This just in and sparking serious conversations on listservs and blogs galore – the Rabbinic Council of America, after their 51st annual conference, issued a press release on the status of women in Orthodox Jewish life:
1) The flowering of Torah study and teaching by God-fearing Orthodox women in recent decades stands as a significant achievement. The Rabbinical Council of America is gratified that our chaverim [members] have played a prominent role in facilitating these accomplishments.2) We members of the Rabbinical Council of America see as our sacred and joyful duty the practice and transmission of Judaism in all of its extraordinary, multifaceted depth and richness – halakhah[Jewish law], hashkafah[Jewish thought], tradition and historical memory.
3) In light of the opportunity created by advanced women’s learning, the Rabbinical Council of America encourages a diversity of halakhically and communally appropriate professional opportunities for learned, committed women, in the service of our collective mission to preserve and transmit our heritage. Due to our aforesaid commitment to sacred continuity, however, we cannot accept either the ordination of women or the recognition of women as members of the Orthodox rabbinate, regardless of the title.
4) Young Orthodox women are now being reared, educated, and inspired by mothers, teachers and mentors who are themselves beneficiaries of advanced women’s Torah education. As members of the new generation rise to positions of influence and stature, we pray that they will contribute to an ever-broadening and ever-deepening wellspring of talmud Torah, yir’at Shamayim[fear of Heaven], and dikduk be-mitzvot[scrupulous observance of commandments].
I’m a little confused. How does the Rabbinical Council of America transmit Judaism “in all its depth” when they do not transmit the title of rabbi or the training that creates the process of becoming one to women? When the future of Judaism depends on more members of the community actively practicing Judaism, it would make sense to make it accessible everyone who wants to learn. If women are already receiving “advanced women’s Torah education” (question: how is this different from advanced men’s Torah education?), what should stop them from becoming rabbis? Furthermore, how can they contribute to this “ever-broadening” and “ever-deepening” well of Judaism if they are not given the training, title, or pulpit to do so?
Bottom line: this portion of the press release seems extremely unproductive. Nothing new is being said in terms of women in Orthodoxy. As the discrimination continues so does the inaction to end it. Yes, there are halakhic reasons, but as for those, I ask: Who created halakha? Male rabbis. Would halakha be different had women participated in its binding structure? Absolutely. Were they able to? No. That is why I am writing this post. It’s time to include women in positions of leadership across the denominations so that – one day – Judaism becomes inclusive and empowering to all who desire the power rather than exclusive and male-centric.