• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • Dokkio Sidebar (from the makers of PBworks) is a Chrome extension that eliminates the need for endless browser tabs. You can search all your online stuff without any extra effort. And Sidebar was #1 on Product Hunt! Check out what people are saying by clicking here.


The Conservative Movement

Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 6 months ago






The Ordination of Women as Conservative Rabbis


Amy Eilberg

First Conservative woman rabbi



The Conservative movement ordained its first woman rabbi in 1985, thirteen years after Sally Priesand was ordained by Hebrew Union College.  The debate over the ordination of women in the Conservative movement was far shorter in time frame than the debate in the Reform Movement, but far more difficult and painful for the movement -- ultimately resulting in the resignation of several faculty members of the Jewish Theological Seminary and the founding of a new organization called the Union for Traditional Judaism.  The process the Conservative movement underwent during this time has much to teach us about the philosophy and theology of the Conservative movement.



















FIRST: Read the Final Report of the Commission for the Study of the Ordination of Women as Rabbis (1979)-- This is the report of a commission appointed by the RA-Rabbinical Assembly  to give a recommendation to the RA about the issue of ordaining women.  The RA is the organization of ordained Conservative rabbis.  (Its equivalent in the Reform Movement is the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) and in the Orthodox Movement is the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA).)  Following the recommendation of this report that the Jewish Theological Seminary begin to ordain women, the Seminary held a vote of its faculty in 1983 on this issue. 



 Answer the following questions:


    1) Like the Reform Movement, the body of working rabbis of the movement pushed for women's ordination before the movement's rabbinical school agreed to admit women.  Why do you think this is so? 



      2)   Look at the list of individuals who served on the Commission (p.6).  What can this list tell you about the decision-making process regarding ordination of women?  What questions might you have about how the makeup of the Commission was decided upon?



    3) In the section entitled "Procedures" (pp 8-12), how does the Commission explain the role of halakha in the making of its determination?  Does this explanation square with your understanding of the role of halakha in Conservative theology?  Why or why not?


      4)  Skim the section entitled "The Issue" (pp 12-27).  List one issue raised by the Commission that would not have been raised by the Reform Movement.  How is that issue an outgrowth of Conservative theology?  Now list one issue raised by the Commission that WOULD have been raised by the Reform Movement.  How is this issue an outgrowth of Conservative theology?  


    5)  There is a great deal of discussion in the Report regarding a Seminary faculty vote regarding the ordination of women. (See pp 22 (beginning at the bottom with "A more serious ethical concern...") - 24, 29).  Why is this an issue?  How were decisions of halakhic import previously made by the Conservative Movement? 





NEXT:  Read the introduction to the letter and the letter that Rabbi David Weiss Halivni, the then-chair of the Talmud and Rabbinics department at the Jewish Theological Seminary wrote upon his resignation from the faculty over the decision to ordain women.  The Book and The Sword.pdf



Answer the following questions:


1)  How does Rabbi Halivni view the process of change in halakha?


2)  Why does he believe that the ordination of women demonstrates a break with the halakhic process?


3)  How does Rabbi Halivni's view compare to the view of the halakhic process outlined in the Commission's Report? 



NOW - Visit the exhibit on Amy Eilberg at the Jewish Women's Archive.  Go to www.jwa.org/feminism.  Click on "Search the Collection" and then click on "Person."  Scroll down to Amy Eilberg and click on the icon that pops up next to her name.



A)  Statement of Amy EIlberg


        After reading the statement carefully, answer the following questions:


            1.  Rabbi Eilberg describes the process that her class underwent  in deciding to recite the Shehechiyanu prayer at their ordination.  How was this process uniquely Conservative?  How was the outcome uniquely Conservative?


            2.  Rabbi Eilberg writes at the end of her piece about her colleague Rabbi Lenny Gordon who approaches her at the end of the ordination ceremony and shares with her that when he recited the Shehechiyanu prayer, he said it for her.  What did he mean?  What can his act teach us about his theological view of the ordination of women?




 B)  Photograph of the ordination of Amy Eilberg:  After examining this photograph carefully, answer the following questions:


             1.  What are some adjectives you would use to describe this photograph?


             2.  What messages about Conservative Judaism does the photograph convey to you?


             3.  What messages about the type of individuals that choose to become rabbis in the Conservative Movement are conveyed by this                         photograph?


             4.  How does this photograph compare to the photograph of the ordination of Sally Priesand?


    C)  New York Times article about the ordination of Amy Eilberg:  CONSERVATIVE JEWS ORDAIN A WOMAN.doc



                After reading this article carefully, answer the following question:


                1.  Rabbi Eilberg told a rabbinic story in her speech at her ordination ceremony.  The article reports: 


                                In her remarks, Rabbi Eilberg referred to the words of Rabbi Nehuniah ben Hakaneh in the Talmud

                        as a charge to her colleagues.  She said that when Rabbi Nehunia entered a house of study, he said

                       "I pray that no harm will come about because of me."  And when he left, she noted, he said simply, "I

                        give thanks for my role in life."



                   Why do you think Rabbi Eilberg told this story?  What does her choice of this story tell you about her?







How was the process of beginning to ordain women in the Conservative movement in keeping with Conservative philosophy and theology?  Give as many examples as you can think of.


How was the process NOT in keeping with Conservative philosophy and theology, if at all?  Give examples.  Why do you think the issue of ordaining women diverged from this philosophy and theology in this way?


What can this process teach us about the interaction of theology/philosophy and society?





Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.