In Evaluating the Role of Women in Orthodox Judaism, Don’t Lose Sight of Fundamental Jewish Values

In recent years there has been much discussion, and controversy, about expanding opportunities for women to serve as clergy and educators in Orthodox institutions, with some advocating for the ordination of female rabbis or the introduction of new roles and titles specifically for women. Sarah Rindner, while sympathetic to such measures, draws on the Bible to caution against the tendency of arguments about the subject to lose sight of what is most important:

Instead of the movement for female leadership expanding our collective sense of the many forms leadership can take, we are asked to view events through the paradigm of victory or frustration: a woman has been assigned this or that position, or such a position has been denied or declared off-limits. These milestones may in fact have significance, but there is also something retrograde about a religious conversation that places so much stock in the acquisition of titles and authority. Although great leaders are identified and praised in the Jewish tradition, most of them male and some female as well, in many cases this authority is interrogated, criticized, and ultimately viewed as [being of secondary importance]. In stark contrast to the epic heroes of other traditions, Jewish heroes, even as they achieve external greatness, are praised for their humility and devotion to God. . . .

There have always been powerful women in human history, just as there have always been female public leaders in Judaism. . . . To vehemently oppose . . . such female leadership is strange and misguided. But any support for such leadership needs to be balanced by an equally weighted recognition that the substance of one’s character is far more important than the position of authority one holds, regardless of sex. When it comes to spiritual leadership, it’s not what you accomplish or how many followers you amass that matters, it’s who you are. Any movement advocating for female Jewish leadership needs to keep this at the forefront of its priorities. . . .

[The final chapter of the book of Proverbs, which] at first seems to be a song in praise of various over-the-top accomplishments of a phenomenal Jewish woman, also raises the implicit question of where true virtue lies in general, and whether external accolades are an appropriate way to recognize such virtue. It is perhaps for this reason, among others, that the Jewish sages view Eishet Ḥayil, [as this chapter is known], not only as a poem about one woman, or womanhood, but also as a divine allegory with multifaceted religious significance. The model of the Jewish woman here is in some ways a template for the entire Jewish people to strive for and emulate.

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Read more at Book of Books

More about: Feminism, Hebrew Bible, Modern Orthodoxy, Open Orthodoxy, Religion & Holidays, Women in Judaism

 

The New Iran Deal Will Reward Terrorism, Help Russia, and Get Nothing in Return

After many months of negotiations, Washington and Tehran—thanks to Russian mediation—appear close to renewing the 2015 agreement concerning the Iranian nuclear program. Richard Goldberg comments:

Under a new deal, Iran would receive $275 billion of sanctions relief in the first year and $1 trillion by 2030. [Moreover], Tehran would face no changes in the old deal’s sunset clauses—that is, expiration dates on key restrictions—and would be allowed to keep its newly deployed arsenal of advanced uranium centrifuges in storage, guaranteeing the regime the ability to cross the nuclear threshold at any time of its choosing. . . . And worst of all, Iran would win all these concessions while actively plotting to assassinate former U.S. officials like John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and [his] adviser Brian Hook, and trying to kidnap and kill the Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad on U.S. soil.

Moscow, meanwhile, would receive billions of dollars to construct additional nuclear power plants in Iran, and potentially more for storage of nuclear material. . . . Following a visit by the Russian president Vladimir Putin to Tehran last month, Iran reportedly started transferring armed drones for Russian use against Ukraine. On Tuesday, Putin launched an Iranian satellite into orbit reportedly on the condition that Moscow can task it to support Russian operations in Ukraine.

With American and European sanctions on Russia escalating, particularly with respect to Russian energy sales, Putin may finally see net value in the U.S. lifting of sanctions on Iran’s financial and commercial sectors. While the return of Iranian crude to the global market could lead to a modest reduction in oil prices, thereby reducing Putin’s revenue, Russia may be able to head off U.S. secondary sanctions by routing key transactions through Tehran. After all, what would the Biden administration do if Iran allowed Russia to use its major banks and companies to bypass Western sanctions?

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy