Surrounded by dustily stocked bookshelves, antique lamps and floral artistic screens, a jazz saxophonist jammed along with his ensemble for a small crowd that straggled in and out of a dimly lit East Village basement this past Monday night.
No, this wasn’t your ordinary subterranean jazz haunt.
The leadership of the Rabbinical Council of America expressed great pride in passing a resolution this week among hundreds of member rabbis, without opposition, on the delicate and contentious issue of women’s leadership roles in the Orthodox synagogue and community. One could attribute the achievement to the two months spent by the committee in laying the groundwork for consensus; a cynic might argue the resolution was approved overwhelmingly because it was so pareve. There’s truth in both points of view.
Lost in the furor over Sara Hurwitz’s title is the broader issue of women’s roles within Modern Orthodoxy.
Dina Najman, rosh kehila (head of the congregation) at Kehilat Orach Eliezer on the Upper West Side, spends a majority of her day answering halachic questions, teaching classes expounding upon Jewish texts and counseling couples and individuals who are having personal difficulties. Her male rabbinic colleagues often consult with her on questions of bioethics, her area of expertise.
The bulk of the work that she does, she says, is not gender specific — and shouldn’t be viewed that way.