Feminist Pioneer Challenges Orthodox Patriarchy

Jewish scholar Tova Hartman has used her decidedly feminist Orthodox synagogue to mount a formidable challenge to the male bastion of religious orthodoxy.

BY: Kevin Douglas, Religion News Service

Tova Hartman
 
JERUSALEM (RNS) Tova Hartman opens the door to her apartment with a warm smile, speaking softly and casually dressed. With her down-to-earth femininity, she doesn't exactly look like a rabble-rouser within Orthodox Judaism.

Which, perhaps, is precisely what makes her so effective.

The 53-year old psychologist and Jewish scholar has used her decidedly feminist Orthodox synagogue to mount a formidable challenge to the male bastion of religious orthodoxy.

"I don't think that feminism is against the Jewish tradition," she said. "I think it challenges the Jewish tradition."

Nine years ago, Hartman's living room became the first home of Shira Hadasha, a modern Orthodox congregation that now has several hundred members and outposts in the U.S., Canada and Israel. She's one of a handful of rabbis and scholars working to push Orthodox Judaism into a more egalitarian future.

And for the most part, the tradition isn't having it.

"Shira Hadasha came about after trying to change a lot of the local shuls and not succeeding," she said, using the Yiddish word for synagogue. "We understand and accept that our agenda does not resonate yet with modern Orthodox establishment shuls and that's OK. They don't want to change, and they don't have to."

Continued on page 2: Some Shira Hadasha are unusual... »

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