Episode 3.9 Transcript

Talkin’ to Women Rabbis of the World!

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Rabbi Marci Bellows: Welcome to Women Rabbis Talk, a podcast where women rabbis talk to other women rabbis about being women rabbis. I am one of your hosts Rabbi Marci Bellows and with me, as always is –

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Rabbi Emma Gottlieb.

Rabbi Marci Bellows: And we have a really special episode for you today – something a little different. And what do we have today?

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Well Marci, recently I was so fortunate to be able to travel to Jerusalem to join the World Union for Progressive Judaism for their biennial conference, which was called Connections. It’s a very appropriate title because that’s basically what it’s all about. Rabbis and other congregational leaders, both clergy and educators and laypeople and youth, all coming together to connect and learn about one another from all different parts of the world, to share resources and share stories and share successes, and share challenges and learn together and celebrate Shabbat together and it was so lovely. And while I was there, I thought it would be a fun opportunity to gather some of the incredible female rabbis from around the world and catch them for a few minutes of podcasting time. And so, I managed to not to get all of them but to get a nice cross sampling of rabbis and a couple of students rabbis, from different parts of the world from different kinds of progressive communities at different stages in their career. Some up and coming’s, some newer rabbis, and also some pioneers. The first woman rabbi in the UK is included. The first woman rabbi in France is included, and some really cool folks doing really cool stuff. So I’m so excited to be able to share so many of them at once. Also, we’ll just ask our listeners to be a little bit forgiving. We were at a conference so there is a little bit of background noise here and there. It’s not too bad and the interviews come through pretty clearly. So just to be aware that it’s not the the usual zoom quality recordings that we that we try to get out. But I think that you will enjoy hearing them. Hopefully we will be able to bring many of them back onto the podcast for longer conversations in the future.

Rabbi Marci Bellows: Sounds fantastic. Thank you so much for doing this for us.

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Thank you Marci. And I can’t wait for our next episode so we can catch up on all the things that we’re thinking about. And share some some more cool rabbis with our listeners.

Rabbi Marci Bellows: Awesome, thanks! 

(Musical Interlude)

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Boker Tov!, Please tell me who you are and what you’d like me to call you as we talk a little bit this morning.

Rabbi Jackie Tabick: Hello, Boker Tov. I’m Rabbi Jackie Tabick. I was ordained in England in, oh a long time ago, 1975. An awful long time ago. And at the moment, I work part time running the Bet Din for the Reform Movement in Britain, and also for some countries in Europe, who don’t have enough rabbis to run their own Beit Din. And I take surfaces and odd little things for people.

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Wonderful! And dosyou go by Rabbi Tabick, or Rabbi Jackie, or what do you like people to call you?

Rabbi Jackie Tabick: Rabbi Jackie.

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Rabbi Jackie, Can you first of all, tell me a little bit about your, you’re a historic rabbi? Because I believe you’re the first woman to be ordained in the UK. So you tell me a little bit about that?

Rabbi Jackie Tabick: Yes, I was the first Rabbi, woman rabbi, to be ordained in the UK. It’s it was an interesting experience. Going through the Leo Beack College, it was two years before another woman joined me. So I was very much alone as a woman. And it was a terrible sort of burden, I think, to always feel that I had to be on top form. I was the only student certainly around my time, who fulfilled every academic requirement at the college. Every essay that we were required to write, I wrote, I did everything. Because I just felt that the kavod of women was upon my shoulders and I had better fulfil it.

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: And yeah, I can imagine that a lot of pressure and Kol HaKavod. What what would you say, what would you tell people it’s like to be a female rabbi in the UK?

Rabbi Jackie Tabick: These days. we have lots of colleagues. So it’s much easier. There is still some prejudice around believe it or not. There have certainly been glass ceilings on the way. I’ve hit several. Glass ceilings are never comfortable places to be. These days, those glass ceilings have been broken. almost everywhere. But there are still occasions where being a woman Rabbi is seen as being a little suspect.

