I read with a mix of admiration and frustration, as well as a touch of amusement, Gary Rosenblatt’s column about Orthodox feminism (“Toward A Level Praying Field,” March 5).
While it is admirable that Orthodox women are finally confronting the inherent inequality within the Orthodox Jewish institutional framework, the best that can be said here is, “Better late than never.” But why, oh why, must these learned, searching people twist themselves into pretzels finding ways to secure even a second-rate equivalency within the prayer service in particular and in the community at large? Isn’t it just simpler to say, halacha — created by men, in a vastly different society, hundreds and hundreds of years ago — may need to be updated to reflect today’s reality? After all, at the various times that halacha was itself debated and evolving, it generally represented a more humane and realistic approach to the challenges, both ethical and practical, of its day. Isn’t it time to do the same today?
If services are supposed to be welcoming to the community at large, why on earth should a man have to be segregated from his best friend because the friend happens to be female (obviously, one’s spouse)? Further, if we wish to encourage young people meeting each other and perhaps pairing off in Jewish settings, why segregate them entirely?
But let’s keep the dialogue going. Only through shining the spotlight on sexist, self-interested institutions such as those mentioned in your column, who condemn not only the learned scholars who happen to be women and wish to give back to their community, but also all of those who would work with them, will any progress be made in recognizing Jewish ideals within a modern 21st-century context.
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