Michelle Kornblit and Jordanna Birnbaum have initiated an online petition that calls on the Rabbinical Council of America to “enable women in positions of communal religious leadership.” This pioneering effort is geared at raising the status of modern Orthodox Jewish women within the mainstream Orthodox community.
With over 1,200 supporters endorsing this petition, Michelle and Jordanna are hopeful that the support generated by this petition will encourage a positive outcome at this RCA Convention.
Rabbinical Council of America’s convention which begins Sunday is to assess the relevance of the women’s rights initiatives. Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, who is in line to become president of the RCA is optimistic of a healthy dialogue, despite extreme positions surrounding the issues.
Speaking to The Jewish Week, Rabbi Goldin said, “In spite of expected rhetoric on both extremes, what we are seeing (in the way of discussion and debate), is part of a healthy process. And if we can come forward with a consensus position, we’ll end up fine.”
Despite such optimism at the policy level, striking realities demand progressive actions beyond mere consensus. Currently, Orthodox women have limited leadership roles, and the RCA is not taking any steps to include women. According to all public sources, the RCA does not support women in executive board positions in synagogues, the RCA does not support women as community scholars, and the RCA most certainly does not support women in positions of influential religious leadership such as Rabba Hurwitz. The RCA itself does not include any women members and yet makes crucial policy decisions for the Orthodox community.
A Facebook group discussing petition updates states, “The petition is a plea to the RCA to allow women into the sphere of Orthodox communal decision-making, which today only includes men. The petition does not call for one specific action on behalf of the RCA, because there are numerous ways the RCA could expand the role of women in orthodox communities. For example, the RCA can begin by encouraging members to allow women to serve on executive synagogue boards, supporting the hiring of women to serve as community scholars, and allowing women in our community to attend RCA conventions and meetings so that women can be part of the conversation.”