Remembering Rivka Haut

Courtesy of Phyllis Chesler // Phyllis Chesler and Rivka Haut, right

Yesterday, a fearless and legendary leader of Jewish women, Rivka Haut, was memorialized, mourned and buried.

The funeral took place at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale on March 31. Rabbi Avi Weiss compared Rivka to black fire and white fire — the black fire are the letters and words of the Torah, the white fire, upon which these words are written, are more fluid, tender, kind. Just like Rivka. It was an apt and yet extraordinary comparison.

There was a delay in bringing the casket into the synagogue. And so I said, to lighten the moment, “Rivka has probably flown the coop. She cannot bear such attention and so much praise.” People laughed. Here is what I said at Rivka’s funeral:

Rivka was the world’s leading agunah activist, the author of four books. She was a pioneer of all-women’s prayer groups and was among the first Orthodox Jewish women to learn and teach Talmud. On December 1, 1988, Haut led a group of women in prayers with the Torah at the women’s section of the Western Wall. This led to a still ongoing movement for Jewish women’s religious rights at the historic Kotel — not at Robinson’s Arch. Haut has supported and helped free countless agunot. She also taught Torah, Talmud, and Midrash at rabbinical academies such as The Academy for Jewish Religion and Yeshiva Chovevei Torah.

Rivka grew up in Brooklyn, New York. She obtained a Master’s of English Literature from Brooklyn College and a Master’s in Talmud from the Jewish Theological Seminary. She was married to Irwin Haut for 37 years until his death in 2001. Rivka, who passed away at 71, is survived by her daughters, Dr. Sheryl Haut and Tamara Weissman, her sons-in-law, Dr. David Rosenberg and Seth Weissman, her grandchildren Ariel, Ayelet, and Aaron Rosenberg and Eleanna, Adi and Nitzana Weissman, and her sister Arlene Talerman.

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Remembering Rivka Haut

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