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friday, may 28, 2010
W wo ov to om o! O gi to witing tt to t ito cn on on o W it: www.jtnw.nt/in.pp?/tt_giin.tmThe deadlINe fOr The NexT Issue Is JuNe 1
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Special to JTNews
Let’s get it out and get it over with. I ama Jewish Republican. When my relativesound out, they sat
or me. As then-chairman o the DemocraticNational Committee, Howard Dean,amously said on “Meet the Press:” “Ourmoral values, in contradiction to theRepublicans, is we don’t think kids oughtto go to bed hungry at night.”Face it. We read and view inorma-tion that conrms what we already know,and disregard inormation that contra-dicts our belies. You do. I do. We all do.rust me.I you’re like me, you’re burned out by the shrill tone o our (un)civil discourse. When we meet someone new, our anten-nae may pick up Democrat or Republi-can, but mentally we are determiningriend or oe. Both sides believe the very lie o the republic depends on winningon election day. In that charged atmo-sphere, we converse without hearing andunderstanding.I love politics, I ollow them avidly. But
dnking t mt
Jewish conservatives do exist, and they’re not as bad asthey are oten made out to be
Tat hundreds o rabbis came to theRabbinical Council o America’s annualconvention is not unusual. hat they came knowing that the long-anticipatedresolution on ordination o women asrabbis and on the role o women in Ortho-dox communal lie was being debatedand voted upon was something o whichto take note. Tis resolution marked theculmination o a tumultuous period o several months which were most chal-lenging to Orthodoxy and, on a personallevel, very trying as well.Here we are, resh rom having justcelebrated the Shavuos estival mark-ing Divine revelation and the giving o the orah. It is natural to appreciate the words at the very beginning o
: “Moshe received the orah romSinai and transmitted it to Joshua; Joshuato the Elders; the Elders to the Prophets;and the Prophets transmitted it to themembers o the Great Assembly.”Tis is the chain o transmission o the orah, o both the written law and theoral tradition that continues to this very day. Tis unbroken transmission has sus-tained our people or millennia, includingturmoil-lled centuries in the Diaspora. When Jerusalem was about to all to theRoman Legions in 70 C.E., the Roman gen-eral, Vespasian, oered Rabbi Yochananben Zakai the chance to make a request. When Rabbi Yochanan asked that the acad-emy at Yavneh and its sages be granted sal- vation, he was criticized by some or askingor something seemingly insigniicant.History has demonstrated his wisdom. Yavneh became the center or orahstudy ater the destruction o Jerusalem.It was here that orah lourished androm Yavneh was transmitted to uturegenerations. It is this
, our tradi-tion, passed rom generation to genera-tion, that has guaranteed the vibrancy o Jewish lie even thousands o years aterthe destruction o the emple.Several months ago, a well-knownOrthodox rabbi conerred the title “rabba”upon a woman, apparently ordaining her. A controversy ared within the Orthodox community. Many predicted a schism within Orthodoxy and a racturing o theRabbinical Council o America, the larg-est organization o Orthodox rabbis in the world. Because I serve as president o theRCA, I was immediately thrust into themidst o a very highly charged debate.Understandably, this discussionattracted the attention o the ull spectrumo the Jewish media. What was surpris-ing was the degree to which it captivatedthe secular media. We were contacted by publications such as the
Wall Street Jour-nal
New York Magazine
. Te storyline was the same or virtually all: A great con-ict in Orthodoxy threatened to split theOrthodox Jewish community.During the ensuing weeks it becameessential to preserve the unity o the RCA,an organization o a thousand rabbis rep-resenting the ull spectrum o ModernOrthodoxy, and to prevent a schism within the community. We needed to takea principled stance on this controver-sial issue to preserve our tradition, whileat the same time making it clear we ully endorse and encourage orah scholarshipat the most advanced levels or women.Te RCA applauds the creation o mean-ingul opportunities or positions o stat-ure that are proessionally satisying orlearned, committed Jewish women withinthe community and the synagogue.Certain changes can occur withintraditional Jewish lie, but innovationsthat aect the entire community mustbe undertaken only with a consensus