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Rabbi Urges Synagogue Equality

A New York rabbi proposed the disbanding of synagogue sisterhoods which he said had deterred women from positions of synagogue leadership by channeling their activities into what have been considered “traditionally feminine or supportive roles.” The proposal was made by Rabbi A. James Rudin, assistant director of the American Jewish Committee interreligious affairs department, at a panel discussion on the women’s movement and the Jewish community, at the 68th annual meeting of the AJ Committee here.

Rabbi Rudin said “it’s time we dropped all the women’s clubs and all the men’s clubs so that we can really have congregations.” He said sisterhoods “have done some fine things but their existence has prevented women from moving into the mainstream leadership of synagogues. It’s the executive committee of a congregation that sets the budget — and the executive committee still meets in the men’s room.”

Rabbi Rudin proposed the “active recruitment of Jewish women for the rabbinate, the cantorate and positions of real professional responsibility in the Jewish community, especially in national Jewish organizations and the various community Federations.”

WOMEN MUST TAKE THE LEAD

Arthur L. Kimmelfield, a New York member of the AJ Committee’s Executive Council, said women must take the lead in moving the Jewish community toward accepting full equality of both sexes. He said Jewish women “have been too modest about making their demands. They still defer to the men in interpreting Jewish traditions and rituals and they are waiting for the men to deliver an affirmative action program of Jewish communal participation instead of developing and offering one of their own.”

Dr. Nancy Wyner, assistant principal of Larchmont Schools, Larchmont, N.Y., another panelist, said the Jewish community had no provisions for including the independent woman in its religious and communal activities. She offered four recommendations on how the Jewish community might correct its “current neglect” of women.

She proposed creation of day care centers “completely immersed in Jewish tradition” to relieve mothers of being the sole transmitters of Jewish identity; more opportunities for women to participate in Jewish ritual; provision for rabbinical counseling, or training women to perform such counseling in the synagogue to support changes in the life-style of women; and more open discussions in the Jewish community.

Karen De Crow of Syracuse, N.Y. a leader in the National Organization for Women, asserted that all Jewish religious ceremonies and communal activities were male-oriented and male-dominated. She cited funeral services, the Haggadah, Sunday school teaching, fund-raising drives and rallies for Israel and Soviet Jewry.

She said one thing that particularly troubled her about Jewish men was “the basis from which they challenge affirmative action guidelines,” declaring that they “have not been thinking of Jews but of Jewish men. They have totally ignored the incredible job discrimination suffered by Jewish women.”

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