Daily Alert

26 June 2008

Where the Boys Are

Women outnumber men in rabbinical schools (JewishMadison.org)
BOSTON, Jun 22, 2008 (UPI via COMTEX) -- Women significantly outnumber men studying in U.S. rabbinical schools, Jewish leaders say.

The Boston Globe reported Sunday that women are significantly outnumber men in several segments of non-Orthodox Jewish community life.

At the Reform movement's seminary, for instance, 60 percent of the rabbinical students and 84 percent of those studying to become cantors are female, the newspaper reported.

Moreover, girls outnumber boys by as much as 2 to 1 among adolescents participating in youth group programs and summer camps, while women outnumber men in a variety of congregational leadership roles, the Union for Reform Judaism says.

"After bar mitzvah, the boys just drop out," said Sylvia Barack Fishman, a professor of contemporary Jewish life at Brandeis University and the co-author of a study on "Gender Imbalance in American Jewish Life," which was released recently.

Some scholars say they are concerned by the diminished participation by men in Judaism.

"Men need to be encouraged to come back into the synagogue," said Stuart Matlins, editor in chief of Jewish Lights Publishing. "The welcoming of women into leadership positions is something I have worked very hard on, but we don't want to lose the men." URL: www.upi.com

What could be the real reason why men do not wish to participate in Reformist and increasingly in Conservativist congregations and no longer in significant numbers go to the seminaries of these "movements"? Why have the men been sent away?

The real irony of this development is that egalitarianism was supposed to make the religious experience more family (defined differently by each "movement")friendly. Whole families could sit together sharing in the worship service. Mom and Dad and the cute little kids could share in the spiritual harmony of a religious experience.

Additionally, women religious professionals were supposed to make the services more interesting adding a soft more emotional feeling to the prayer services, a sense of feeling that men just couldn't portray.

All of this effort would fully empower the female membership to be an "active" part of the religious experience. So what happened?

As it turns out, it is a fair observation to say that most men (the insensitive, not in touch with there feelings type, still harboring American style ruggedness at least in a remote place in their psyche) opted out. Somehow, other things just became more important than the Friday night at the Temple outing or the Saturday morning Synagogue trip. Maybe it was work. Maybe it was the "guys". Maybe it was the game or fishing trip. Maybe, it was just, "I can find better things to do with my time".

So the boys have gone. The girls are in charge. Where does this leave "progressive" Judaism other than progressively dis-interesting to the flawed and easily bruised ego of the male?

Where it leads to is congregations with female "rabbis" and "cantors", with mostly intermarried women and their children in attendance, some of these women with their partners (other women)and the only men in attendance "married" to other men. But don't tell Eric Yoffie or Arnie Eisen. They will tell you that their "movements" have large affiliations and "meaningful religious and spiritual observance". Just don't ask them to define what a "meaningful religious and spiritual observance" is.

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