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Women and Judaism

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  • Rabba, Maharat, Rabbanit, Rebbetzin

    Rabbi Daniel Sperber

    Rabba, Maharat, Rabbanit, Rebbetzin: Women with Leadership Authority According to Halachah examines in detail the legitimacy for feminine leadership in Jewish law. Exploring the various manifestations of female leadership, whether as women clergy or other forms of female halachic adjudication, Rabba, Maharat, Rabbanit, Rebbetzin responds to the standard criticisms leveled at the recent phenomenon of female authority within the Orthodox community. In this groundbreaking book, Rabbi Professor Daniel Sperber argues the halachic, political, and sociological levels of female leadership in Judaism. 

    About the Author:

    Rabbi Professor Daniel Sperber is a leading scholar of Jewish law, customs, and ethics. He taught in the Talmud Department of Bar-Ilan University, where he also served as dean of the Faculty of Jewish Studies and president of the Jesselson Institute for Advanced Torah Studies. In 1992, he was awarded the Israel Prize for Jewish Studies. Prof. Sperber currently serves as rabbi of the Menachem Zion Synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem. 
    The descendant of a line of distinguished Orthodox rabbis, Prof. Sperber was born in 1940 in a castle in Ruthin, Wales, and studied in the Yeshivot of Kol Torah and Hevron in Jerusalem. He earned a BA in art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art and received a PhD in classics, ancient history, and Hebrew studies from University College, London.
    Prof. Sperber has published more than thirty books and four hundred articles on the subjects of Talmud and Jewish socio-economic history, law and customs, classical philology, and Jewish art. Among his major works is a well-known, eight-volume series, Minhagei Yisrael, on the history of Jewish customs. More recently, he has written books on halachic methodology and rabbinic decision-making in confrontation with modernity, and has established an independent beit din dealing with agunah issues. He is the author of On Changes in Jewish Liturgy: Options and Limitations; On the Relationship of Mitzvot Between Man and His Neighbor and Man and His Maker, and The Importance of the Community Rabbi: Leading with Compassionate Halachah, all published by Urim Publications. 

    Rabbanit Dr. Michal Tikochinsky heads the Women's Beit Midrash and Halachic writing program at Herzog College as well as the Halachah program for Rabbaniot at Migdal Oz. Previously, she headed the Beit Midrash program for women at Beit Morasha. She also lectures at Shalem College, and is a widely published author of Torah and halachic research articles that appear in scholarly Torah journals. Rabbanit Tikochinsky has a Bachelor's and a Master's degree in Law and a PhD in Talmud from Bar-Ilan University. Her book on the scholarship of the Minchat Chinuch is set to be published soon. She and her husband, Yakir, live in Nof Ayalon, where they are raising their seven children. 

    Preliminary Clarification
    1. Introductory Remarks
    2. Women in Rabbinic Positions
    3. Women in Positions of Communal Authority
    4. Can Women Serve in Positions of Authority?
    5. Conclusion
    6. Postscript
    7. Reactions of Rabbinic Organizations to Sara Hurwitz's Semichah
    8. Women Rabbis? by Rabbi Hershel Schachter
    9. Response to Rabbi Schachter
    10. Concluding Remarks
    11. Afterword: Women in Positions of Halachic Leadership by Rabbanit Dr. Michal Tikochinsky
    Appendix I: Orthodox Union Statement on Female Clergy (February 2017) / Responses from Rabbi Herzl Hefter and Rabbi Ethan Tucker
    Appendix II: Rabbi Soloveitchik's Position on Women as Shohatot and the Development of Customs of Abstention / Rabbi Jeffrey S. Fox
    Appendix III: Wanted: Precision, Nuance, and Avodat Hashem / Rabbi Dr. Jeffrey R. Woolf
    Appendix IV: What is "Mesorah" / Tradition?
    Appendix V: Tradition and Innovation, by R Samuel Sperber zt"l


    Subject Index
    Name Index
    Source Index 

    About the Authors

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  • Under My Hat

    Sally Berkovic

    Sally Berkovic chronicles the challenges of raising daughters while straddling the tensions between an Orthodox religious life and the competing forces of secularism. First published in 1997, Under My Hat presciently raised issues that have since dominated the Orthodox world. This new edition is augmented by an extensive introduction delving into the impact of more than 20 years of evolutionary change. Sally Berkovic's insights and analysis demonstrate how women's scholarship and mastery of Talmudic texts, the burgeoning movement of Orthodox women clergy, enhanced ritual participation, women's political and communal leadership and the pushback against the 'modesty wars' are shaping an Orthodox community that is struggling to be 'fit for purpose' in contemporary society. She does not hesitate to ask the difficult questions, acknowledging that answers may be elusive. Her bold predictions for the future may infuriate, but they cannot be easily ignored.

