Women Rabbis are on fire, as this story from the National Catholic Reporter reveals.
At a synagogue in Charleston, S.C., more than 20 years ago, teenager Rachel Nussbaum began wrapping tefillin — two black boxes attached to leather straps that Jewish men wear as they pray.
To the older Jewish men gathered for morning prayers, the sight of a woman decked out like a man at prayer was shocking. Many didn’t know what to make of Nussbaum’s brazen willingness to break with tradition.
Now 38 and a rabbi, Nussbaum leads The Kavana Cooperative, a growing Jewish prayer community in Seattle that has much in common with a synagogue but doesn’t call itself one. Like the tefillin-wrapping teenage Nussbaum, Kavana prides itself on a reputation for doing Judaism its own way.
It is known, as are about 10 other like-minded “indie synagogues,” for its exuberant prayer, willingness to experiment and welcoming attitude toward those whose comfort zone lies outside the traditional Reform, Conservative and Orthodox denominations. Another commonality: Women lead most of them.
These communities have grabbed the attention of more conventional Jewish leaders because they have enjoyed success where mainstream synagogues and institutions often struggle: attracting young Jews.
Many of these groups, born less than a decade ago, draw scores of people to Shabbat services and hundreds to holiday celebrations. The Los Angeles-based Ikar congregation boasts 600 family units, an impressive size in the Jewish world.
The movement reflects the times, said Hasia Diner, a professor of American Jewish history at New York University.
“People are interested in being a part of institutions that they have a chance to help shape,” she said. “Every time they turn around there isn’t some document or some structure that says ‘no, you can’t.’ ”
And it makes sense that women lead so many of these communities, because “women were historically left out of the institutional structure,” Diner continued. If a whole body of feminist psychology is right, “women tend to be more interested in reaching out and building consensus than issuing fiats from the top down.”
Retrieved April 10, 2015 from http://ncronline.org/news/faith-parish/female-rabbis-are-forging-path-outside-denominational-judaism