Saturday, May 05, 2007

Women Rabbis

I was honored this week to attend my first Women's Rabbinic Network Convention, held here in Chicago at the Allerton Hotel downtown. I say honored because it truly seemed like an honor to be able to share a few days with a whole group of my female colleagues. Although I was a little bit distracted by the presence of my baby, I still felt like I was a part of something incredible -- an opportunity to be with all those women who share not only my passions but my profession!

The Chicago Tribune covered the event (as did NPR, the week before, but I can't find the story online anywhere), with the following story:

As Rabbi Andrea Weiss discussed the book of Exodus, the female rabbis listening were captivated by the new lessons being taught.The Israelites' flight from Egypt is told using masculine imagery, Weiss said, with God as a manly warrior defeating the enemies of Israel. But after the Israelites cross the sea, Exodus tells miraculous stories of God feeding his people, raining manna from the heavens."This can be seen as the female image of God, providing food and drink," said Weiss, assistant professor at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York.

The provocative theological discussion, held this week at the Allerton Hotel in Chicago, offered a sneak peek into a new women's commentary on the Torah, the first comprehensive commentary written entirely by female rabbis and Jewish scholars."The Torah: A Women's Commentary," which URJ Press will publish in the fall, took more than a decade to produce and includes essays, commentaries and interpretations from more than 80 of the world's leading Jewish female Bible scholars, rabbis, historians, philosophers and archeologists." This commentary is likely to open up a whole new conversation about gender," said Rabbi Hara Person, editor in chief of URJ Press. "With this, gender becomes another lens through which we can study the text."

"I think for a long time we've been left out," said Rachel Havrelock, professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a contributor to the groundbreaking project. "The purpose of this is to help women feel at home in our own faith."

The preview of the commentary was presented to more than 100 women from the United States and Israel at a conference of female rabbis. Judaism's Reform movement began ordaining women in 1972, and since then some 400 women have been ordained.

Read the rest here.

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