Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Life

The Disturbing Sexist Trend in Interfaith Work

I was at the gym this morning, when an ad came on the TV with a powerful image. It was three men: a minister, an imam, and a rabbi talking to and hugging each other.

I couldn’t hear what they were saying but it looked heartwarming — the kind of feel-good image you might find on a CNN special on world-religions or the cover of Time Magazine. So why did it bother me so much?

Before rabbinical school, I spent two years at Harvard Divinity School studying Christianity and Islam. My friends there, many of them, were women studying to be Christian, Buddhist and Muslim religious leaders.

We were proud of our multi-faith efforts. We attended dialogue events, organized an interfaith viewing and discussion of “The Passion of the Christ,” and worked hard to create civil conversations about Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.

We also talked — candidly — about what it meant to be women in our traditions, many of which, despite their misogyny and patriarchy, we’d chosen not to walk away from.

A few years later, I interned at a prestigious New York university where my supervisor, a young Orthodox rabbi, befriended the school’s Muslim imam.

They were both practicing men who didn’t eat pork, believe in sex before marriage, or use birth control.

Their faces and their friendship were splashed everywhere – their relationship valorized, and despite the fact that I (unlike my supervisor) had spent two years studying the Q’uran, I was never invited to these discussions.

I was a young, single, progressive but most importantly female rabbinical student. There simply wasn’t room for me.

I would have challenged the place of women in their interpretation of Judaism and Islam with my mere presence.

Since ordination, I’ve become very close to a number of young, female Christian ministers in the communities I’ve served.

And in most cities I’ve lived in since ordination, every single time I’ve seen an interfaith event sponsored by the Jewish community, it has featured an imam, a rabbi, and a priest — all with beards.

Never have I seen a young clergywoman on these panels. My female colleagues are no longer surprised, but we are heartbroken.

Multifaith isn’t really multifaith if it excludes 50% of the population.

My interfaith friendships with other young female clergy have been transformative and powerful, inspiring and critical to my own spiritual and intellectual growth.

They have challenged me to fully live the values of my own tradition, allowed me to study texts with people who read them very differently than I do, and forced me to start conversations – always – with the benefit of the doubt.

And yet these friendships are invisible to the broader community simply because we’re young women.

No one but us celebrates them. It’s time for that to change.

Rabbi Jordie Gerson works as a full-time Rabbi for Adventure Rabbi in Boulder, Colorado. She is an accomplished writer and speaker with a blog at the Huffington Post religion. Follow her on Facebook

Engage

  • SHARE YOUR FEEDBACK

  • UPCOMING EVENT

    SKY & SCULPTURE

    Hybrid: Online and at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan

    Oct 2, 2022

    6:30 pm ET · 

    A Sukkah, IMKHA, created by artist Tobi Kahn, for the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan is an installation consisting of 13 interrelated sculpted painted wooden panels, constituting a single work of art. Join for a panel discussion with Rabbi Joanna Samuels, Chief Executive Director of the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan, Talya Zax, Innovation Editor of the Forward, and Tobi Kahn, Artist. Moderated by Mattie Kahn.

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.