When Beth Hurvitz, a fifty-two-year-old Senior Vice President of Visa and single mother of a thirteen-year-old daughter, was asked to become the first woman president of her synagogue , the Hebrew Institute of White Plains, she agreed on one condition: that her friend and colleague Deborah Weinberger would share the job with her.
Take a moment from the busy, at times cynical, lives we lead and listen to one person’s story – for she wrote us all a letter:
To whom it may concern,
By Ilana Kurshan
By Rachel Lieberman
"All of women’s gains [in the Orthodox community] are attached to a piece of string attached to telephone poles.”—Blu Greenberg
The Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance and the Yeshiva University Museum collaborated to present a fascinating panel discussion on the eruv’stransformation of women’s roles in the Jewish community. The panel followed a guided tour of the exhibit “It’s a Thin Line: the Eruv and the Jewish Community in New York and Beyond.” The panel featured Dr. Sylvia Barack Fishman, Professor of Sociology and Judaic Studies at Brandeis University, Blu Greenberg, author and founder of JOFA, and Rabbi Yaakov Kermaier, rabbi at the Fifth Avenue Synagogue and chairman of the Manhattan Eruv Committee, and was moderated by Rabbi Adam Mintz.
Dr. Tamar Frankiel, an accomplished and impressive Jewish scholar, was recently appointed President of the Academy for Jewish Religion in California (AJRCA), making her the first Orthodox woman to head a rabbinical college. The author of seven books on Jewish mysticism and religion, including one on women in Judaism titled, The Voice of Sarah: Feminine Spirituality and Traditional Judaism, Dr. Frankiel has an illustrious record of teaching and scholarship and is considered a leading expert on Jewish mysticism. In honor of her new appointment, Dr. Frankiel shared some of her experiences and insights with JOFA Executive Director Elana Sztokman:
By Elana Sztokman
Three years ago this month, Rabba Sara Hurwitz made history in the Jewish world by becoming the first publicly ordained female rabbi in the Orthodox community. Since then, the 35-year-old mother of three has been working as Dean of Yeshivat Maharat, an institution dedicated to training women Orthodox clergy, as well as working as Rabba at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale. The first three women are set to graduate this June with the title of Maharat — an acronym for “Religious, spiritual, Torah leaders” — marking yet another important milestone for women in Orthodoxy. Rabba Hurwitz spoke to The Sisterhood to explain what this all means.
By Gavriel Brown
“I’m not a feminist.”
“So you don’t believe in equal opportunity or equal pay?” I ask. “Oh, but of course I do.”
This trope stings my ear whenever I hear it, and I hear it all too often. In my experience at Yeshiva University, feminism is treated as a pathology and feminists are labeled as liberal fanatics; admit to being a feminist, and you must be a bra-burning, man-hating lesbian or an emasculated weirdo. It is therefore not surprising that a vast majority of women (and men, but that goes without saying) don’t consider themselves feminists and many of the most committed, politically engaged and active student leaders at Stern College shy away from the term. This troubles me.
By Rabbi Zev Farberg
Partnership minyanim such as Shira Hadasha in Jerusalem and Darkhei Noam in New York, wherein women lead certain parts of the service, are becoming a significant force in the prayer experience of the Modern Orthodox community. Although these currently exist only in the biggest Jewish communities, they also exist on numerous college campuses, and as time goes on the phenomenon will probably expand. For some, like me, this is an exciting possibility. However, those in the Modern Orthodox camp who believe that women’s leadership of any part of the synagogue service is a violation of halakha, are concerned.
By Helyn Steppa
My daughter has a heart of glass and someone’s bound to break it
My daughter knows her worth so she knows when someone takes it
Judy Abel, JOFA's VP of communications, is a seasoned journalist and mother of three living on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. She also is the current president of the Yavneh Minyan, as well as one of its key founders. As part of the JOFA series on women's leadership and women women presidents, JOFA Executive Director Elana Sztokman asked Judy about her work as shulpresident and her vision of Orthodox women's leadership:
WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME SHUL PRESIDENT?
I became the president of Kehilat Yavneh, which my husband, Michael Brill, and I founded, upon its inception in December 2006.