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Rachel Adler

Rachel Adler has always challenged her religion from within, from her early days as a pioneer of the Jewish feminist movement to her later ordination as a rabbi. Raised as a Reform Jew, Adler took on a stricter relationship with the tradition when she married an Orthodox rabbi in 1964, but as she began learning Jewish texts and deepening her spiritual life, she began to chafe against the rules that excluded her. Her groundbreaking 1971 essay, “The Jew Who Wasn’t There,” argued that in the face of Jewish women’s traditional exclusion from the active roles enjoyed by men, the answer was not for feminists to abandon Judaism, but to reform it. Adler continued to reinterpret Jewish law and tradition, offering women new ways to participate in the Jewish community, and her book Engendering Judaism: An Inclusive Theology and Ethics earned her the National Jewish Book Award for Jewish Thought, the first time the award was given to a woman theologian. After a lifetime as a spiritual seeker, Rachel Adler was finally ordained as a rabbi by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles in 2012, where she teaches as of 2016.

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Feminist theologian Rachel Adler.

Institution: Hebrew Union College, Los Angeles.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Rachel Adler." (Viewed on December 12, 2019) <https://qa.jwa.org/rabbis/narrators/adler-rachel>.

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