21 December 2012

Women Rabbis - Who Needs to Be Comfortable?

Thank you to Marc Leibowitz for bringing to my attention this exchange on the Atlantic blog, following up on an Op-Ed in the Washington Post about how we view women clergy.

I will add my limited wisdom here:

First of all, on the other side, I cannot tell you how many times (with different congregations), I have heard the story of the religious school child who asked the question, "Boys can grow up to be rabbis, too?".  

I am only too grateful for the pioneering women who became rabbis, paving the way for a more gender inclusive Judaism, as well as chevre for me as a Reform Rabbi.  While there are still many things that still need to be fixed (pay equity, for one), there is no way that I could enumerate all the benefits of having Rabbi Regina Jonas (z'l), Rabbi Sally Preisand, and my friends Rabbi Shira Stern, Rabbi Julie Wolkoff, and Rabbi Sue Levi-Elwell (to name just a few) to pave the way so that I could have so many female rabbis as mentors, models, and colleagues.

I will add that I am not one who fears the "feminization of the rabbinate" or feels the need for men to recapture Jewish ritual, the bimah, or the leadership of the Reform movement (still overwhelmingly led by men). 

Comortable? After all, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (supposedly) said that is a rabbi's job to  “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable".

17 December 2012

HaKotel, The Western Wall

Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu,

I regularly subscribe to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs webblast, and so I read with interest the Cabinet Communique from yesterday  morning (16 December 2012).  The headline quoted you as follows:

PM Netanyahu: The Western Wall symbolizes the foundation of our existence here for thousands of years. We will stand steadfast in the face of all those who want to expel us from here. The State of Israel, Jerusalem and the Western Wall will remain ours forever.

In this hope and commitment, I agree with you one-hundred percent.  Yet, I find it ironic that you made this statement about lighting a menorah at the Western Wall (haKotel), in the very same week that a new ordinance has prohibited women from bringing ritual objects to that site.  Golda Meir, or any other future female Israeli PM, would be unable to complete that same action, according to the latest regulation.

When I read your statement, I would like to interpret the "we" to include not only myself - a male, but also my colleague, Rabbi Elyse Frishman, who was detained (along with three other women) at the Kotel on this past Friday for attempting to pray with Nashot haKotel on Rosh Chodesh Tevet. (http://www.jta.org/news/article/2012/12/16/3114626/women-detained-at-western-wall-for-entering-with-prayer-shawls)

Rabbi Frishman shared a powerful statement with her congregation, which you may not be aware of (http://www.arza.org/Articles/index.cfm?id=2456) and which I am sharing with my congregation, along with this letter.

Please know, Prime Minister, that my congregation is a strong supporter of the State of Israel, and an equally strong supporter of the rights of ALL Jews to feel at home in our homeland.  We, too, "will stand steadfast in the face of all those who want to expel us from here" and we hope that we will all be able to stand that way together, in person, and soon.

Thank you, and Chodesh Tov,

Rabbi Joel N. Abraham

Rabbi Joel N. Abraham

Temple Sholom of Scotch Plains/Fanwood, NJ
(908) 889-4900

"The more Torah, the more life" - Hillel