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February 26, 1993 - Image 25

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-02-26

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Affording the best is not the
question...finding the best is.

onservative Debate

omen's issue continues to evolve.



lthough Conservative
Jews have modernized
many of their views re-
garding women, ulti-
mately individual congre-
gations – not the movement
- will determine the female
Fate, Dr. David Kraemer said.
Dr. Kraemer, associate pro-
essor of Talmud at JTS,
spoke about the role of worn-
an i in the Conservative move-
ment last week, addressing a
breakfast-and-learn group
rom the perspective of rev-
lution versus evolution.
"There is no question, look-
g at society, that the posi-
ion of women has changed
respect to attitudes. But
he truth is attitudes and re-
ality are not always identi-
cal," Dr. Kraemer said. "Our
society is conservative, and


"The role of
women will
ultimately be
left up to the

— Dr. David Kraemer

that includes Jewish society."
Dr. Kraemer said when
groups address an issue such
as the role of women within
a society, the approach of that
sect comes to light. For ex-
ample, the role of women in
Orthodox society has not al-
tered as quickly or as radi-
cally as in Reform Jewish
"The Reform community
has prided itself in its revo-
lution," Dr. Kraemer said. "So
the question is, how does the
Conservative movement de-
fine itself?"
Conservative rabbis have
sought to answer modern
questions from the original
sources from which Jewish
law was created – Torah and
"Since Torah is the word of
God, it is both perfect and
eternal," Dr. Kraemer said.
"We need to be clever in seek-
ing precedence in interpreta-
tion of Torah and Talmud to
answer all questions. The law
never changes. Only the
questions do."
Accordingly, Conservative
rabbis approached the ques-
tion of the role of women by
looking to see if a restriction
against female rabbis exist-

ed. Dr. Kraemer presented
two alternatives, both from
the Mishnah.
One argument against
women as rabbis says no
woman is eligible to head the
state, and thus it follows that
only men may hold appoint-
ed office. The argument for
women rabbis says anyone el-
igible to act as judge is also
eligible to bear witness.
"Deborah was a judge. And
the last of the Maccabee lead-
ers was a queen. And rabbi is
not an appointed office," Dr.
Kraemer said.
JTS recognized, according
to those arguments, that no
obstacle existed to the ordi-
nation of women as rabbis.
However, the question of dai-
ly responsibilities of rabbis
was raised. Can women count
in a minyan and act as a
shaliach tzibor, representa-
tive of prayer for the congre-
gation? Conservative rab-
bis looked to the issue of obli-
gation as a source for an-
"The arguments against
are weak. Nowhere are re-
sponsibilities forbidden. It's
a question of obligation," Dr.
Kraemer said.
Dr. Kraemer cited Rashi,
claiming women are not for-
bidden from praying on vari-
ous holidays. They are not
obligated, but they should not
be prevented.
"Thus, if a woman accepts
the yoke of commandments,
it is presumed she has the
same level of obligation as a
man. Women can be rabbis,"
Dr. Kraemer said.
Supporting these argu-
ments, JTS began accepting
women into its rabbinic and
cantorial programs. Dr.
Kraemer viewed this change
as more evolutionary than
"If it is revolution, then
how can JTS support it? Con-
servative Judaism needs to
admit at times revolution is
required and evolution will
catch up," he said. "We need
traditions to give us a place,
but we need to address our
struggles, too. If our minds
are the gift of God, and our
judgment the will of God,
then the evaluations we
make are an extension of the
Torah, and thus traditional.
"The question of the role of
women, especially in partici-
pation in minyan, will ulti-
mately be left up to the
individual congregations," he
added. ❑

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