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Yeah. And what is your favourite thing about being a woman rabbi?

Rabbi Jackie Tabick: I like being a rabbi. To me being a woman. I love being a woman. I’m a mother. I’m a wife. I’m a grandmother, five gorgeous grandchildren. I love it! I love that aspect of my femininity. But I don’t think of myself as a woman rabb. I think of myself as a rabbi! And I love being a rabbi! That’s what I like!

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb:  Thank you so much. That’s perfect.


Rabbi Emma: Good morning. Boker, Tov, I’m gonna ask you to introduce yourself and tell me where you’re from.

Rabbi Daniella Touatin: Hi, Boker Tov. I’m Daniella Touati it from Lyon, France.

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb:  Daniela, and what do you like people to call you? Rabbi, Daniella or Rabbi … what? How do you what’s your, what do you use?

Rabbi Daniella Touatin: So Rabbi, Rabbi, Daniela. Yes.

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Rabbi Daniella. Can you tell me a little bit what it’s like to be a rabbi in France, a woman rabbi in France?

Rabbi Daniella Touati: So we are very few in France were five in fact, and I was the fourth one. And I’m outside Paris which is another challenge. But it it works well with my community. In it’s more complicated with Orthodox who are the majority, and even ultra orthodox Lyon, but it doesn’t matter. We do our way, and I continue.

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Amazing. And what do you love about being a woman rabbi?

Rabbi Daniella Touatin: Well, I don’t really make a distinction about being a woman rabbi. I’m a rabbi firstly, and I wanted to defend this progressive view in France. And this was my aim at the beginning and also to create bonds with others to connect with other faiths. And this is really what brings me to the brought me to the rabbinet. So yeah.

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Thank you and where can people find you online if they want to reach out to you?

Rabbi Daniella Touati: So we have a website for the community. The name is Keren Or so it’s www karenor.fr and my blog is raabbintouati, R-A-B-B-I-N-T-O-U-A-T-I dot com

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Amazing thank you for talking to me this morning.


Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: So, it’s afternoon now, and I’m gonna ask this next guest to introduce herself and tell us a little bit about where she is in life and what she’s doing.

Julia Ullman: My name is Julia Ullman. I now live in Jerusalem. I’m originally from Cleveland, Ohio. I am a second year rabbinical student in the Israeli rabbinic programme at Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem. Originally, I was in the American year in Israel programme and came to Jerusalem to study for my first year and decided that I felt very at home and didn’t want to leave and decided to switch over to the Israeli programme. And now I study all in Hebrew, mostly with native Israelis. And I plan to build my rabbinet here in Israel.

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Wow. So Julia, what’s it like to be a rabbinical student in Israel right now?

Julia Ullman: So I think that specifically being a rabbinical student in Israel means that you’re at the centre point of issues that are facing the Jewish world and the Zionist world and the Israeli world kind of all at once. Rather than being really anywhere else in the world. We’re at a hub where just like at this conference, people are coming from all over the world to be here together this particular spot in this hub, the central point of Jewish life, and we get to be sort of at the centre of it all and the conversations that we have in class are really practical and relevant to what’s going on in the world in Israel in sometimes in North America, too. But right now, it’s been a lot about what’s going on in Ukraine and the Jewish communities there and about Israel and the politics and the government and all of that and it’s it makes it feel very upfront and real and practical and relevant in a way that it’s not talking about something far, far off. It’s right here and right now.

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Awesome. And last question, what are you most looking forward to about being a woman rabbi?

Julia Ullman: So before I came to move to Israel and live here, I always thought that I wanted to call myself Rav, because I always thought you know, just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean my job has to be a different title than men like I’m a Rav, like I can also be a Rav. But then here in Israel, I feel very strongly about being a Rabba, to prove to the world that prove to the Israeli world and in the world at large that like Rabba is a legitimate role and it is it is, specifically because I’m female, that I am a Rabba, and that I can that rabbinate, it can look many different ways. And it and it specifically empowers me to say like, I am a female and I’m a rabbi.

