Reform women’s Torah commentary debuts


A project that Reform officials are saying is the first comprehensive treatment of all the Torah portions by women scholars will be unveiled this week.

“The Torah: A Women’s Commentary,” a 14-year effort by Women of Reform Judaism, will have its debut Dec. 13 at the biennial conference of the Union for Reform Judaism in San Diego.

While there have been several recent books focusing on women in the Bible, or giving a feminine perspective on biblical history, Reform officials say this project is a landmark.

“We’re at a point in the history of Bible study where for the first time in history we have a critical mass of serious scholars who are women,” said Rabbi Hara Person, chief editor of URJ Press, which published the book. “So partly this has to do with the timing. And certainly there is a need for women’s perspectives to fill in the gaps.”

The book will be laid out much like the Plaut or Hertz Torah, Person said, with each parashah, or portion, in Hebrew and English. Each portion will be followed by five types of commentary, all written by women: a main scholarly commentary; an opposing or additional scholarly viewpoint; a post-biblical interpretation; a contemporary reflection of the text’s relevance to modern life by a rabbi, scholar or Jewish leader; and a selection of poetic responses.

The project began as a challenge to the Reform movement 14 years ago by Cantor Sarah Sager, Person said, to write a Torah commentary “that reflects women’s experiences and women’s voices.”

Women of Reform Judaism raised $1.5 million and spearheaded the project. The book retails for $75 and will be available from URJ Press beginning Dec. 15.

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