Monday, September 24, 2007

A Post-YK Confession

I'm not ashamed to admit it. In fact, in this particular case, I'm delighted to have the chance to admit it.

I was wrong.

I had hoped to have a chance to blog this before Yom Kippur, but it turns out to be an added plus that I had to wait until now. This is the latest installment of the Rabbanit Debate. Again, I'm not addressing whether women should or should not have an equivalent title to "rabbi," but rather the specific leadership issues surrounding the recent staff appointment at my shul.

I had dinner on Thursday night with the new Programming and Ritual Director of my shul. Since she needs a shorter code name for blogging purposes, we shall give her the acronym "The PRD". She'd invited me to come over and join her, to follow up on an interesting conversation we had begun weeks before during a shabbos meal.

To be honest, I was more than a bit apprehensive. She'd given a speech from the bima on Rosh Hashana that had bothered me a great deal, and I was uncomfortable with the notion of airing my grievances in her own home. It simply didn't feel right. Turns out that my fears were groundless.

Instead of having a heated confrontation, in which one or both of us offended the other, we had a candid, open conversation/discussion about the shul community, its leadership, "public" sentiment towards the PRD and roots of those sentiments, and even contemplated what she could "do" about the situation. I also learned far more about her, and the details behind her hiring.

Of particular interest were her emphatic statements that she does not want to be a rabbi, and the information that the Board never intended to hire both her husband as well as her. Not only did the conversation help the two of us solidify the foundation of our friendship, but it also framed the Debate more squarely in terms of shul leadership and obligations/responsibilities towards the community.

This all could have been said before Yom Kippur. The nice thing about having been forced to wait until now is that I can add the post-YK postscript. Right before Neila, after giving a brief description of the shul's new Torah Institute programs, she took the opportunity to publicly acknowledge the segment of the community that resents or fears her, to ask mechila for anything she may have said that was offensive (however unintentionally), and to admit that she has no desire to ever be considered a rabbi. It was a brave, admirable move.

So, the debate isn't over. I still have very strong feelings and opinions about the role the rabbi and board have played in creating such confusion, hurt, and resentment. But I'm grateful to have had the chance to learn just how wrong I had been about the PRD, and the dangers of attributing motivations to people I don't really know.

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