Thursday, March 23, 2023

For women in Orthodox Judaism, there are many paths toward faith. And in her article “Am I a Lonely Woman of Faith?” (May 18, 2017) my friend Elizabeth Kratz describes one of those paths very powerfully.

There are Orthodox women, like Ms. Kratz, who are happy and fulfilled in their personal, professional and religious roles. And there are others, like myself, who experience a more anguished loneliness of faith, who live with the paradox of deeply respecting Orthodox rabbis and their authority while at the same time thinking that many have a long way to go in addressing the unconscious bias in their attitude toward women.

In the second half of her editorial, Ms. Kratz discusses her article titled “OU Opens Doors to Female Leaders,” which covered the recent OU statement on women’s leadership. Members of the rabbinic panel, Ms. Kratz says, thanked her for “getting it right.” I recently attended “respectful workplace” training at my company. One of the major points made was that honorable intentions don’t matter if the end result is discriminatory behavior. The OU’s statement should be evaluated based on the actions taken as a result of it, not on the intentions of its drafters.

Ms. Kratz asserts that the secular Jewish press had its own agenda when they reported on this story. That may be the case, but I still agree with their assessment. The OU has already followed up on its statement by taking steps toward corrective action against shuls that hire maharats. That supports the secular journalists’ “barring women clergy” headline more than the “open doors to female leaders” Ms. Kratz describes.

Where are the OU’s concrete actions promoting women’s leadership among its member shuls? I am still waiting for those “open doors.”

Aviva Oppenheim

Fair Lawn, NJ

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