Recently, the Yeshivat Maharat graduated its latest class. Congratulations to the graduates. Semicha, whether or not one receives the title of "rabbi," is a challenge and requires a great deal of study and hard work. I know these women will be an asset to the Jewish community as a whole.
And, of course, we now have to deal with opinions.
Rabbi Harry Maryles is against the whole business of ordaining women. I'm not sure what "serara" means, or why it's a problem that a woman rabbi will be on the other side of the mechitza from him. (My rabbi is always on the other side of the mechitza from me--live with it!) However, he stated that all this ordaining women "nonsense" stems from feminism, a movement that should be discounted because it dates back only to the 1970s, unlike the longstanding traditions of Judaism. OK, history buff hackles officially raised.
I'm not about to get into a cyber shouting match with the man. However, I will use a tool that I used with my own kids--a timeline. This will show that not only does feminism date back quite a while, but that women's interests have been used and misused to meet other goals in society.
1791 (those numbers are not transposed--I mean the 18th century): Mary Wollstonecraft publishes the Declaration of the Rights of Women in France.
1848: Seneca Falls conference on women's suffrage in New York, USA
1851: At the Women's Convention in Akron, OH, USA, Sojourner Truth delivers her "Ain't I a Woman" speech, arguing that women are not always treated like ladies, can handle the same work as men, and deserve the right to vote.
1869: In an attempt to entice female pioneers, Wyoming becomes the first United States territory to offer women the right to vote
1878: Amendment introduced to grant women suffrage in the United States (failed)
1890s: Women's Christian Temperance Movement aligns with suffrage movement; liquor interests attempt to keep women's suffrage quashed.
1902: The newly formed Commonwealth of Australia grants suffrage to non-aboriginal women.
1909: The Uprising of the Twenty Thousand, the largest labor strike in history, shuts down garment manufacturing in New York City for about a year. Local suffragists tried to invade the labor movement, then abandoned it when their Republican interests clashed with that of the laborers.
1917: In an effort to keep girls from leaving Judaism, seamstress Sarah Schnirer opens the first Bais Yaakov girls' school. The schools, which taught Judaism and halacha, would become key institutions in the Orthodox Jewish world.
1919: 18th Amendment passes, beginning Prohibition. Temperance laws are now longer an issue.
1920: The 19th Amendment passes in the United States by one vote, granting suffrage to all Caucasian women. (Women of color still had to deal with anti-suffrage laws based in racism).
1941-1945: During World War II, American women are encouraged to perform men's jobs in factories, then relinquish those jobs to returning veterans.
1949: Simone de Beauvoir publishes The Second Sex, considered the manifesto of Second Wave feminism.
1953: First issue of Playboy magazine, famous for its centerfolds of scantily-clad women, is published.
1963: Betty Friedan publishes The Feminine Mystique. It describes "the problem with no name," as a number of college-educated women had been discouraged from working and encouraged to be homemakers in the suburbs.
1964: Title VII barred discrimination in the workplace on the grounds of gender or race.
1968: Protesters gathered at the Miss America pageant. Although no bras were burnt, several items of lingerie were discarded in a "Freedom Trashcan." The event, however, gave rise to the term "bra-burning."
1973: Roe vs. Wade states that laws banning abortion interfere with the physician's right to privacy. However, laws regulating abortion are still permitted and enforced.
1979: Equal Rights amendment fails.
1985: Tracey Thurman successfully sued the city of Torrington, CT, for failure to offer equal protection under the 14th Amendment. Her estranged husband, Charles "Buck" Thurman ndearly beat her to death while the local police watched and did nothing.
1991: South Carolina became the last US state to make marital rape illegal. However, it is still damn near impossible to enforce existing laws
2009: Sara Hurwitz becomes the first woman ordained as an Orthodox Maharat. The next year, the title would be changed to "Rabba," making her the first woman t receive semicha.
2010: "No-fault divorce" is the law in all 50 states.
Feminism is not new, not restricted to the 1970s, and not superfluous. It affects Judaism just as any trend in the wider culture does. Hopefully Orthodoxy will be big enough to offer these ladies a seat at the table, as well as those who may follow.