Photo and article reprinted with permission from The Jewish Journal
I have a vivid memory of sitting in my yeshiva high school principal’s office, imploring him to start teaching the girls Mishnah and Gemara, to offer a little more respect to our intellects and our souls by giving us access to all the Jewish texts that form the basis of our heritage, of what we were expected to live every day. He said no, for four years. Did he quote sources at me stating that women’s minds are too feeble for it? Say that it wouldn’t interest me anyway? That it’s simply not done? I’ve shut those details out of my memory, but my mission was clear: If I wanted access to the heritage that is rightfully mine, I was going to have to get out of the principal’s office. And I did. After I graduated from yeshiva high school, I started taking adult Gemara classes, and I continue to do so today.
Last week, the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) made a proclamation saying that female spiritual leaders are outlawed, and it seems they want to put me back in that principal’s office. They want to sit us down, we renegades who want more than mere wisps of tradition, and to tell us what we can and can’t do.
But here’s the thing: I have found a Modern Orthodoxy so meaningful, so relevant and so true to the halachah and values central to the Torah, that I don’t need RCA approval to tell me I’m doing the right thing. I don’t need permission from the principal.
Julie Gruenbaum Fax, a Wexner Heritage alum (LA 1) is a journalist and personal memoir writer. She can be reached at email@example.com.