o the rabbinate, which operates with rmunderpinnings within our tradition.In 1918, Sarah Schenirer, a seamstressrom Cracow, Poland, took note o the actthat Jewish women were being exposed toadvanced secular education. It was crucialthey have the opportunity to study orahas well. Her response was to establish theBeis Yaakov schools, a network that grew to over 200 schools in Eastern Europe, edu-cating more than 35,000 young women.Her initiative had the approval o leadingrabbis such as Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan,the Choetz Chaim, and Rabbi AvrahamMordechai Alter, the Gerrer Rebbe.More recently, leading gures suchas Rabbi Joseph Dov Soloveitchik advo-cated or enhanced opportunities ororah learning or women. Over the lasttwo decades, we have seen the growth o institutions or orah study or womenin the United States and Israel, includ-ing programs or the study o almudand
, Jewish law, on a sophis-ticated level. Te concept o advancedorah education or women is virtually universally accepted within the Ortho-dox Jewish world.he RCA leadership resisted callsto issue statements o condemnation.Instead, we engaged in dialogue. Inthe course o these conversations therabbi who had initially granted the title“rabba” made a commitment to notordain women as rabbis and to not conersuch a title. But this alone did not resolvethe issue. We appointed a broad-basedcommittee to crat a resolution to bepresented or adoption at the annual con- vention o the RCA. Te committee spenttwo months reaching out to various con-stituencies or input and crating a very careully worded resolution. We hoped toachieve a broad consensus.Tis is the text o the resolution pre-sented:
Resolution on Women’s CommunalRoles in Orthodox Jewish Lie
Adopted Without Dissent by the 51stConvention o Te Rabbinical Council o America1) Te owering o orah study andteaching by God-earing Orthodox women in recent decades stands as a sig-niicant achievement. he RabbinicalCouncil o America is gratied that our
have played a prominent role inacilitating these accomplishments.2) We members o the RabbinicalCouncil o America see as our sacredand joyul duty the practice and trans-mission o Judaism in all o its extraor-dinary, multiaceted depth and richness—
, tradition andhistorical memory.3) In light o the opportunity createdby advanced women’s learning, the Rab-binical Council o America encourages adiversity o
and communally appropriate proessional opportunitiesor learned, committed women, in theservice o our collective mission to pre-serve and transmit our heritage. Due toour aoresaid commitment to sacred con-tinuity, however, we cannot accept eitherthe ordination o women or the recogni-tion o women as members o the Ortho-dox rabbinate, regardless o the title.4) Young Orthodox women are now being reared, educated, and inspired by mothers, teachers and mentors who arethemselves beneiciaries o advanced women’s orah education. As memberso the new generation rise to positionso inuence and stature, we pray thatthey will contribute to an ever-broad-ening and ever-deepening wellspring o almud orah,
[earo heaven], and
[scru-pulous observance o commentaries].Te resolution was presented to theconvention and was discussed by rab-binic participants or two days. Tere wasopen debate and discussion on Monday night. When the vote was taken that nightater a lively debate, the resolution passed without opposition. Tis surpassed ourexpectations and hopes. A number o rabbis relected later on the dramatic vote, saying they elt they were part o a historic moment that night. Te spirito goodwill and desire to preserve unity rom the right and the let was palpable.Our sages teach us “
,” great is peace. Although the lastew months were raught with tryingmoments, there is great satisaction andprivilege to have played a role in a signi-cant moment in Orthodox Jewish lie.
Mking pc o womn
Rabbis confrm importance o women’s participation in Orthodox lie
Te article about the building o Jewish Family Service’s expansion(“New JFS building nally gets greenlight,” May 14) incorrectly stated thename o the new building. A namehas not yet been chosen or the new structure. Also, the Association o JewishLibraries convention (“Te keepers o the books o the people o the book,”May 14) will not eature a presenta-tion by the Jewish Federation’s direc-tor o Jewish education, as was listedin the “I you go” section. However,a one-day session or educators willaward teacher certiication credit(JC), stars and/or clock hours.
regrets the errors.