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Thanks, Julia. We’re so excited to see your progress as you move through to your incredible rabbinate as a Rabba in Israel!


Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Hi, Erev Tov. So tell me a little bit about who you are and where you’re from.

Rabbi Sivan Navon-Shoval: Shalom. My name is Rabbi Sivan Navon-Shoval. I’m a rabbi who lives here in Jerusalem. I’m the Rabbi of a community in Tzur Chadasa. And I’m really happy for this podcast.

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Thank you. And what do people call you? What do you like to be called directly because? Rabbi Sivan or Rabbi Shoval, or?

Rabbi Sivan Navon-Shoval: Rabbi Sivan. Here in Israel, we are not formal.

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Amazing. So Rabbi Sivan, tell me just like in a few words, what’s it like to be a woman rabbi in Israel?

Rabbi Sivan Navon-Shoval: It’s a it’s a great fun and a great challenge as well. As a great fun it feels like there is a lot of there are a lot of things to do. There’s a lot of new ways to go through and a lot of a lot of things that we need to renew and to initiate in order to bring women voices into leadership and to Jewish life, the daily Jewish life.

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Wonderful. And what is your favourite thing about being a woman rabbi?

Rabbi Sivan Navon-Shoval: I think to hold services, that women participate, which is a lot of new uh new ceremonies that we create or regular ceremonies that we paid for that we that I stress out the women part in it like bat mitzvah, new ceremonies that I initiate and create or or regular ceremonies that we usually do that I stress out that women aspects of it like going to the like having Bat Mitvazh or goi into the mikvah, but it also new ceremonies that we create and new language that we create for women like fertility and giving birth and and things that women go through their body that we need to put a Jewis or that we need to create Jewish language to facilitate that, as women go forward and we can see them we can hear them. We need them inside our Jewish story.

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Amazing. Thank you. It’s amazing to meet you and connect with you here. And I’m sure we’ll speak again


Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Boker Tov! So here we are standing in front of Knesset on this amaizng morn. I’m here with two of my incredible colleagues. They’re gonna tell you who they are and where they’re from.

Rabbi Julia Gris: Yeah, I am Rabbi Julia Gris from Ukraine from Odessa and now I live in Germany.

Ethel Scrial Cabral: Okay, Ethel Scrial Cabral from Brazil. I am a student and future rabbi. I hope so. And I am in the south part of the country in Florianopolis. And also … Kambouyu!

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Wow amazing! Two very different women from very different parts of the world. And tell me Rabbi Julia, or do they call you Rabbi Julia, what are they, what do you like to be called?

Rabbi Julia Gris: Rabbi Julia is okay. Or just Julia.

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: And Ethel, when you’re a rabbi, what do you think you’re gonna have people call you?

Ethel Scrial Cabral: I think that they, I hoped they would call me dear friend and colleague or something like this.

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: And so Rabbi Julia, what is maybe a harder question than it would have been if we were talking a couple of years ago, but what’s it like to be a rabbi in the Ukraine or in Germany?

Rabbi Julia Gris: It’s the same way to be a rabbi. It doesn’t matter which country to work, because rabbi, it’s not a work. It’s your life. So I can say I can compare now because I used I worked for many years in Ukraine. And members of our congregation are very open and we have different types of challenges in our life and as you know, the last year was so difficult for all Ukraine and for all our communities for all our liberal movement, Reform movement in the Ukraine. So when the people from Ukraine, make Aliyah or immigrated, or receive refugee status, different countries, and I’m a bit lucky because me and members of our congregation are invited to stay in the congregation Oldenbourg It’s not liberal, but it’s very open for us and I even have one Shabbat per month in this congregation we call it Odessa style Shabbat. So after a long time of COVID of virtual work I have I’m lucky to serve with people in the shul.

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Incredible. And what’s it like to be a woman who’s studying to be a rabbi in Brazil?

