The Shalom Hartman Institute of North America (SHI-NA) recently partnered with the Skirball Center for Adult Education at Temple Emanu-El in New York to host a one day conference on Genesis and Revolution: A Beit Midrash on Gender, Power and Authority in Jewish Life. Faculty and participants came together to explore contemporary concerns that the Jewish community is facing with regard to women’s leadership through the lens of Jewish texts.
Faculty members Rabbi Dr. Alfredo Borodowski, Executive Director of the Skirball Center for Adult Education; Dr. Rut Kaniel Kara-Ivanov, Shalom Hartman Institute Research Fellow; Dr. Yehuda Kurtzer, SHI-NA President; and Renana Ravitzky Pilzer, head of Beit Midrash at the Shalom Hartman Institute Midrashiya Girls High School all brought unique perspectives to the topic.
Dr. Kurtzer began the day of study with an exploration of rabbinic perspectives on the use of power and authority in Talmudic times. He then opened a conversation about some of the ways in which marginalized groups have historically assumed greater levels of power. Other sessions touched on a range of ideas including the portrayal of women in the Zohar, the dilemma of choosing between career and family, and a theological exploration of gender.
The select group of participants that attended the conference included Jewish communal professionals and lay leaders who had much to contribute to the conversation as well as the capacity to bring these ideas to the forefront of the Jewish community.
“The goal of this day of learning was to offer participants new and old ways to think about gender, power and authority in the Jewish community. We are proud to have convened a conference of this nature and hope that this day of learning will inspire participants to work towards making gender equality a reality,” remarked Dr. Kurtzer.
The day-long conference was followed by an evening panel open to the public on Gender, Power and Authority in Jewish Life: Challenges and Opportunities in North America and Israel. Panelists Renana Pilzer and Rabbi Joanna Samuels, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Advancing Women Professionals in the Jewish Community, were joined by Rabbi Dr. Alfredo Borodowski who served as moderator.
At the end of the day, a participant commented: “I am inspired that the Hartman Institute and Skirball invested the time and resources to convene this conversation. That alone illustrates progress, courage, and leadership.”