I write in regard to Gary Rosenblatt’s Aug. 5 column, “OU Grapples With Roles Of Women In Clergy.” I will not comment on the substance of the article as our process has not yet concluded.
I do, however, feel compelled to correct just two of the significant inaccuracies in the statement attributed to Bat Sheva Marcus, president of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA). Marcus is quoted as stating that only “a token number of women” were invited to meet with the panel of poskim [halachic decisors] to whom the OU addressed its questions. In fact, of the total invitees to these forums, more than one-third were women. Moreover, to refer to these outstanding and distinguished individuals as “tokens” bespeaks an arrogance that glorifies agenda over accomplishment. The list of women invitees included prominent communal leaders; three deans; a number of distinguished educators (including principals and heads of school); and several yoatzot halacha [experts on matters of family purity].
Further, Marcus is quoted as stating that the OU does not seek input on issues “like the needs of the disabled.” I can only assume that Marcus is unaware of (or otherwise chose to ignore) the OU’s Yachad program, which works tirelessly to promote inclusion and diversity in our community, spending over $10 million per year on one of the largest programs of its type for children and adults with disabilities. I was also surprised that Marcus was quoted as stating that “there was little if any representation from the more open branch of Orthodoxy,” particularly when the article went on to quote Dr. Michelle Friedman, chair of pastoral counseling at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and a participant of our forum.
The issues addressed in Gary Rosenblatt’s column are as important as they are complex and multi-faceted. It is my hope that our community will address them in a spirit of dignity, mutual respect and civility — and with a scrupulous regard for the facts.
Executive Vice President of the Orthodox Union, Manhattan