I grew up in a Jewish family, am active in my synagogue, and teach in the Jewish Studies program at a Catholic university. My students come from a range of backgrounds, Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish and Mormon. As a theology teacher I’ve read the book of Mormon three times – which a missionary once told me is more than some Mormons have read it.
Judaism has deep and ancient roots. Among the ranks of male priests and prophets, we know there were a few women, but for most of our history our leadership has been exclusively male. It was only in 1935 that Regina Jonas became the first woman ordained as a rabbi, in Germany. If not for World War Two and the Holocaust, women’s ordination would have continued, but Rabbi Jonas died in Auschwitz and her name and story were forgotten. It was only in 1972 in this country that another woman, Sally Priesand was ordained, in the Reform Movement. Since then women have also been ordained in the Reconstructionist and Conservative Movements, and a small handful of women have even been ordained in the more traditional Orthodox branch of Judaism.
In the decades since Rabbi Priesand’s ordination there has been a spiritual flowering in the Jewish world – because of the presence of women in the rabbinate. New ways of looking at text, new writings, new music, and a full sense of inclusion have fed the spiritual lives of all of us, women and men. I can see and feel the difference in our communities, sitting in the pews surrounded by girls and boys who have joyously engaged male and female mentors to guide them, as I did not have when I was growing up. Having lived through these changes in my own faith tradition, and having grown from them, as a man, as a person of faith, I know that the same rich flowering will come to the Mormon world too, which is why, as an interested outsider, I believe that women should be ordained.