The Traditional Jewish Feminist

A dear friend asked my opinion regarding the RCA rejection of female rabbis.

I delayed responding because it is somewhat emotionally painful for me.
There are three main reactions which I have seen. There are those who support the resolution, those who are against it and those that recognize that despite any particular opinion towards the resolution itself, it is somewhat irrelevant as there already exists legitimate options for those women who want to receive ordination both in Israel and the Diaspora.

It cannot be denied that there is a strong need today for women in religious/spiritual roles. It also cannot be denied that regardless of title these voids are currently being filled successfully by caring erudite women either as yoetzot or spiritual advisers.

Seemingly the only reason those in the RCA who are against women “rabbis” is that it goes against tradition. Regardless of their awareness and acceptance of a tradition that has changed over time in areas such as women learning, teaching  and filling roles such as yoetzot, etc., they only ipso facto condone changes in tradition once they become normative behavior. The bottom line is they fear change. Although people are quick to label the RCA resolution as sexist or an effort to align themselves with the right wing’s rejection of progressive streams of Modern Orthodoxy, I believe them at their word that it is simply a fear of breaking from tradition.

Alternatively, we have women who are dead set on changing the status quo, but not content in a slow evolutionary trajectory. They want acknowledgement, titles and positions that they could otherwise easily attain if they were men. It is not enough for them that this is done under the radar. They want to be accepted and acknowledged by mainstream orthodoxy because they believe it is just and fair.

My main concern has, is, and hopefully always will be, what is a halachically sound reality that will not divide our people. It should be of prime importance to resolve conflicts in a way that takes into account not just halacha and tradition, but also the spiritual vitality and the needs of the entire nation. What I am witnessing thus far is not so.

The rabbis want to preserve the past and present, whereas the “feminists” want to change present and future. Each one holding tight and fighting for what they believe to be right.

As to my opinion…..

I believe tradition is important, but I also think women leaders are not just a nice option, but a must at this point in our society. Women are suffering and when women suffer men and children suffer too. We can’t afford not to change, but we also can NOT afford more divisiveness. We continue to find issues daily which further splinter our people while we fight and slander one another.

We do more damage than anything else. This point seems to elude all parties involved

I feel pain and anguish like a child caught watching a family feud in the not so far distance — wanting, hoping, praying desperately for everyone to stop fighting and get along.

These issues are resolvable if only we cared and loved each other enough to try and work them out respectfully.

About the Author
Aliza Lipkin is a firm lover and believer in her country, her people and her G-d. She moved from the land of the free (America) to the home of the brave (Israel) 10 years ago and now resides with her family in Maaleh Adumim.