Daniel Landes

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The Rabbi Whose Ordination of Women Is Pushing the Envelope of Orthodoxy

In 2016, Rabbi Daniel Landes pushed the envelope of Modern Orthodoxy in Israel by ordaining women rabbis in an Orthodox-style ceremony. The former head of the Pardes Institute — a coeducational beit midrash, or religious institution of Jewish study — Landes has been one of the leaders proposing new forms of gender equality within observant Jewish settings.

Over the summer, Landes ordained 21 rabbis, including eight women, at a ceremony hosted by the Modern Orthodox Kehilat Yedidya synagogue in South Jerusalem. It was seen as a watershed in the movement to introduce female religious leaders into more traditional corners of Judaism. However, the egalitarian impulse has provoked deep controversy within the broader Modern Orthodox movement, and has threatened to splinter the fragile sub-denomination.

Born and raised in Chicago, Landes, 65, grew up in an observant household and spent his summers at the Conservative-affiliated Camp Ramah. Entering the rabbinate, he studied with such Talmudic giants as Joseph Soloveitchik and Zvi Yehudah Kook.

In addition to his work in Israel, with Pardes, Landes has taught in America at the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Wexner Foundation.

Landes has also become a commentator in the wider world on issues relating to Judaism and Israel, writing columns for Haaretz, Tikkun, the Daily Beast and the Jewish Review of Books. Though his thought has spread through these secular outlets, his real influence will be felt in the inclusivity of Orthodox Judaism for generations to come.

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