Attending “Judaism and Gender Justice: Workshop with Rabbi Ariella Rosen”

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend “Judaism and Gender Justice: Workshop with Rabbi Ariella Rosen,” part one of a series of Gender Justice workshops being held by the Multi Faith center. These events focus on the importance of interfaith discussions and their intersection with issues of gender justice. Each session hosts a different speaker and Rabbi Ariella Rosen was the speaker at this first event. She is the Senior Director and Senior Jewish Educator at Hillel U of T and she shared her experiences as a female Rabbi, exploring her understanding of the intersections of gender justice with her faith.

A lot of the events I’ve attended this semester begin by encouraging us to share initial ideas about the topic being discussed and I really find this is a great way to not only connect the group, but also to encourage true engagement with the issue, helping you to become more present and focused in the moment. Everyone was invited to type their personal definition of gender justice or any ideas they associate with gender justice into the chat and many people included concepts such as “equality,” “connection” and “respect” as part of their definition.

Rabbi Ariella began by sharing a brief history of women in Judaism as well as a history of traditional Jewish religious teachings, such as the different gender expectations that are present in the Halacha, Jewish law, and the way these have evolved over time. She cites the modern context we live in as a major catalyst for the evolution of the religious practices in her faith as there is now a greater emphasis on the power and agency of women, while acknowledging that this is still an ongoing process that requires work. Her discussion of the history and traditions of her faith was engaging and provided context for her message, making it accessible to even those who don’t share her same religious background.

She ended the workshop by discussing the ways in which she believes Gender Justice can become actively implemented into the traditions of Judaism. She highlights the importance of approaching the religious texts in an egalitarian way, removing gendered readings and gendered approaches to tasks in religious life. She also emphasizes the need to affirm gender diversity outside of the binary, again by removing these gendered expectations.

Rabbi Ariella’s discussion was informative and engaging. Her presentation of both facts and realities of her religion coupled with sharing her personal experiences made the session, for me, feel like a conversation with an old friend. The next session of the Gender Justice series is carded for December 9th with Reverend Cheri Dinovo also known as the “Queer Evangalist,” a minister at Trinity-St. Pauls for Faith, Justice and the Arts and an ordained United Church minister who performed Canada's first legalized same sex marriage in 2001. These sessions are a great way to become an active part of the conversation and I would highly recommend them!

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