Do Orthodox rabbis abuse the power they have over women?
The case of Barry Freundel, the influential rabbi of Congregation Kesher Israel in Washington, D.C., who was arrested last week on charges of videotaping women undressing to use the synagogue’s mikveh, has catapulted the issue of rabbinic abuse of power into the headlines. It has generated widespread emotions of anger, distrust and disgust, and raised questions about men’s influence on female use of the mikveh for family purity and in the conversion process. It has also prompted calls for new communal policies to give women a greater voice in Orthodox life.
When it comes to hardware stores, count me as a One-Day-A-Year Jew — and that day is comes around just before the holiday of Sukkot, when over the years I would struggle to put up our family sukkah in the backyard. Thank God it only has to stand for eight days.
Illustrating his assertion that Israel “is a tough sell” because of its policies toward the Palestinians and its negative image internationally, longtime Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, 73, observed the other day, “You couldn’t get Paul Newman to play [an Israeli war hero] in ‘Exodus’ today, people would laugh at it. It’s a pity.”
I imagine that it was far easier for progressive Jewish organizations and synagogues to attract young Jews to participate in Sunday’s People’s Climate March than, say, attend a rally in support of Israel or come to synagogue on the High Holy Days.
It’s just an observation, not a value judgment, and I can’t prove it, but that’s the sense I have, based on conversations with people across the generations. And I think it bears exploring why that is and what it portends for our Jewish future.
On the eve of 5775, more than 50 Jewish thought leaders and communal activists from around the country gathered at a retreat near Baltimore last week for 48 hours to talk about whatever was on their mind. Not surprisingly, their frank discussions covered a wide range of themes and interests. But bottom-line, the common thread was a deep concern about Jewish unity — more precisely, the lack of it — over the policies of the State of Israel, and the denominational divides that underscore the dearth of religious and communal leadership at home.