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APPENDIX A Brief Review of Women's Religious Participation in the Twentieth Century The twentieth century represents the first time Jewish women as a group openly challenged their tradition and pushed for full participation in Jewish religious and communal life. The more liberal denominations of Judaism, especially those in North America, were the first to introduce such change. Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, founder of the Reconstructionist movement in the United States, initiated the Bat Mitzvah ceremony for girls. In 1922, he called his own daughter, Judith, up for an aliyah to the Torah on her twelfth birthday , a bold move that went relatively unnoticed by the Jewish world until it was later adopted by Reform and Conservative congregations.1 In 1956, the Committee on Law and Standards, the legal body of Conservative Jewry in the United States, quietly ruled that it was not against Jewish law to call women to the Torah for an aliyah.2 This ruling cleared the way for adopting the ritual of Saturday Bat Mitzvah, but remained unnoticed and with little effect on older women for twenty years. Sally Priesand broke the barrier for women in the rabbinate in 1972 and became the first (Reform) rabbi ordained by a rabbinical seminary.3 Although women such as Lily Montagu in England and Ray Frank and Paula Ackerman in the United States4 had fulfilled a rabbinical role in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, they had done so without official ordination by a community of rabbis. Regina Jonas, the first Jewish woman to become a Reform rabbi in Germany, was privately ordained in 1931 after being refused ordination by the Berlin Academy for the Science of Judaism. She worked for a short time as a hospital chaplain but died in Auschwitz in 1942.5 By the 1970s, at least parts of the established Jewish community were ready to accept women clergy, and 275 276 Appendix other women, already studying for the rabbinate in the Reform and Reconstructionist movements, soon followed Priesand. In this same decade, individuals in the Conservative movement were agitating for change in different areas. A small group of women, all yeshivah educated, had been studying Jewish law together. They came to the conclusion that it was not illegal for women to fulfill commandments and take public roles. Within the talmudic statements concerning these issues, they claimed, there was room for interpretation and different understandings. With the encouragement of a burgeoning feminist movement, this group, calling itself Ezrat Nashim (the Women's Section), arrived at the Conservative Rabbinical Convention in 1973 and made their demands. Women should be given full membership in Conservative synagogues, called up to the Torah, counted in a prayer quorum (minyan), and ordained as rabbis.6 The Conservative Committee on Jewish Law and Standards undertook investigation into those demands, and over the course of ten years all were accepted by the Conservative movement in theory.7 The implementation of these rulings was left to individual rabbis and congregations, however, and by the opening of the twenty-first century, many still had not accepted them. The Orthodox movement has resisted such changes and remains steadfastly attached to the older traditions that have been in place for centuries. However, reflecting their own sensitivity to changing times, they have made important concessions to women.8 A significant rise in the education of girls is opening up new doors of opportunity to Orthodox women to study in yeshivahs organized and run especially for them. This has resulted in increasing numbers of women scholars who are learned in Jewish law. Women advocates (to'anot batei din) are now operating in Israel to help women through the intricacies of the rabbinical court system.9 Many women scholars have written responsa on legal issues pertinent to women.tO In addition, the Women's Tefilla Network, operated primarily by Orthodox women in cities throughout the United States, holds allfemale services and gives women a chance to lead and participate fully in the traditional rituals. Even more recent is the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA), which promotes activisim and supports women's rights in Orthodox circles.11 All these developments may be innovations in Judaism, but the concept of change itself has been ongoing throughout Jewish history and continues even in the most conservative bastions of tradition. In Israel, despite continued opposition, a small number of women from all denominations gather once a month for a Torah service at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Calling themselves "Women of the Wall," they...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780827609747
Related ISBN
9780827607521
MARC Record
OCLC
676699912
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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