Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Life

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:

“With whom else could I be such close friends?

God introduced us. We met over a Torah in the women’s section at the Kotel. It was December 1, 1988, and Rivka asked me to open the Torah for us so that women could pray from it. This honor, which will never be surpassed in my lifetime, wedded me to Rivka’s vision, to Torah study, and to a deep friendship.

My darling Rivka turned this wild rebel child into a more refined rebel. She taught me gentleness, forgiveness, the importance of putting family first—but, like me, she was also a fabulous and fearless feminist, who took on the world, including the rabbis, for the sake of justice and truth. Rivka was my teacher and my chevrutah. When we studied Torah together or wrote devrai Torah, we were literally in heaven. We worked so beautifully together. A single phrase, even a word, and forever after, we both remembered our previous discussions on that point. This kind of companionship is utterly intimate and irreplaceable.

Rivka was humble, strong, tireless–a woman who lived her life doing God’s will. She loved her family beyond measure, her daughters, her sons-in-law, but especially her grandchildren. Rivka understood that “We are dust, a passing dream”—God’s dream, and that it is all in God’s hands. I can hear Rivka saying this. Right now.”

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.

Engage

  • Events

    Vegas, It Isn’t: How Israeli Elections Sent Shockwaves through the Israel-Diaspora Relationship

    OFJCC Campus in Palo Alto, CA

    Dec 11, 2022

    5 pm ET · 

    Do the recent Israeli elections have an impact on the relationship between Israel and Diaspora Jewry? Bear witness as rock stars of Israeli policy come together for a frank conversation about the Israeli elections as seen from the vantage points of statecraft, diplomacy, academia and politics.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.