“Is the woman a Man like the others? Jewish Perspectives”, this is the theme of this meeting, organized by Les filles de Rashi, an association which aims to promote all the voices of women in French Judaism. .
A dozen women, rabbis in practice or in training, teachers and two male rabbis, from different currents, will work in workshops on the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, the Midrash (rabbinic commentary on the Bible). About sixty people are registered.
In 2019, a first world “congress” was held in Troyes, in the House of Rashi, a great commentator on texts from Judaism in the 11th century and father of three daughters raised as sages. Coming from the United States, Israel and France, the speakers had discussed the “leadership” of women.
A first edition which “certainly reinforced the idea that women should be more involved in taking on responsibilities: access to the study of sacred texts, teaching, more functions in the life of the community, the rabbinate,” Pauline Bebe told AFP. This first woman to become a rabbi, liberal tendency, in 1990, in France, will lead a workshop on Sunday.
– “It’s new!” –
For the Orthodox, entrusting the rabbinate to a woman is not in accordance with Jewish law. On the other hand, the liberal trend (progressive) and the Conservative current (which can be situated between the liberals and the orthodox) authorize it.
“Now, female rabbis are part of the French Jewish landscape,” adds Pauline Bebe.
Delphine Horvilleur, a liberal rabbi for 14 years, notes “a lot of progress in recent years”. “There is a form of acceptance, in many Jewish circles, of a more important place for women: both the voice of women, the body of women, the scholarship of women”.
France now has five -liberal- women rabbis, the last of whom, Iris Ferreira, was ordained in the summer of 2021. A liberal rabbinical school opened in Paris in 2019, the only possible place of study for women in the country. ‘Hexagon. She is currently training four students.
A French Masortie is expected to be ordained by the end of 2022.
Above all, a new fact, in the “modern” Orthodox movement, four others are studying rabbinically at an Orthodox seminary in New York which authorizes the ordination of women. Four, “it’s new!”, Underlines one of them, Myriam Ackermann-Sommer, also present in Rouen.
She herself, while waiting for her ordination next year, is multiplying the initiatives: she has set up a theological institute called “Kol-Elles” aimed at “women who want to take part in the life of their synagogue”, or comment on the Talmud on podcast every day.
– The Sublime House –
“In Orthodox Judaism”, there are for women “only the places that men assign them”, judge Hannah Ruimy, of the same seminary. However, for this daughter of a rabbi who teaches the Talmud, “you should not ask the question”: “the place, you have to make it” yourself, she says.
According to Laura Hobson-Faure, professor of contemporary history at Paris-I, at the chair of contemporary Jewish worlds, the “novelty” comes from these women. They “propose a rereading of orthodox practices, while protecting them”.
Advances that may however seem timid. The Consistory – created by Napoleon in 1808 to structure French Judaism – says it has some 300 rabbis (men, therefore) in all of its communities.
“Among the French Jews who adhere to a synagogue, the consistorial current is the majority”, recalls Laura Hobson-Faure. “And since the mid-1980s, this current has been more orthodox.”
More generally, Delphine Horvilleur warns: “women’s rights can always recede”, in religion as in society. Watch out for the “conservative rise” that accompanies advances, she says.
The speakers are looking forward to meeting on Sunday, in Rouen. The icing on the cake: the work will be held near the Sublime House, which was perhaps a rabbinical school in the 12th century. Considered the oldest Jewish monument in France, it has just reopened after restoration.