A day of strength in a week of foundation
I'm watching the returns of the British election---a turning point moment for the country. Will the Conservatives get enough seats for a majority? Will it be a "hung" Parliament, with a coalition needed to form the government? At this moment, we still don't know.
But as interested as I am, that's not what I wish to comment on today. Instead, I want to share this article from The Forward written by Rabbi Amy Eilberg, the first woman to be ordained as a rabbi by the Jewish Theological Seminary, the rabbinical school of the Conservative movement. She reflects on the that moment, 25 years ago--what it meant then, what it means now. She acknowledges the challenges that still lie ahead as she pays homage to what has been accomplished:
Surely, many challenges remain. The so-called “stained-glass ceiling” remains firmly in place, although a handful of women have been called to lead large congregations as solo rabbis. The R.A.’s comprehensive 2004 study, “Gender Variation in the Careers of Conservative Rabbis,” demonstrated that women rabbis continue to suffer significant discrimination in the workplace, including lower pay, challenges to their authority and legitimacy, and the usual flow of disrespectful and foolish remarks.
Still, as I ponder the 25 years since my ordination at JTS, I am awed that we have collectively come as far as we have. For younger Conservative Jews, the denial of full equality to women is now inconceivable. Even the Orthodox world is actively wrestling with the question of women’s ordination.
Anniversaries invite sacred reflection. On this 25th anniversary of my ordination, I am deeply grateful for the joy and privilege of participating in this transformative time in Jewish history. My heart is drawn to the Shehecheyanu prayer, in which we thank God for giving us life and enabling us to reach this special moment.
I also say a Shehecheyanu in Rabbi Eilberg's honor, and in commemoration of reaching this anniversary. I am old enough to remember when ritual equality for women was unobtainable, far from inconceivable. I thank you, Rabbi Eilberg, for being one who cleared a path for those like me to follow.