CCAR Newsletter July/August 2018 - 1







Founded In


‫אלול תשע''ז‬-‫אב‬-‫תמוז‬

Publication of the Central Conference of American Rabbis

July * August 2018 | Volume 65 - Issue 4

‫איגוד הרבנים המתקדמים‬

Hara Person

David Stern
Ahhh summer: a time for
reflection, reading, relaxing
with family, and completely
freaking out about High
Holy Day sermons. Don't
you love being a rabbi?
So with rabbinic summer
schizophrenia in mind, a pair
of texts to consider:
In BT B'rachot 45a, in discussing the mitzvah
of zimun, the Gemara teaches: "The translator
[meturgaman] is not permitted to raise his voice
louder than the reader." And to ground the point,
the Rabbis offer Exodus 19:19 as a proof text:
"Moses spoke, and God responded in a voice."
Why the redundancy of the phrase "in a voice"?
To teach that God answered "in Moses's voice,"
i.e., in a voice no louder than Moses's voice.
The Mei Hashiloach (R. Mordechai Yosef of
Isbitza, d. 1854, on Exodus 19:19) then opens
up the Talmud's teaching by dramatically
reversing the roles we might have assigned to
God and Moses at Sinai: "While Moshe indeed
spoke the Ten Commandments to Israel, the
root of the matter was that the words of Torah
were then fixed into the hearts of Israel. This was
done by the blessed God, who imprinted into the
heart of each one according to God's blessed
will. In this way the blessed God is called, as it
were, the translator, meaning that after the Ten
Commandments went forth from the mouth of
Moshe to Israel, the Holy One, blessed be God,
went back and imprinted them into their hearts."
How's that for a reversal? Rather than our
conventional assumption, which is that God
speaks and Moses somehow translates divine
revelation into commandment and speech, here
the Mei Hashiloach reconceives translation as
the act of imprinting an external word into the
inner space of the human heart. And only God
can do that. So Moses speaks the teaching, but
afterwards it takes the Divine Translator to fix the
external word into the hearts of Israel.
I love this teaching because it takes a lot of
the pressure off of being a preacher. So often

Torah speaks to us about the connection of wholeness and holiness. "Adonai
spoke to Moses saying, "Speak to the whole Israelite community, and say to
them: You shall be holy, for I, Adonai your God, am holy" (Leviticus 19:2). Each
person in the community had a responsibility to hear these words. These weren't
just words for priests, or for tribal heads. As The Torah: A Women's Commentary
points out, these words were for everyone in the community, men and women.
And in hearing and heeding them, standing together at the foot of Sinai, each
person had the potential for holiness. In order to truly be a holy kahal standing
together before God, we have to be a community of inclusiveness, in which we
all have a role to play, and in which the responsibility for holiness rests equally on each of us.
The first in-person meeting of the Task Force on the Experience of Women in the Rabbinate took
place this May. After several months of virtual meetings, we came together in New York, led by Ellen
Weinberg Dreyfus and Amy Schwartzman, chair and vice-chair, to take the next steps in getting
closer to the goal of creating lasting culture change and becoming a community of inclusiveness
and opportunities, free of bias and power imbalance. This holy task before us is enormous. We
acknowledge that real change can't happen overnight, and we are not looking for quick fixes. The
Task Force is working with an ambitious three-year plan to create a new way of thinking, a framework
that will include new guidelines, recommendations, trainings, policies,
and resources.
This first year of this three-year plan is devoted to study and inquiry. At the CCAR Convention in
March, we held an engagement program, meant to solicit responses to open-ended questions. The
questions that we asked were organized into three areas: 1) Interactions between female rabbis and
male rabbis; 2) interactions between women rabbis and lay people; 3) women rabbis and Placement,
employment, and professional advancement. As a follow up, we also invited colleagues who had
not been at Convention to participate in one of two webinars focused on soliciting answers to the
same questions.
Part of our time together in New York in May was focused on sifting through and analyzing the
hundreds of responses to the questions. In designing the questions, the Task Force wanted respondents
to feel completely free to answer honestly, and so we deliberately did not ask any identifying
questions like gender, ordination year, or geographical location. Therefore it is not possible to make
assumptions about what kind of responses were provided by different genders or generations.
The vast majority of the responses painted a similar picture of concerns about the experience of
women in the rabbinate. In summary, these involve issues of male privilege and institutionalized
power; sexual harassment and assault; comments about women's appearance, bodies, and personal
life that are inappropriate and demeaning; societal assumptions and bias about gender; the
existence of a boy's club culture; women having to fight for a seat at the table and not being seen
as authorities; male colleagues not supporting female colleagues; women being afraid to report
misconduct on the part of their senior rabbis; differences in communication styles; unwillingness
of lay people to see women as true leaders; insufficient parental leave; transference issues (seeing
the rabbi as mother, sister, daughter); assumptions made by search committees about women's
personal lives, dating, finances, children, spouse, ability to relocate; inappropriate and embarrassing
questions during interviews. In addition, pay equity is a significant concern; we are grateful for the
work of the Pay Equity Initiative taking place under the leadership of our colleagues Mary Zamore
and Marla Feldman.
Though most of the responses are summarized above, there were also a small number of other

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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CCAR Newsletter July/August 2018

CCAR Newsletter July/August 2018 - 1
CCAR Newsletter July/August 2018 - 2
CCAR Newsletter July/August 2018 - 3
CCAR Newsletter July/August 2018 - 4
CCAR Newsletter July/August 2018 - 5
CCAR Newsletter July/August 2018 - 6
CCAR Newsletter July/August 2018 - 7
CCAR Newsletter July/August 2018 - 8
CCAR Newsletter July/August 2018 - 9
CCAR Newsletter July/August 2018 - 10
CCAR Newsletter July/August 2018 - 11
CCAR Newsletter July/August 2018 - 12