The Orthodox Union courageously undertook the issue of the important current and future roles of women in our community.
As a result of deep discussion, with a rabbinic response from a distinguished seven-member rabbinic panel, which included Rabbi Yaakov Neuburger, Rabbi Benjamin Yudin and Rabbi Daniel Feldman, the Orthodox Union has made an important commitment to help empower women within our community to fulfill every possible potential.
The OU is in the process of putting together its new Department of Women’s Initiatives. It will enable the OU to coordinate women’s programming—be it learning Torah, or serving schools, synagogues, hospitals, institutions or even their own families. The purpose, according to the OU, is to “advance the spiritual, religious and communal engagement of women at all stages of life, in all segments of the Orthodox community, in areas of personal and professional growth, including Torah study and community leadership.”
We extend an enthusiastic “Yasher koach!” to the OU and to the very women who are emerging (and who have already emerged) as leaders in our greater community family. We say thank you for being an example for our children in our schools, camps, charitable organizations, local institutions and synagogues. We should also note that many women are already leaders and examples for all of our children, boys and girls, without having to establish any department in New York City.
We also want to say yasher koach to the OU rabbinic panel for agreeing that the empowerment of yoatzot halacha be the decision of individual kehillot.
Too much discussion has been piled on the issue of whether or not there is a halachic space for women to be named as rabbis within Orthodoxy. There simply isn’t a halachic justification, according to the panel and the OU. But that does not, in any way, diminish the role of the Orthodox woman.
There wouldn’t be such a growing, vibrant Orthodox world if it wasn’t for the courage, brain power, Torah learning and family and community leadership of women and girls seeing their “roles” for what they are: important, valuable and with unlimited potential. We say this for ourselves and this is the legacy we build for our daughters.
We look forward as more women emerge as Orthodox leaders. This isn’t an issue about what women can’t do. It’s all about what they are doing, and successfully so, for the betterment of the Jewish people.