    About the Author:

    Sally Berkovic was born in Australia and is the daughter of Slovakian Holocaust survivors. She studied at Melbourne University and worked as a social worker and academic for ten years. Sally lived in Jerusalem and New York before an epistolary romance brought her to London in 1993 where she established a freelance writing career while her children were young. Since 2009, she has been the CEO of the Rothschild Foundation Hanadiv Europe, supporting Jewish heritage and culture across Europe.

    Praise for Under My Hat:

    Peppered with wit, warmth and humor, painful anomalies were portrayed with honesty, alongside a conviction that rather than seek neat solutions, living with the tensions would lead to new and unexpected breakthroughs. An updated chapter introducing this republication of Berkovic's original work offers a well-informed and optimistic prognosis to those seeking a realistic alternative to the bitter rancor that often accompanies discussion the of women's status in traditional Judaism.
    --Professor Tamar Ross, author, Expanding the Palace of the Torah

    The positive changes Sally applauded 20 years ago--and has helped fuel in the intervening decades--are here to stay, and reading this wide-ranging and perceptive accounting is both a pleasure and a challenge to further action.
    --Susan Weidman Schneider, Editor in Chief, Lilith magazine

    …What is unique in Sally's writing is her affectionate, bemused and sometimes very funny depiction of the resistance of her community to any hint of feminism. Her conclusion is optimistic as she summarizes the astonishing transformation in the prospects of women over the last two decades. The acute, concerned and unconventional voice of a social anthropologist who writes from the inside.
    --Dr Aviva Zornberg, author, Moses, A Human Life

    Reviews: By Ilana Kurshan, Jewish Review of Book

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  • Journey to Open Orthodoxy

    Avraham ''Avi'' Weiss

    1 Review(s)

    In Journey to Open Orthodoxy, Rabbi Avi Weiss outlines his vision of Judaism - a vision that in recent years has become known as ''Open Orthodoxy.'' The scope of this work reveals that Open Orthodoxy goes well beyond such controversial issues as women's ordination and LGBT+ inclusion. For Rav Avi, Open Orthodoxy is holistic, embracing the whole of Jewish spiritual, religious, halakhic and national life. The title of the book, Journey to Open Orthodoxy, invites readers to evaluate the book's content while assessing their own journeys, leading, it may be hoped, to a consideration of an Orthodoxy that is inclusive, non-judgmental, loving, modern and open.

    Topics Include:
    Mesorah: Bridging Past and Future
    Is Halakha (Jewish Law) Ethical?
    Da'at Torah: Do Decisions of the Rabbis Close Off Discussion?
    Nation Is Family
    Creating Spaces for those with Disabilities
    Embracing the Elderly
    Alternatives to Kiruv (Outreach)
    Interdenominational and Interfaith Relations
    Infusing Halakha with Spirituality
    Women Rabbis
    Belief and Doubt
    Coping with Adversity
    Jewish Leadership
    Reining in Israel s Chief Rabbinate
    Conversion: Building Walls or Welcoming People In?
    Mission-Driven Judaism
    Ritualizing the Shoah
    The Holiness of Israeli Soldiers

    "[Rabbi Weiss'] writings… his reflections on how his worldview has grown, matured and diversified are a welcome addition to our literature... A wide-ranging audience will, through this work, have the chance to examine and be moved by Rabbi Weiss up close and personally." --Professor Jeffrey S. Gurock

    About the Author

    Rabbi Avi Weiss is the Founding Rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale-the Bayit, and founder of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School and Yeshivat Maharat. He is also the co-founder of the International Rabbinic Fellowship (IRF), an international organization of Modern Orthodox rabbis. Rabbi Weiss served as National Chairman of the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry (SSSJ) from 1982-1991 and subsequently as National President for AMCHA - the Coalition for Jewish Concerns, raising a voice of moral conscience on behalf of the Jewish people and humankind throughout the world. In 2013, Newsweek ranked him the 10th most prominent rabbi in the United States. Rabbi Weiss is the author of Holistic Prayer, Women at Prayer, and Spiritual Activism.

