In many ways, this is a good time to be a woman of faith. Current examples have come to my attention:
- Last week, there was a march through London to mark the 20 years of women priests in the Church of England. The Church of England also voted on 20 November 2013 overwhelmingly in favor of women bishops.
- On 26 July 2014, there are plans for a big celebration to mark the 40th anniversary of women’s ordination in the Episcopal Church.
- On 29 April 2014, the Rabbinical Assembly published “Women and Mitzvot” (by Rabbi Pamela Barmash), that says because women are no longer subordinate to men “The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards therefore rules that women are now held equally responsible for the mitzvot [commandments] as men have been.” The Rabbinical Assembly is the international association of Conservative rabbis founded in 1901.
Since I am an Episcopalian Christian, it is no surprise that I know about the first events. You too can follow church gender politics on such websites as Chicks in Pointy Hats. I learned of the “Women and Mitzvot” ruling when it was announced by Rabbi David Booth at Congregation Kol Emeth (Palo Alto, California) last weekend. I was at Kol Emeth for the Bat Mitzvah of my friend Beth. Beth sang and discussed her Torah portion beautifully – I am very proud of her (and of her brother Max who also read).
“Women and Mitzvot” includes the following remarkable text on p.29:
The role of women in public life has changed dramatically in modernity. In society in general, women are now involved in commerce and the professions on an equal basis with men, and secular law considers women legally free and independent. In Jewish communities, women have been seeking to enrich their lives with more mitzvot. The changes in women’s social lives in general and in Jewish communities are not just a matter of external behavior but reflect a changed perception of women. Women are now seen as equal to men in social status, in intellectual ability, and in political and legal rights. The historical circumstances in which women were exempted from certain mitzvot are no longer operative, and we must embrace the realities of life in the 21st century.
And to that we say “Amen”.
Image Copyright 2014 by Katy Dickinson