[pullquote align=right] I write this not only as an observant Jew and a feminist, but also as a woman raised in modern Orthodoxy
[/pullquote]I am angered and disappointed by the news that the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) officially banned women ordained in a rabbinical position from teaching in Orthodox institutions.
I would like to use this timely opportunity to urge the modern Orthodox leadership to take the RCA’s ban as a call to take action towards inclusivity. Some modern Orthodox institutions have been contemplating hiring a female spiritual leader, while others, like Ohev Sholom-The National Synagogue, have already integrated a maharat into their clergy. I write this not only as an observant Jew and a feminist, but also as a woman who was raised in the modern Orthodox community in Greater Washington and witnessed the beautiful ways it has created more spaces for women to participate in a halachic setting. Thirteen years ago today, when I was bat mitzvah’d at Beth Sholom Congregation in Potomac, the only way I could mark that milestone was by delivering a speech on that week’s parshah. I now see bnot mitzvah read from the Torah while nine of their male family members cycle through the room to witness this incredible mitzvah. I always enjoyed reading from Megillat Esther alongside my mother and sister at the women’s reading on Purim; this year I was privileged to hear Rebbetzin Sarah Antine’s beautiful reading of Kohelet for the entire congregation on Shavuot.
[pullquote align=left] This ban is just one reason why young Jews like myself are abandoning traditional models
[/pullquote]The Orthodox community often wrings its hands over young people who are increasingly “unaffiliated”; this ban is just one reason why young Jews like myself are abandoning traditional models of denomination and congregation. Since moving to downtown DC three years ago, I have regularly attended independent minyanim following egalitarian or partnership models, where I have the freedom to leyn (chant Torah) and lead davening (prayer). I felt alienated at Kesher Israel, where most women are corralled out of view in the upstairs balcony, and the synagogue’s female president is prohibited from sitting on the bima (altar) with the rest of the shul leadership. I need not go further into the consequences that the lack of female spiritual leaders and the influence of the RCA has had for Kesher Israel’s female members.
[pullquote align=right] Make a space for female leadership so young women can have a teacher and role model
[/pullquote]I implore the modern Orthodox leadership to make a space for a female spiritual leader at their congregation or institution–be she a maharat, a yoetzet halachah, or a rabba–both so that young men can see a woman inhabiting a spiritual leadership role, and to ensure that the next generation of young women can have a teacher and role model.