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Jofa launches project to inspire young women into Jewish leadership roles

American scholar Shira Eliassian will visit universities and school Jewish societies to talk to young people about Torah and feminism

    The Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance is hosting a series of talks to inspire young women into leadership roles . 

    As part of Jofa’s Be’er Miriam programme, coinciding with International Women’s Day, Jofa is introducing young people to inspirational female leaders and Torah scholars with a view to encourage them into similar roles.

    American scholar Shira Eliassian is one of the speakers who will visit universities and school Jewish societies to talk to young people about Torah and feminism.

    Ms Eliassian, who is studying a master’s degree in religion at the Divinity School, University of Chicago, said it was important for Jewish women to see themselves reflected in religious leadership positions.

    “If half the community is made up of women they should see themselves represented in the leadership structure of that community.

    "If there are gay people in our communities they deserve to be represented. If there are people of color they deserve to be represented. It makes the community stronger.”

    She said it was not easy to exist as a feminist in the Orthodox community.

    “People will tell you that don’t belong or that you're undermining tradition. It has become a political conversation and people with polarising opinions can't hear each other anymore.

    “We need to do a better job of listening to each other. If women say they feel disenfranchised in Orthodoxy, that isn’t part of an agenda; that is because they do.”

    Ms Eliassian will deliver a session entitled “The Art of Crafting Ritual” to hundreds of Jewish students from March 12 to 22.

    She said: “I hope to talk about how we can re-understand Jewish traditions and Jewish rituals so that we can make more space for women in our communities.”

    “This project is meant to show that you can exist and be a leader.”

    Dina Brawer, JOFA UK Founder: “The Be’er Miriam programme aims to inspire young people by introducing them to new ideas and role modelling women’s leadership.

    “Shira is equally passionate about Jewish ideas and practice as she is about feminism.

    “I am confident she’ll engage and inspire her audience in the UK, who are lucky to have the opportunity to hear her speak about feminism, ritual and tradition.”

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