In my focus on the back-room machinations in advance of next week’s RCA convention, I neglected to mention the public urging on issue of Orthodox women’s leadership.
Unsurprisingly, the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance has led the charge, with this letter they sent April 12 to members of the RCA:
Please encourage the RCA’s members to create professionally meaningful and halakhically appropriate opportunities for women within our Orthodox institutions. Rather than engage in semantic discussions about whether or not it’s halakhic for a woman to become a rabbi, or make divisive statements about a woman’s role in Judaism, we urge the RCA to focus instead on finding new ways for this motivated group of learned women to thrive. They are ready to make an impact in the Orthodox world—in our synagogues, at our schools, and within our homes. We ask that you encourage them in their journey and help find places for them, so that they may be able to transmit their knowledge and experience to others in our community, thereby enriching the Jewish community.
There has also been a grassroots petition started that, as of this writing, has just over 1,200 signatures. The text reads, in part:
While the RCA seems to place more importance on the semantics of titles rather than confronting the underlying issue, Jewish women across America are waiting with bated breath to see whether the RCA will include women in communal decision-making and allow them to fulfill their full potential as members of the Jewish community. Thus far in its 75 years of existence, the male structure of the RCA and synagogues around America have dictated our communal development. Even if the emergence of women religious leaders, such as Rabba Hurwitz, may be an uncomfortably large leap for the RCA at this point, there are still many steps that organizations and synagogues could take to include women in communal decision-making and in leadership capacities that would serve the important function of including the creative and powerful voice of Jewish women.