Women call for greater role in Orthodox life

By Sandy Rashty, June 26, 2014

A leading feminist has claimed that institutional "control" prevents women from having an active role in Orthodox Jewish life.

Blu Greenberg, the American founder of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (Jofa), addressed more than 150 men and women at their second UK conference on Sunday.

She recalled incidents in which she was excluded from taking part in prayers. She said: "This is about control. Control over access of women to God. Control over the class of women, using halacha to do so.

"We are at a crossroads of Orthodox feminism today. That is whether we are going to go forward in terms of defining Orthodox feminism as identifying women's roles as identical to men, or differentiating. I believe there should be distinctive roles."

Rebecca Filer, 18, who established the feminist society at JFS school, said: "Orthodox Judaism is now not equal terms of the expectations and the education of women.

"I would like to see more of women's ability to participate in shul services and community life. I think what Jofa UK are doing at the moment is brilliant. I believe I was the first girl to leyn in a United Synagogue building - it was in the youth room."

But south Manchester-based Carole Weinberg, a Yeshurun synagogue member and member of the shul's women's group, said: "People who are interested like we are, are very much in the minority."

Shosh Lewis, from Manchester, added: "People don't know enough, what is allowed and what is not allowed. Some women fear they will be asked to do something they are not comfortable with."

Around 25 per cent of guests at the event in Golders Green were men.

Last updated: 9:30am, June 27 2014