On today’s Huffington Post, Gilah Kletenik an alumnus of Stern College’s Graduate Program for Women in Advanced Talmudic Studies (GPATS) has moved from calling herself educator to being an Orthodox Jewish clergy. She has burst beyond her official title of Congregational Scholar at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun by officially calling herself clergy and for the removal of the glass ceiling for female clergy.Along the way, she is going to “ameliorate the religious fundamentalism and extremism” through “cooperation across the denominational, religious and secular spectrum.” She can now be counted among America’s rabbis by a simple reorientation of her thinking.
Republican Congressman Darrel Issa deserves our gratitude for his selection of an all-male panel of clergy witnesses to testify at the recent congressional hearing on reproductive rights and religious freedom. He has unintentionally sounded a startling and overdue wake-up call concerning the face of religion in America. Thankfully, our country is finally able to appreciate the deep disparity in the ranks of our spiritual leadership. According to a 2009 finding by the Census Bureau, women comprise only 17% of our country’s clergy.
As a young Orthodox Jewish clergywoman and former intern at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, I am especially grateful to the GOP. It has drawn national attention to the need for women religious leaders. Particularly, when our reproductive rights are continuously imperiled in the name of religion.
The gender disparity amongst clergy is not simply a concern to those among us who belong to synagogues, churches, mosques and other houses of worship or who are actively engaged with our faith. Rather, it affects all Americans, believers and atheists alike, whether we like it or not.
It is time for all citizens to take claim over religious leadership in our country and to push for gender parity throughout its ranks.
Perhaps engaging the other half of our population in the spiritual ranks might even ameliorate the religious fundamentalism and extremism we have come to take for granted here in America.
Together with my female colleagues, on a daily basis, I am engaged in the arduous task of breaking the stained glassed ceiling. However, our efforts will prove unfruitful unless there is cooperation across the denominational, religious and secular spectrum.