What’s wrong with this headline?

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Today’s Jerusalem Post had an article that began as follows:

Woman rabbi flies to US to preach aliya

It’s not every day that you meet a rabbi wearing a sleeveless, green dress, especially in a state dominated by a strictly Orthodox establishment. But then again, Rabbi Kinneret Shiryon, spiritual leader of Kehillat Yozma, Modi’in’s Reform congregation, is not your average Israeli rabbi. And now she is involved in a unique initiative, together with Modi’in’s Mayor Moshe Spector, to encourage members of US Reform congregations to make aliya. (MORE)

Now I am guilty of the same crime as the headline writer. I frequently refer to female clergy as “woman rabbis” or “woman cantors.”

These are actually rather common terms, heard even in the Reform and Conservative Movements where women make up a significant portion of those in seminary at HUC, JTS and American Jewish University, formerly UJ. (I don’t know if this is as prevalent in the Reconstructionist Movement, but I would guess so.)

Is there anything, aside from gender, that actually distinguishes female from male rabbis in these more progressive movements? Do they have different responsibilities? Not that I know of. I certainly do not hear of non-female rabbis called “male rabbis.”

Yes, there are still Jews in these movements who are uncomfortable with a female having a pulpit. Unofficially, there are synagogues that would not hire a female rabbi, particularly to be the head spiritual leader.

But regardless of how one feels about females in clergy positions, it is essential to be careful with terminology as to not demean the education, skills and position these rabbis have attained.

After all, I wouldn’t want to be described as a female editor.

Posted on July 6, 2007

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4 thoughts on “What’s wrong with this headline?

  1. jskobin

    You raise a good point. I think that the headline says a lot about the current state of not only the Jewish community, but of where we are as a nation. Think about how many people refer to Sandra Day O’Connor as the first female Spreme Court Justice. Also, while the headline may not be an intentional slight to all of Rabbi Kinneret Shiryon’s achievments, it is newsworthy because it is out of the ordinary.

  2. DK

    “But regardless of how one feels about females in clergy positions, it is essential to be careful with terminology as to not demean the education, skills and position these rabbis have attained.”

    True, but a headline’s purpose is different. This headline signals a couple of reversals. One is that a Reform rabbi is spreading Zionism. Another is that she dresses more womanly than clerically. See the sleeveless dress reference.

    I can’t condemn an editor for tagging a story with a headline like this. You may have a point, but not here.

  3. The Doctor

    Slightly off-topic question.

    Every Reform rabbi and reform congregation I know is pro-Israel and pro-Zionist. As far as I know, the Union for Reform Judaism takes stands supporting Israel.

    DK says it’s a “reversal” for a Reform rabbi to be pro-Zionist; that’s not my experience.

    I’ve heard it bandied about here that Reform Judaism is anti-Israel. Can anyone provide documentation, or is this a prejudice that should be discarded, like “all chabadniks are smugly superior to other Jews” or “the conservative Jews don’t accept reform conversions”?

  4. gilbert

    according to Jewish history by funk and wagnalls jewish encyclopedia…the hebrew calendar is a lunar calendar…I have a hebrew calendar according to the torah…do you want it?

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