Women Rabbis and Motherhood

The publication of a controversial article by an on-leave JTS rabbinic student about whether women should stay home with kids or become rabbis has become a hot topic in the Jewish media this week.

from the original article, Be Ima-The Bima Can Wait – be sure to check the article comments:

I don’t have time to write this blog because I have an infant on my lap. But I am driven to write because I do not hear my voice represented in the discussions about motherhood and the rabbinate.

… I don’t think congregations are concerned with how motherhood might interfere with a mother’s ability to do the job as rabbi; rather, I suspect congregations are concerned with hiring someone who is obviously allowing a rabbinic job to interfere with motherhood. And I have to agree. I would rather see at least one parent at home full-time with her/his baby or toddler – ideally the birth mother, unless the child is adopted. This is what is best for the baby.

An excellent response comes from Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, Being Ima on and off the Bima:

I do not know the writer of this article. And I do not actually feel that her post was, in fact, an appropriate response to the post that she cites, a post about young mothers in the rabbinate. Instead, I feel that Chasya-Uriel Steinbauer is trying very much to attack other mothers while justifying her own choices. This is remarkably common and prevalent on the internet – there are so many “mommy bloggers” who want to judge, rebuke, comment upon, and generally dismiss anyone who makes choices different from their own. The comments that I received when I posted this article on Facebook helped me to feel a little less alone when reading Chasya-Uriel’s post – it was definitely a case of “I thought it was just me.” But I was relieved to know that I am not the only one insulted by her simultaneous dismissal of my rabbinate and parenthood.

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  1. Rabbi Cheryl Weiner says

    Knowing Rabbis who have been followed by their three year old child or an adolescent child onto the bima on Shabbat, I have read reactions from their congregation. If the Rabbi is a male, it’s ooh’s and aah’s of support and reactions of “how wonderful that the Rabbi is so connected with his child”. If the Rabbi is a female, it’s tsk’s and grumblings about the lack of caring for her children and feelings of abandonment that makes them want to follow her on the bima. Rabbis today with young children have more choices than their predecessors, but the normative role of Rabbi still does not include being a spouse, partner, or parent to other than “rebetzin’s”. Congregations don’t allow Rabbis to be human and Rabbis often don’t allow themselves to be either. No different than CEO’s actually. How would we feel if the CEO of a company brought the kids to a board meeting because the baby sitter didn’t show up? The bigger question is how do we accommodate the role of parent into our lives when we are serving other people’s needs in the workplace. How do we accommodate our desire to serve others as well as our children? We are still grappling with fundamental questions of family and work as we continuously re-evaluate “family values” and the role of parenting.