Letters to the Editor: December 18, 2014


Does a shul need a maharat?
A recent opinion piece in Washington Jewish Week’s online Forum (“The benefits of a maharat,” by Barbara Zakheim, Nov. 20) praised Ohev Sholom-National Synagogue, her Orthodox congregation, for hiring a maharat, a female spiritual leader. She describes herself as “ECSTATIC!!” about the role the maharat, Ruth Balinsky Friedman, has been playing in her shul.

The reasons Zakheim gives: Friedman is knowledgeable and humble. She shows female Jewish leadership, shares words of Torah and answers religious questions – especially those relating to family purity. She leads women-only discussions, and helps comfort female mourners.

And, Zakheim is quick to add, she is “delighted” she doesn’t “ever feel that our Maharat is a feminist or leading a feminist movement.” Friedman is just an example of how the existence of increasingly educated Jewish women “warrants female leadership along with that of men.”

If all of that is true, why does the shul need a maharat in the first place?


All the roles Zakheim describes have been played by Jewish women for centuries – by rebbetzins, mikvah ladies and older relatives. Despite Zakheim’s protestations, Friedman herself said in a 2013 interview that she “absolutely” identifies as a feminist.

Ordaining female clergy is simply Western political feminism grafted onto traditional Judaism, and does not deserve to be called Orthodox.

Zakheim concludes that she looks forward to “the time when every modern Orthodox community hires a Maharat or the equivalent and reaps the benefits of their leadership as the National
Synagogue does today.”

Anyone who supports an Orthodoxy wedded to our tradition rather than infused with foreign and possibly ephemeral value systems should be anything but ECSTATIC!! should her wish come true.
St. Louis

The timing of Hagel’s departure
The reporting on Hagel’s departure (“Why Hagel got the boot,” WJW, Dec. 4) concluded that the defense secretary was sacked because of disputes between the White House and the Pentagon. There can be little doubt about that conclusion. However an interesting aspect that was not explored was why the announcement was made on Nov. 24.

As mentioned briefly at the time of Hagel’s “resignation,” the news media were still processing the news of President Obama’s actions on undocumented immigrants and the extension of the deadline for reaching an agreement with Iran on restricting its nuclear activities. The White House was clearly concerned to divert attention from these issues, and the timing of announcing Hagel’s departure met that objective.

In terms of national and international security the most important unresolved issue is the Iranian nuclear warhead program. The announced further extension of the so-called negotiations provides more time for Iran to make progress, while decreasing the likelihood of reimposing sanctions to a level that brought Iran to the table in the first place.

This was the issue that President Obama wants off the front pages. Since gaining the presidency, he has been anxious to demonstrate that he can make an agreement with a nation that is generally agreed to be the world’s number one supporter of terrorist activities. Sadly any agreement reached with the present Iranian leadership will be worthless. They will pursue their evil activities until they
possess a nuclear warhead.

Sacking our defense secretary might deflect some attention from this exceedingly dangerous situation, but it will not change the outcome.

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