    Click here for LA Jewish Journal feature review of Journey to Open Orthodoxy 

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  • Walking the Exodus

    Margaret Malka Rawicz

    Leading biblical scholars and archaeologists have argued for decades about the actual route of the biblical Exodus from Egypt. Join Rawicz as she follows the route that Moses and the Israelites took as they fled Egypt three and a half millennia ago. Margaret Malka Rawicz treks through treacherous deserts and terrain with her Bedouin guides, in order to rediscover and identify the sites of the first fifteen known Israelite encampments. She then explores another eighteen encampments in Eastern Sinai, along the Israeli/Sinai border and in the Negev Desert, and the final nine in Jordan. 
    Including photographs and personal stories, Walking the Exodus is not only one individual's discovery, but also a personal and spiritual transformation of one's life. 

    About the Author

    Margaret Malka Rawicz has developed and refined lectures on the Exodus for many years after extensively traveling through Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Southern Africa, North and South America, Eastern Europe, Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Antarctica. As an environmental management consultant, she has received numerous awards on groundbreaking national work. Rawicz has delivered many presentations on the Exodus, and her extensive trip through the Sinai desert has been adapted into a TV documentary, Forty Years to Freedom. She acknowledges the support of her late husband during all this time.  
    Margaret Rawicz can arrange trips to take people on tours of the Exodus route. If you are interested in going on a tour, please visit to register. To arrange visual presentations and lectures, please contact the author at

    Praise for Walking the Exodus

    “When, in one individual, an intrepid spirit meets an insatiable appetite for discovery, some delightful odyssey is bound to be the outcome. Malka (Margaret) Rawicz has pioneered creative ways of discovering and presenting facets of Torah that would daunt other students and seasoned educators. She also has a knack for blithely embarking on jaw-dropping journeys, from the African bush to the Antarctic. In this book, which reads like a cross between a camel-back adventure story and a piece of meticulous research, the author shares with the reader both these fascinating facets of herself. It is particularly refreshing that the research takes the biblical account of the Exodus and the subsequent journeys of the Israelites at its word. It seeks to verify that account by geographical, physical, and linguistic evidence.”
    – Rabbi Levy Wineberg
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  • Gender Equality and Prayer in Jewish Law

    Rabbi Ethan Tucker and Rabbi Micha'el Hadar

    As gender equality has spread throughout society, including its religiously observant sectors, traditional communities turn to their guiding sources to re-examine old questions. This book opens the reader’s eyes to the wealth of Jewish legal material surrounding gender and prayer, with a particular focus on who can lead the prayers in a traditional service and who can constitute the communal quorum—or minyan—that they require. With honesty, transparency, and rigor, Gender Equality and Prayer in Jewish Law is a powerful resource for grappling with these complex questions. The authors not only explore this specific issue in depth, but they also model how we can mine the Jewish legal tradition for its underlying values, enabling its complex sources to serve as effective guides for contemporary communal decision-making.

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  • Biblical Seductions

    Sandra E. Rappaport

    3 Review(s)

    Biblical Seductions retells six compelling stories in which women of the Bible become heroines as a direct result of their audacious acts. These stories are often skipped or censored because of their disturbing and provocative subject matter. First- and fiftieth-time readers alike will be mesmerized by this interweaving of Bible and legend which entertains, reflects and reproves. Through Rapoport's deft storytelling, readers revisit the story of Lot's daughters, who seduce their father in a mountain cave and bear his sons. The tale of Dinah, who is abducted and raped by Shechem, the local prince. The drama of Tamar, who disguises herself and seduces her father-in-law. The story of King David's lust for Batsheva, wife of his prized officer, and of the king's plot to murder her husband so he can wed her. The tragic account of Princess Tamar, Daughter of King David, who is lured, trapped and raped by her half-brother, Amnon, sparking vengeful fratricide and a civil war. Finally, readers encounter the Moabite widow, Ruth, who seduces Boaz, a tribal leader, and becomes great-grandmother of King David. In Rapoport's skilled hands these transformative stories become accessible and relevant, and the women in them unforgettable.

