Rabbis Without Borders
Rabbis Without Borders is a dynamic forum for exploring contemporary issues in the Jewish world and beyond. Written by rabbis of different denominations, viewpoints, and parts of the country, Rabbis Without Borders is a project of Clal – The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.
The words “religious feminist” seem like an oxymoron. How can someone be both? The three main Western religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam are misogynistic. If you have any doubt about this statement, delve in to the sacred texts on these religions and it will soon become clear.
When I started to seriously explore Judaism in college, I was shocked by how poorly women were portrayed in the sacred literature, and how women held a second-class status in traditional Judaism. I was raised to believe that women and men were equal in every way. My consciousness was further raised by talking women’s studies classes, learning about the male gaze, and being aware of when and where women’s voices were not heard. The more I studied Judaism the more aware I became of the voices that were missing from the traditional texts.
These missing voices pained me. I loved the different facets of my identity, being both a Jew and a woman, and I did not want them to be in conflict. Yet, as I entered rabbinical school, and increased my knowledge of Jewish texts the more pain I felt. At times, I wanted to walk away from my Judaism. And yet, something always called me back. I loved Shabbat, singing with friends, and arguing about the meaning behind so many Jewish rituals and practices. Most of all, I believed that God does see all genders as equal. After all, God created us. I decided that centuries of missing voices had to be redeemed. I, along with the other female rabbis and Jewish scholars, needed to stay in the tradition and add our voices so that future generations could hear them.
I am not alone in my struggle to hold both my feminist and religious identities. A new book, “Faithfully Feminist” shares the personal stories of 45 women: 15 Jews, 15 Christians, and 15 Muslims, who have struggled with their identities as religious women. Each story is as unique as the woman who has lived it. The questions, pain, and triumph these women share are deep and powerful. This book is for anyone who has wrestled with different parts of themselves and wants to be inspired by stories of empowerment.
Every year as part of my own spiritual preparations for Rosh Hashanah, I choose a book that will help me in my own self-reflection and growth. This year, “Faithfully Feminist” is my book. I have learned from each of these women’s stories and their courage. As we prepare for a New Year, may we all grow to accept every part of ourselves, and share our voices with those who need to hear them.
Pronounced: roshe hah-SHAH-nah, also roshe ha-shah-NAH, Origin: Hebrew, the Jewish new year.