Clarification re: The spectres of feminism and egalitarianism

(Looking for the Open Thread? Click here).

Yesterday, in keeping with the finest of blogging traditions, I cut and pasted some short sections from an article to which I wanted to respond. Among these bits and pieces was the following comment by Rabbi Shai Held, dean of Yeshivat Hadar:

Rabbi Shai Held, dean of Yeshivat Hadar in Manhattan [said] “There’s a tremendous amount of anxiety among religious traditionalists that when you take one step toward egalitarianism, the floodgates are open and everything that seemed self-evident will no longer be. Men go to work, and women raise children. If you undermine that, you have lost your whole universe.”

When I decided to include his comment in my post, it was clear to me that Rabbi Held was describing the attitude of others, not one he shared. I felt that the language he chose put the extreme black-and-white, do-or-die opposition to egalitarianism in a very stark, and thus useful light.

And in the meantime, Rabbi Held has himself found this wee blog and commented on the post!

The Rabbi wanted to make sure that his position on the issue was clear, and I can absolutely see that in the process of lifting a short passage out of a long article, I may have caused it to lose its moorings — so I decided to put his comment on the front page.

Here’s what he said:

Just to be clear: my comment, quoted above, about traditionalist opposition to women’s ordination, was intended as a descriptive analysis of how many scholars of religion understand the depth of opposition many feel towards the very possibility of women taking on positions of leadership. It was not in any way an articulation of my own position. On the contrary, I am completely committed to the full inclusion and equality of women in all aspects of Jewish life, and the yeshiva my colleagues and I founded and run, Yeshivat Hadar, is the first-ever full-time egalitarian yeshiva in North America. To my mind, evolving public roles for Jewish women are a crucial piece of what it means to take seriously in our time the idea that each and every human being is created in the image of God and is therefore infinitely valuable. Egalitarianism in this sense is not only not forbidden; I believe it is a religious imperative.

Given the high dudgeon in which I found myself yesterday, I am particularly grateful to get this response. This sentence, in particular, sums up what I was trying to get to in my froth yesterday: To my mind, evolving public roles for Jewish women are a crucial piece of what it means to take seriously in our time the idea that each and every human being is created in the image of God and is therefore infinitely valuable.

Thank you, Rabbi Held!

To learn more about Yeshivat Hadar, the yeshiva at which Rabbi Held serves as dean, go here; to learn about the Mechon of which the Yeshiva is a part, go here.

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1 Comment

  1. dmf

     /  July 28, 2010

    ” every human being is created in the image of God and is therefore infinitely valuable” i imagine that there are qualifiers/limits to such a magnanimous vision (at least on the human side of things) of hospitality but not sure where we find them or who gets to play Judge? pace Levinas there doesn’t seem to be a public alternative to politics and the question then is not if there will be “culture wars” but how they will be fought and if we will win.

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