    2011 National Jewish Book Award Finalist

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  • Straight Talk

    Sally Berkovic

    New Edition Available, see below

    Speaking to her daughters as they will be in ten years or so, Sally Berkovic writes that "the moment that Avigayil, my first born, was delivered, I had a profound religious experience. I realized that feminist theologians who claim God is a woman are fundamentally mistaken only a man would let this sort of thing happen.
    I understood what Bertha Papenheim meant when she said, 'If there is to be justice in the world to come, women will be lawgivers and men will have to have babies.'" With wit and humor, warmth and a certain down-to-earth sensibility, Sally Berkovic lives out in her own life as an observant Modern Orthodox woman the contradictions between the opportunities of modern life and the constrictions of Orthodox practice.
    Her book is not an ideological tract, however, but a warm, personal account of her Orthodox upbringing, and the hope she has for herself and her daughters. And speaking to them, she admits that "sometimes I feel like this life your father and I have created for you is disconnected from our own childhood experiences and caught in a timewarp as Orthodoxy fails to address the changing roles of its daughters because of that, it would be much easier to say Orthodoxy doesn't 'speak' to me, but I feel that I have the responsibility to 'speak' to Orthodoxy." This book is the result. The daughter of Holocaust survivors, Sally Berkovic grew up in Melbourne, Australia, and has lived in Jersualem and New York. She is currently based in London, with her husband, who is an Orthodox rabbi, and two daughters. A journalist and social worker, she has been published in many newspapers and magazines.

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  • Women at Prayer

    Avraham Weiss

    In this expanded edition, a new introduction as well as a chapter on on Women and the reading of the Megillah have been added. Index, Bibliography and Authorities works cited. Learn More
  • Jewish Woman’s Right to Divorce

    Shlomo Riskin

    Can women faced with an intolerable marital situation initiate divorce in Jewish law? Not for the last seven centuries. But this was not always so, and in this trailblazing book Rabbi Riskin argues that there are ways in which women can start divorce proceedings.
    In early Talmudic times, a woman who refused to participate in marital relations because of pique was the subject of increasingly harsh rabbinic legislation. In late Amoraic and medieval times, the focus of debate shifted. If the wife claimed that her husband evoked feelings of repulsion in her, the major Talmudic opinion was that the rabbinical court should coerce the husband to divorce his wife. The early Geonim even insisted that the wife receive her complete alimony as provided by the marriage contract.
    After the twelfth century and under the influence of Rabbenu Tam, most authorities rejected this solution. Concern was centered on preserving the family and although the Talmud itself accepts a nullification of a marriage when the husband behaves in a negative or manipulative manner, the majority of halakhic decisors rejected this view.
    Nevertheless, there were always a minority of instances in which the Rabbenu Tam was overruled and even when marriages were annulled. Unfortunately, most Religious Courts today follow the most stringent opinion.
    The thesis of this work is that since the Talmud itself urged leniency in cases where women found themselves chained to an intolerable marital situation, it is incumbent upon the Religious Courts today to utilize the means provided by Jewish law to provide a solution for the plight of those women refused a divorce by recalcitrant husbands. In an appendix, Rabbi Riskin presents a premarital agreement designed to prevent a woman from being unfairly held hostage.

    About the Author
    Rabbi Riskin is the Chief Rabbi of Efrat, the Chancellor of Ohr Torah Stone Colleges, Graduate Programs and Rabbinical Seminary and is the founding rabbi of Lincoln Square Synagogue. He is also the author of Torah Lights, a contemporary commentary on the books of Genesis and Exodus, a commentary on The Passover Haggadah, and Around the Family Table. Learn More
  • Bread and Fire

    60 contributing authors

    Rivkah Slonim

    Bread and Fire is about the everyday lives of Jewish women and the struggles and aspirations, failings and triumphs of their spiritual endeavors. This book asks: What does it mean to be a Jewish woman today? What does Jewish tradition offer to modern women who are looking for practical ways to bring spirituality and meaning to their lives and the lives of their loved ones?

    The women whose writings appear in this book span a wide range of ages, backgrounds, perspectives and professions. In her own way, each one reveals God as an anchoring force in her life: from the birthing room to the boardroom, cleaning in the kitchen or scrubbing up for surgery. In places as far apart as Jerusalem, Washington, DC and southern India, these women help us find the sacred within the apparently mundane.

    Readers will find themselves laughing, crying and gaining reassurance and strength as they come face-to-face with these women - women just like them - who are moving forward in the ancient quest to find God in the everyday.

    Bread and Fire contains moving teachings and honest reflections from more than sixty contributors, including:

    Shoshana S. Cardin
    Elizabeth Ehrlich
    Ruchama King Feuerman
    Tamar Frankiel
    Susan Handelman
    Francesca Lunzer-Kritz
    Sherri Mandell
    Rachel Naomi Remen
    Liz Rosenberg
    Julie Salamon
    Sarah Yehudit (Susan) Schneider
    Wendy Shalit
    Sarah Shapiro
    Esther Shkop
    Marian Stoltz-Loike


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