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Highlight of My Day

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Rabbi, there’s a woman on the phone who would like to talk to a rabbi.

The excitment about this kind of intercom announcement is the unknown factor. Who might be the voice on the other end of the line? Man? Woman? Young? Old? Is it a query? A call for help? Spiritual assistance? A soul-searcher?

No matter how many times our administrative assistant puts through this type of call, a surge of anticipation always courses through me.

FrumeSarah: “Hello. This is Rabbi Frummie.”


FrumeSarah: “Hello. This is Rabbi Frummie. Can you hear me?”
Woman: “Hello?”
FS: “Hi. This is Rabbi Frummie. May I help you?”
Woman: “Are you a rabbi? Or a rebbetzin?”
FS: “I’m a rabbi.”
Woman (indignently): “Usually a rabbi is a man.”
FS: “Not since 1972.”


Yep. A woman hung up on me because of my gender.

The ordination of women has been a topic of great contention since the late 1800’s. As far as most of the world is concerned, the first female rabbi was ordained by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972. I somehow managed to be ordained without hearing the name ‘Regina Jonas.’ Fraulein Rabbiner Regina Jonas.

Today, three of the four Jewish movements ordain rabbis. Decisions that were made after a considerable amount to internal reflections and debate. Last to the party? Orthodox Judaism. Most of the Orthodox world does not accept the notion that a woman can be ordained as a rabbi. There are those on the Left, however, who hold a different opinion, having conferred the title “Rabbah” on Sara Hurwitz.

I respect the differences of opinion on this matter. Key word: r-e-s-p-e-c-t. Hanging up on me? Not respectful.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Wednesday, 14 April 2010 8:25 pm

    Definitely this was a disrespectful caller, my sympathies. Every now and then I ponder what it might take to be a Cantor, and imagine that I might run into some issues with people who think that Women Cantors (or singers in general) can only sing to other women. *sigh* How widely is “kol isha” an issue across various communities, I wonder? Not having been raised Jewsih, it’s a struggle for me sometimes to figure out these more subtle points.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Tuesday, 27 April 2010 9:29 pm

      Kol Isha is not an issue in the liberal communities. There are times, however, when someone from a more traditional background or culture is unable to accept my smicha. I understand that…but expect people to be respectful about conveying their feelings.

  2. Patrice Flanigan permalink
    Thursday, 15 April 2010 5:05 am

    To bad she hung up; she would have discovered that women make the best rabbi’s, ministers, priests, etc. Woman have a G-d given gift, and might I add Shekhina inherited ability, to minister to the inner wounds of others and to be nurturing and productive listeners. I’m not putting down our male counterparts, simply acknowledging that women are especially gifted in these roles. There will always be prejudism in this area; unfortunately.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Tuesday, 27 April 2010 9:32 pm

      I think that some women can be especially gifted in pastoral roles just as some men can be gifted in pastoral roles. Each individual has a God-given gift that transcends gender. Had she not hung up, she would have discovered that I was an available ear, able to be compassionate and helpful. At the very least, I would have been able to let her explain why she doesn’t accept my smicha in a manner that was appropriate.

  3. Thursday, 15 April 2010 10:30 am

    I live between the Reform and Orthodox world…and am present in both communities. I also know WAY too many rabbi bigots in the Reform world which surprises me sometimes and then just saddens me as I realize a lot of these people are just there for the convenience. Its like doctors. People always think its a HE. And a white, Jewish HE at that! Imagine MY own surprise when I heard my husband’s cardiologist (the one who really pushed for the transplant). He sounded like blond, tan, surfer dude. Seriously! Then he stepped out where I could see him and I had to chuckle because he’s as middle eastern oriented as can be 🙂 If only we could see without using our eyes huh?

    • Ruth permalink
      Thursday, 15 April 2010 1:35 pm

      Living most of my life in Israel, a lot of the cardiologist are Arabic. That includes the Dr that saved my 8 year old daughters life. She is now 17.5 and planning on returning to Israel.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Tuesday, 27 April 2010 9:35 pm

      Bigots exist in each part of our community. It requires faith in humanity to move beyond our prejudices and let each individual live up to his or her full potential as God’s partner. I know that I am guilty of prejudicial sentiments and try always to grow past them.

  4. Thursday, 15 April 2010 12:12 pm

    My family is 3rd generation Conservative, dedicated to it. My mother-in-law is a sweetie who grew up secular. When my sister was in rabbinical school at JTS, my MIL kept saying, “She needs to find a nice Orthodox man,” not accepting my explanation that an Orthodox man would probably never date her because he wouldn’t respect her. To her, my shomer Shabbat sister was Orthodox.
    Needless to say, who did my sister marry? A nice Jewish man who grew up Modern Orthodox and who now affiliates Conservative. Mothers-in-law sometimes know things!
    May you only have respectful phone calls from here on out!

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Tuesday, 27 April 2010 9:36 pm

      Hm…interesting the way things turn out!

      Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your story 🙂

  5. Saturday, 17 April 2010 9:25 am

    maybe she should read my Lilly Grant research!

  6. Frume Sarah permalink*
    Tuesday, 27 April 2010 9:36 pm

    I know…really!!!

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