Sharaby, Rachel, and Aviva Kaplan. “Between the Hammer of the Religious Establishment and the Anvil of the Ethnic community. Rabbis of Ethiopian Immigrants in Israel.” Journal of Modern Jewish Studies 14.3 (2015): 482-500.
This article examines the ambivalent status of rabbis of communities of Ethiopian immigrants who serve within the framework of the religious establishment in Israel. On the one hand, they function in their communities as spiritual leaders who are committed to Jewish law and act as representatives of the religious establishment. On the other, they belong to an excluded ethnic community which perceives them as traitors. Our findings indicate that the marginal status of the Ethiopian rabbis prevents their inclusion and strengthens components of their ethnic identity. Thus, diverse behaviour patterns and various syncretic combinations between religious and cultural elements have been created in their identity.
The twentieth century witnessed an array of fresh models of Jewish women’s educational and religious leadership. Quite understandably, the majority of the scholarly focus has been on burgeoning egalitarian trends featured in the new roles for women within liberal Jewish denominations and among the Modern Orthodox. Yet increased appreciation for gendered perspectives within Jewish studies has also led to recognition that seemingly conventional female roles, once viewed as purely supportive in nature, have evolved into platforms for voicing uniquely feminine styles of Jewish authority. This article offers an initial portrayal and analysis of a relatively new phenomenon: the American female non-hasidic Haredi outreach activist. It does so, first, by locating these figures within overall trends of American Haredi Jewry as well as in relation to the broader phenomenon of Orthodox feminism. The central contention is that inasmuch as American Haredi Orthodoxy vehemently opposes many of the changes advanced by the Modern Orthodox sector, a “silent” revolution is actually taking place within its own elite frameworks. The instigation for the emergence of new religious leadership roles for Haredi women is the increasing focus of this sector on outreach to the non-observant, and the recognition that woman can be especially effective in these capacities. Yet such activities demand types of public behavior, often in mixed gender settings, that are inconsistent with the messages of strict modesty put forward within Haredi female education. Moreover, some of the female Haredi figures have begun to advance the notion that their functions are not merely vehicles for increasing engagement with Judaism, but actually represent a new empowered model of Orthodox women’s leadership and activism.
The ordination of women as rabbis is a relatively new phenomenon in Jewish communities worldwide, but especially in the State of Israel. Israel’s non-Orthodox movements began to ordain women as rabbis only twenty years after the first woman rabbi was ordained in the United States. Today, women rabbis continue to confront deeply rooted cultural concepts and stereotypes while seeking to reshape the place of women in Judaism. In this article, I shall analyze and interpret Israeli women rabbis’ shared experiences as extracted from their life stories, using folklore research tools. Analyzing these stories using the narrative-package model revealed their commonalities with Vladimir Propp’s fairy-tale narrative structure. The content of these narratives by pioneer Israeli women rabbis emphasizes the deconstruction of gender roles in Judaism and in Israeli society, even as new structures are being established, enabling women to take religious leadership functions upon themselves. The narrators are aware of the numerous challenges they face, but most of them are deeply motivated to continue exerting their influence in different areas of Israeli society.