
prominent role in Young
Israel leadership. In Detroit,
Fayge Dombey and Blanche
Engel serve as recording and
corresponding secretary of
the Young Israel Council of
Metropolitan Detroit. Other
women serve on synagogue
boards and on election com-
mittees. And Esther Posner
is a past president of the
Metropolitan Council.
According to Ruvi Singal,
current president of the
Young Israel Council of
Metropolitan Detroit, there
is nothing in any Young
Israel constitution that
prevents a woman from run-
ning for president.
Rabbi Sturm said there
never was a need for such a
black-and-white policy
"Women never aspired to
those top positions before,"
Rabbi Sturm said. "I think
the other fear is that the
ultra-Orthodox factions, and
this is not particular to
Detroit, will not want to
meet with a woman presi-
dent if and when community
representatives get together
to discuss issues."
Rabbi Sturm said he could
think of two other instances
where women held the office
of president of a Young
Israel. One was at the Young
Israel of Tucson and the
other occurred at the Young
Israel of Greater Pittsburgh.
"But these were clearly
aberrations," he said.
Lillian Fisher, a superior
court judge in Tucson, de-
nied ever being president of
her Young Israel synagogue.
"They're mistaken,"
Judge Fisher said. "I was
never president, only
treasurer and secretary. And
it was only temporary be-
cause the shul was without
leadership and was falling
"I don't have a problem
with women not being able
to run for president," she
said. "It's a religious issue
and I leave American laws
at the synagogue door."
The Young Israel of
Greater Pittsburgh did not
respond to a telephone ques-
tion about the issue.
Dr. William Leuchter,
president of the Young
Israel of West Bloomfield,


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