Apr 27, 2010
Members of the Rabbinical Council of America from all over North America gathered this week in Scarsdale NY for the 51st annual convention of the world’s largest organization of Orthodox rabbis. As always, the gathering was an opportunity for rabbis in pulpits, education, academia, Jewish organizational life, and the health care/military chaplaincies to strengthen their personal and professional skills and connections, via major plenary presentations, workshop sessions, and multiple networking settings. This year's convention planning committee was chaired with great skill by Rabbi Joel Finkelstein of Memphis, TN.
This year’s convention deliberations were informed by a number of high profile issues confronting the Jewish people at large, and the religious community in particular. While numerous sessions were devoted to Israel, Iran, US-Israel relations, conversion issues, rabbinic boundaries, Orthodox teens, counseling, dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease, death and burial, family conflict, and others, a central topic generating sustained discussion by convention delegates involved rabbinic views on the parameters of appropriate women’s communal roles.
Having heard from a broad spectrum of members, leading congregational rabbis, and a number of respected halachic authorities, a committee headed by Rabbi Leonard Matanky of Chicago, IL, submitted a resolution on appropriate communal roles for women. Rather than delineating a specific menu or roadmap of appropriate or inappropriate roles and positions, the resolution sought to articulate the broad dimensions and values that, from an Orthodox perspective, should inform and shape the discussion and implementation of this defining issue in months and years to come. These include the importance of appropriate sensitivity to tradition, communal sensitivities, as well as the desire of both men and women to enhance Torah and mitzvoth, personally and communally. So too, is the need for a thorough foundation in appropriate halachic and communal precedent and process.
With these considerations framing the convention discussion, the convention resolution as adopted, stated as follows:
Resolution on Women's Communal Roles in Orthodox Jewish Life
Adopted Without Dissent by the 51st Convention of The Rabbinical Council of America
1) The flowering of Torah study and teaching by God-fearing Orthodox women in recent decades stands as a significant achievement. The Rabbinical Council of America is gratified that our chaverim have played a prominent role in facilitating these accomplishments.
2) We members of the Rabbinical Council of America see as our sacred and joyful duty the practice and transmission of Judaism in all of its extraordinary, multifaceted depth and richness – halakhah, hashkafah, tradition and historical memory.
3) In light of the opportunity created by advanced women's learning, the Rabbinical Council of America encourages a diversity of halakhically and communally appropriate professional opportunities for learned, committed women, in the service of our collective mission to preserve and transmit our heritage. Due to our aforesaid commitment to sacred continuity, however, we cannot accept either the ordination of women or the recognition of women as members of the Orthodox rabbinate, regardless of the title.
4) Young Orthodox women are now being reared, educated, and inspired by mothers, teachers and mentors who are themselves beneficiaries of advanced women's Torah education. As members of the new generation rise to positions of influence and stature, we pray that they will contribute to an ever-broadening and ever-deepening wellspring of talmud Torah, yir'at Shamayim, and dikduk be-mitzvot.
The full complement of convention resolutions can be accessed here