I am excited to take on the role of executive director of JOFA and to work with a dedicated board of directors, an incredible professional team, and passionate lay leaders to advance the work of this vital organization.
One of the great blessings of my life is that I have always been surrounded by strong and smart women who have served as my role models and inspiration. Growing up in Toronto, I was raised—both at home and at school—to believe that I could be anything. Rarely did I consider my gender a barrier. Indeed, almost the entirety of my formal and experiential education was in the gender-segregated settings of Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox environments. I prayed out loud. I studied Torah daily. I had a hand in planning, organizing, and executing a number of private and public programs. And then I left my protective bubble and moved to New York, where I carved out a new space for myself in co-ed settings. I explored and worked hard to find a group of friends, synagogue, and community.
It was during those years that a friend and I decided to spend Presidents’ Day weekend at the first-ever Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance conference. It wasn’t a term I would have used then, but looking back, it was one of the most disruptive events I have ever attended. From the plenary programs to the workshops to the buzzing in the hallways, I was surrounded by women who affiliated as Orthodox and were yearning to be with and learn from others like themselves. From exploring solutions to the agunah crisis, to discussing the growing roles of women in communal leadership positions, tefillah groups, and Torah study, the conference opened my mind to what really was possible. JOFA created the space that I was looking for, and I’m ever grateful to its founders and leadership who dreamed the organization into reality.
Not long after those heady days, I moved and planted roots in Silver Spring, Maryland. I got married and had two daughters. In the years since then I have dedicated much of my personal and professional life to Jewish communities, both Orthodox and beyond. I have worked extensively with clergy and professionals in public advocacy. I have taught Judaic studies in multiple settings. I have volunteered my time to serve on Jewish communal boards. My professional decisions have been driven by my commitment to halakhic values and my identity as an Orthodox feminist. Fast-forward more than twenty years, and I’m so happy to be returning “home.”
JOFA is relevant. As women break through glass ceilings in their professional lives, there is still a hunger to expand the spiritual, ritual, intellectual, leadership, and political opportunities for women within the framework of halakhah. More specifically, JOFA has an important role to play in public conversations about #MeToo, the erasure of women’s images from public spaces, and ensuring that women are included as decision makers on Jewish institutional boards and committees. Operating within a halakhic framework, JOFA is open to men and women from all walks of life and of all ages––single, married, divorced, widowed, women of color, Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews, Jews who were born into Orthodox families and those who came to embrace tradition later in life. We will see our greatest successes when we widen the tent to create spaces for Orthodox women to have meaningful roles in Jewish life.
I invite you to take a moment to share with me how JOFA has made a difference in your life and how you hope the organization continues to improve and expand the role of women in Jewish life. If you wish to discuss the issues you feel are most relevant and how to bring JOFA to your community, please reach out to me at Daphne@JOFA.org.
Daphne Lazar Price is the Executive Director of JOFA, the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance.
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