Advocating for Orthodox Jewish Women With Daphne Lazar Price


As the executive director of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, Daphne Lazar Price of Silver Spring works to create inclusive spaces for women in the Orthodox community. The organization distributes resources for Orthodox women, such as works from female scholars, guides to worship venues that support women and allow them to say Kaddish and
abortion resources.

(Photo courtesy of Daphne Lazar Price)

Price, 50, her husband and two daughters are members of Kemp Mill Synagogue and Young Israel Shomrai Emunah of Greater Washington. Price grew up in Toronto. Her family was secular until her parents joined Tortonto’s Orthodox community when Price was 9 years old.

“We lived on a street where the majority of families were Orthodox,” she said. “We gradually stopped watching Saturday morning cartoons so we could go to a synagogue. My siblings and I attended Hebrew school and started asking why we did not do certain things, like building a sukkah for Sukkot. Over time, as we started to ask those questions, my parents started exploring what it would mean to bring more tradition into our home.”

Those questions led to a lifestyle change as the family adjusted to living as Orthodox Jews.

“It was a real rude awakening that we couldn’t watch Saturday morning cartoons anymore, since it was the only time cartoons were regularly on TV,” Price said. “And, of course, McDonald’s was off the table. These days, I make a point of picking up kosher McDonald’s on every visit to Israel.”

But she quickly fell in love with the Orthodox world, majoring in religious studies with a focus on Jewish history at York University in Toronto and devoting herself to Jewish-focused work. She moved to New York, where she met her husband, a native Washingtonian. The couple eventually moved to Washington where Price took a job at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism as its development director.

She said she applied for the job “on a lark.” But it informed the advocacy work that she’s done in the Jewish community ever since.

“I had only ever known Reform Jews academically at that point, not in real life,” Price said. “I thought I would only work there for a year, but I ended up staying for 17.”

She also worked as the director of the Muslim Leadership Initiative at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, and founded the Inter-Jewish Muslim Alliance, where she still serves as an executive board member. Both focus on fostering connections between
Jews and Muslims.

Price came in contact with the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance when she attended its first conference, in 1997.

“It was a positively disruptive experience in my life,” she recalled. “I felt like I had found my people, language, tools and community.”

She continued to attend the group’s conferences. Price later became involved with the organization in a more official capacity, due to the fact that she was passionate about both religion and social justice advocacy.

“[JOFA] has always been a go-to address for me personally. It is a grassroots organization that advocates and provides tools for women’s engagement and also provides opportunities for women to lean in and engage,” Price said. “That’s one of the things I love about JOFA, and made it that much more exciting for me to take on the role of executive director in 2019.”

JOFA does its feminist work in the Orthodox community within the framework of halachah, or Jewish law. One of its flagship programs is the Devorah Scholars program, which provides funding to Orthodox synagogues that hire women as spiritual leaders. They also offer scholarships for women pursuing halachic studies, and engage in grassroots activism for feminist causes, such as advocating for reproductive rights.

She said that some people have preconceived notions about Orthodox communities not being accepting of feminist causes, because Orthodox synagogues separate men and women during services. She said that separation makes the pursuit of equity for Orthodox women even more important.

“All of our traditions have been patriarchal in nature. Even more liberal streams like the Reform movement only started ordaining women around 50 years ago,” she said. “In accordance with halachah, we do separate women and men for prayer services, but that does not necessarily make women less important. Part of the conversation recently has been involving women in the architectural development for synagogues, to make sure they have the ability to hear as well as access to sight lines so they can benefit from services as much as men.”

Ultimately, her goal as executive director of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance is to create an environment for Orthodox women where they have just as much access to Judaism as Orthodox men.

“What I want is an open enough community to validate women’s learning,” Price said, “Where women have the agency and an ability to answer questions within Jewish law to create a vibrant and equitable Orthodox community.”

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