The Role Of Women In Orthodox Judaism

In his second class on Rabbi Ben Zion Uziel for Torah in Motion, Dr. Marc B. Shapiro says:

Rav Kook opposed women voting. He says the role of the woman is not to be in the public sphere. The Mercaz HaRav school — the ideological descendants of Rav Kook — have the most extreme standards of tzniut (modesty) of anyone in the Orthodox world, much more than the haredi world. Haredi women dress fasionably when they can afford to. They wear make-up. That does not happen in the Mercaz HaRav – Rav Kook world. They don’t even wear sheitels. They wear tickels (sp?).

Haredi women, including Satmar women, wear skirts down to their knees. You can see their calves. Women in the Mercaz HaRav world wear skirts down to the ground. Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook (Rav Kook’s son) was asked about the Mishna Berura permitting women wearing skirts only to the knees. He said that was an unfortunate leniency by the Chofetz Chaim and we should try to rise above it.

Jewish women who wear burkas are crazy. There’s no rabbinic sanction for this.

I remember in my Orthodox shul in West Orange, they took a vote whether or not to permit women to vote for shul leaders and there were some who opposed giving women such a franchise.

Rabbi Ben Zion Uziel had no problem with women voting and taking public roles. He says you can have women dayanim. If a woman knows Jewish law, she can posken shylas (decide Jewish law). He says it is not a great idea because women are filled with mercy. Will they have the strength to do the right thing?

I’ve never heard that women judges in the secular world are more likely to let robbers and murderers off. If we had more female leaders, we wouldn’t have so many wars.

Every dayan is a rabbi though not every rabbi is a dayan.

I think everyone today realizes that the reason Orthodox Judaism doesn’t have women rabbis has nothing to do with Jewish law. It has to do with sociology. The slippery slope. Where is it going to lead?

I don’t think anyone since Saul Lieberman has argued there’s a halachic problem.

I would’ve thought they would’ve solved this already because women are discriminated against. Women can’t be chaplains. They can’t have the same rights to visit the sick in hospital.

We don’t have an organized beit din (Jewish law courts) system in the United States. You have autonomous batei din. Therefore, there’s no right of appeal. If the beit din makes an error, there’s nothing you can do.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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