Religion, Sex & Gender

Rabbah Redux JTA reports that last month, the 140 member International Rabbinic Fellowship narrowly voted down admitting women to its ranks as either full or limited members.

The Dec. 20 vote came after what the president of the organization, Rabbi Barry Gelman of Houston, told The Jewish Week was a “wonderfully healthy and passionate discussion.”

This is the liberal orthodox group co-founded by R. Avi Weiss of Riverdale, where Rabbah Sara Hurwitz gained fame. Glad to hear that there was neither a rubber stamp nor a hasty thumbs down, but a vigorous debate.   Judaism always should be both vigours and a debate, a wrestling with God and the law.  In this respect, IRF demonstrates how it is similar to its Conservative cousins– not in that it would consider women as members, but that it would engage in thoughtful debate of the subject.

14 thoughts on “Rabbah Redux

  1. At the huge, enormous risk of being accused of being obsessed with numbers, does anyone know the vote? Some people may have different opinions as to what ‘close’ means.
    As to ‘thoughtful debate’ among the conservatives, here’s a handy dandy guide to the ‘thought’ concerning conservative decisions:
    Conservative decisions=Reform decisions+20years

  2. So, I wouldn’t want to cast aspersion indiscriminately, and it’s certainly entirely possible that there was a wonderful and passionate discussion, or whatever, but isn’t that what people always say after these kinds of meetings? The next story will probably report them saying that they deeply respect one another and look forward to meeting again soon.

  3. MO is behind Con by twenty more. And Recon is ahead of Ref. by six. Your point? Halakha is a process, not an end.

  4. Some groups rush to say 2+2=4, while others are too quick to say 2+2=5; thank God for those who are willing to have a vigorous debate.

  5. @B.BN
    My point is that if its absolutely predictable that the Conservatives will always photocopy the Reform responsa after 20 years, how can there be any ‘vigoruous debate’.

  6. So they decided in the end not to treat women like full and equal human beings, but they had a nice rigorous debate about it! Isn’t that encouraging. In the words of Martin Luther King, “Justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

  7. Brooklynjew, actually they weren’t even debating whether men and women would be equal or not because they’ll still have mechitza and Rabba Hurwitz will still be unable to lead certain parts of the service.
    B.BarNavi, I actually wouldn’t call IRF MO, but Open Orthodox. I think there’s a growing and important difference between Avi Weiss’ group(s) and MO.

  8. Dave– Sociological trends affect everyone. That doesn’t mean that people aren’t debating or drawing their own conclusions, only that they are also affected by larger forces. The rabbis’ view of how halakhah should work was affected by Roman notions about what constitutes a legitimate religious tradition; that doesn’t mean their debates are meaningless. (See Lisa Grushcow’s article on this in Conservative Judaism.)

  9. So they refuse to take even a baby step towards recognizing women as equals, and get applauded because they argued about it first?

  10. @Sarah M That it was reportedly a close vote indicates that a) many apparently already DO recognize them as thus and b) they felt that a debate among their colleagues might be taken seriously enough to merit a vote.
    I’d say those are certainly baby steps, and any of them are to be applauded and encouraged.

    1. But why is this debate inherently better than moving immediately to the correct decision (whichever decision that is — I have my opinion, but others have theirs too)?

  11. A process by which issues important to IRF’s interpretation of Judaism are wrestled with before making a decision is inherently better than say a Papal Bull, in that it a) reflects the reality of individual communities following the views of their own local Rabbis and b) shows that such ideas are up for actual debate and these views can be brought before the group for adoption and c) that various factors are taken into consideration in the process of decision making.
    I wish to point out that the question was not if women could be ordained as Rabbis but whether or not they would be admitted as members to the IRF. It was also not “Should women be excluded from membership in the IRF?” A subtle but important semantic difference.

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