Rachel Adler

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Rachel Adler
Ruthelyn Rubin

(1943-07-02) July 2, 1943 (age 75)
ResidenceLos Angeles, California, United States
EducationUniversity of Southern California
Theological work
Main interestsJewish feminism

Rachel Adler (born as Ruthelyn Rubin in Chicago on (1943-07-02) July 2, 1943 (age 75)[1]) is professor of Modern Jewish Thought and Judaism and Gender at Hebrew Union College, at the Los Angeles campus.[2] Adler was one of the first theologians to integrate feminist perspectives and concerns into Jewish texts and the renewal of Jewish law and ethics. Her approach to God is Levinasian and her approach to gender is constructivist.[3]


In 1971, while identifying as an Orthodox Jew (though she previously and later identified as Reform Jewish), she published an article entitled "The Jew Who Wasn't There: Halacha and the Jewish Woman," in Davka magazine; according to historian Paula Hyman, this article was a trailblazer in analyzing the status of Jewish women using feminism.[4][5][6][7][8][9]

In 1972, she published an article entitled "Tum'ah and Toharah: Ends and Beginnings." In this article she argued that the ritual immersion of a niddah (a menstruating woman) in a mikveh did not "oppress or denigrate women." Instead, she argued, such immersion constituted a ritual reenactment of "death and resurrection" that was actually "equally accessible to men and women." However, she eventually renounced this position. In her essay "In Your Blood, Live: Re-visions of a Theology of Purity", published in Tikkun in 1993, she wrote "purity and impurity do not constitute a cycle through which all members of society pass, as I argued in my [1972] essay. Instead, impurity and purity define a class system in which the most impure people are women."[10]

In 1983, she published an essay in Moment entitled "I've Had Nothing Yet, So I Can't Take More," in which she criticized rabbinic tradition for making women "a focus of the sacred rather than active participants in its processes," and declared that being a Jewish woman "is very much like being Alice at the Hatter's tea party. We did not participate in making the rules, nor were we there at the beginning of the party."[10]

In 1992, she began a women's Talmud class in her home, teaching the text (in its original Hebrew and Aramaic). This created the first rigorous Talmud study opportunity for lay women outside of New York and Israel.

Adler received a PhD in Religion from the University of Southern California in 1997; her doctoral dissertation was titled "Justice and Peace Have Kissed: A Feminist Theology of Judaism." [10] She is the author of many articles that have appeared in Blackwell's Companion to Feminist Philosophy, Beginning Anew: A Woman's Companion to the High Holy Days, Contemporary Jewish Religious Thought, Lifecycles, The Jewish Condition, and On Being a Jewish Feminist.

She was awarded the 2000 Tuttleman Foundation Book Award of Gratz College and the 1999 National Jewish Book Award for Jewish Thought by the Jewish Book Council for her book Engendering Judaism: An Inclusive Theology and Ethics; this was the first time the National Jewish Book Award for Jewish Thought was ever awarded to a female theologian.[11] Among the book's contributions to Jewish thoughts was the creation of a new ritual, brit ahuvim, to replace the traditional erusin marriage ceremony,[12] which Adler viewed as not according with feminist ideals of equality between the sexes.

Originally a Reform Jew, but converting to Orthodox Judaism in her teens, Adler made her final spiritual home in the Reform movement.[6] On May 13, 2012, she was ordained as a rabbi by the Reform seminary Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles.[13][14]

In 2013, Adler became the first person to hold the Rabbi David Ellenson Chair in Jewish Religious Thought at Hebrew Union College.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mary Faulkner (1 August 2011). Women's Spirituality: Power and Grace. Hampton Roads Publishing. pp. 153–. ISBN 978-1-61283-135-0.
  2. ^ "HUC-JIR > Faculty & Administration > Faculty > Rachel Adler". Web.archive.org. Archived from the original on 2002-03-17. Retrieved 2017-06-26.
  3. ^ Libenson, Dan and Lex Rofeberg, hosts. "God and Gender - Rachel Adler." Judaism Unbound, episode 138, 5 Oct. 2018.
  4. ^ "Paula E. Hyman | Jewish Women's Archive". Jwa.org. Retrieved 2017-06-26.
  5. ^ Dr. Paula Hyman (2014-01-31). "American Jewish Feminism: Beginnings". My Jewish Learning. Retrieved 2017-06-26.
  6. ^ a b "Velveteen Rabbi: Reprint: Interview with Rachel Adler (in anticipation of OHALAH)". Velveteenrabbi.blogs.com. 2013-01-10. Retrieved 2017-06-26.
  7. ^ Nelly Las (2015). Jewish Voices in Feminism: Transnational Perspectives. U of Nebraska Press. pp. 85–. ISBN 978-0-8032-7704-5.
  8. ^ "THE JEW WHO WASN'T THERE: Halacha and the Jewish Woman". Jewish Women's Archive.
  9. ^ "Rachel Adler | Jewish Women's Archive". Jwa.org. Retrieved 2017-06-26.
  10. ^ a b c "Rachel Adler".
  11. ^ a b "Inauguration of the Rabbi David Ellenson Chair in Jewish Religious Thought".
  12. ^ "Brit Ahuvim". The Kiddushin Variations.
  13. ^ "Leading feminist theologian to be ordained … at last - Religion". Jewish Journal.
  14. ^ "HUC-JIR Graduation and Ordination Ceremonies in Los Angeles - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion". Huc.edu. 2012-06-25. Retrieved 2017-01-29.

External links[edit]