By Rabbi Dr. Sandra Katz
After reading the Kranjec test articles, I am feeling inspired to write one of my own. When I, a cis-gender hetero woman, expressed my concerns while studying sacred text at a mainstream seminary in the 1990s, my professor told me that I had a “learning disability.” I felt that I “heard” the voices of the people who were not at the table, and it hurt that they seemed invisible in our study. I did a lot of “creative misinterpretation.” I found it hard to bear that when I consulted our sources for timeless wisdom, I often found exclusion, violence, and contempt instead. I have waited for validation of my lived experience! I am not alone.
I feel grateful even for the idea of the Kranjec test. I see it illustrating a new possibility to be heard after all these years. Over time, I found myself disagreeing with many of the Jewish feminist writers I have read, wishing that they would go deeper and speak more boldly.
We understand clearly that our canon is pre-scientific. We have a few pieces from contemporary writers, and even in our day many of them continue to pound away at traditional views – refusing to call biblical figures to account, explaining away treatment of non-male individuals, making excuses for behavior that hurts or marginalizes others, and more. It takes courage and creativity to hear the people marginalized in our source texts. That’s where the test offers learners the visibility I craved. Someday, if we keep at it, other generations will follow us and say, “There, that’s when it all changed. That’s when hearts opened to the highest ideals of compassion and equity.” Let us live our Torah, write it for others to read, and teach our students. Who knows? Maybe someday even this level of inclusion will seem unevolved.
I hope that the Kranjec test unlocks doors for students of Torah who have longed to see themselves reflected in a Jewish space. I hope that shifting the way we read our texts can align us with values that stand the test of time. I hope that this conversation advances human compassion. Who would have thought that a test could feel so much like a gift?
Rabbi Dr. Sandra Katz is immediate past president of Neshama: Association of Jewish Chaplains, Sandra finds value in compassionately hearing the stories of people who thought they were invisible.