Ethel Scrial Cabral: Okay Emma. First, I want to thank you for the wonderful job. What you are doing with your training and to support the people and you are with you together. We are all together. I think that we have three important points nowadays in our life, as is set us. First of all, is that although the technology so as in major that you’re going to have more time work less and spend more time on family and friends, this is not true. You are working much more and you have less time and people are very lost and very alone. So they are being researched or something and I want to tell that we are to help you to find a way to survive and to be happy. This is the very important task.

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Beautiful and Ethel you were telling me a little bit before why you decided to become a rabbi.

Ethel Scrial Cabral: Yes, this is the second point. The first one is an individual work with each person, but you have also a word we call society. Because there is a very man world and you need to put your vital out and fight for human rights and everything’s like this and although I think that that title, a label is not important. For some people, it’s important. So when you say that you are a Rabbi, we will have more power to change the world to make Tikkun Olam. So I think this is very important. Also, in the third point, unfortunately, we have an antisemitic movement borning or reborn again and so we must fight together against this. And this is also important

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: thank you so much to both of you. It’s an honour to talk to you this morning.

Ethel Scrial Cabral: Thank you Emma for having the space for us


Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: So good morning. I’m here with Rabbi Allison Conyer. And she’s gonna tell you a little bit about herself and where she’s from, and what she would like us to call her while we chat with her.

Rabbi Allson Conyer: Fair enough. So they call me Rabbi Alison where I am right now. And I’m originally from California, and moved to Australia 25 years ago, and served a congregation in Sidney, where they called me Rabbi Conyer. And I was the first woman rabbi in the state of New South Wales. My very, very close friend who I studied with came a month after me. Rabbi Daphne Mineo and so we kind of worked together in in Sydney for a number of years. So I was there for 3 years. Then I went back to the States for a bit to serve as the executive director at Santa Barbara Hillel and back to Sydney for five years working at a day school. And then I moved to Melbourne and then they call me Rabbi Allison, and I’ve been there for almost 10 years.

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Wow. That sounds like an incredible journey. And what is it like generally to be a female rabbi in Australia, and that part of the world? Well,

Rabbi Allson Conyer: I feel like I’ve gone back in time. And I feel like I identify with the early women rabbis in America in terms of fighting the fight. It’s quite it’s been quite a journey and I was not at all prepared for it. I have to say when I first when I first moved there, just because there were a lot of women rabbis in the States. So that was that was a big that was a big culture shock for me and the amount of comments I got about oh, I’ve never kissed a rabbi before! like, I got that regularly.

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: I would just like to say that in Cape Town, I get that comment at least once a week.

Rabbi Allison Conyer: Yeah, I do too. I also got comments about how my kippot match my outfits. That was another type of a thing every single or just like my outfits. Like, does everyone comment on the rabbis outfits? So that was an interesting, bizarre thing, but also things that I wasn’t able to do like because they would always defer to my male colleagues. And that was quite frustrating at first. And yeah, I mean, which is why my my senior rabbi I served with in Sydney was amazing. Rabbi Richard Lampert, he’s from South Africa originally, actually. And he was amazing. And he always insisted that I be called Rabbi Conyer, even though I didn’t care. He says, No, you want the same kavod and respect that, that everybody has. Always insisted that I sit where all the rabbis go that I’m acknowledged so he was amazing at kind of paving the way for, for for that, and then it became normalised and then, you know, but it was a really interesting thing. So there was an issue that with a chevra Kaddisha that wouldn’t let myself or Rabbi Mineo officiate at funerals, because we were women. And so I went on this campaign to speak to orthodox rabbis because there’s no reason why a woman couldn’t officiate at funerals. So I went to speak to all these orthodox rabbis behind the scenes, and they all agreed that obviously because it’s not halakhic. But there’s and so then I went to the Hebrew Kaddisha and said that there’s no halachic prohibition. These rabbis agree with me. And they said you open that door, they’re going to refuse to do any reform conversions. Even or sorry, funerals for my male colleagues, and they would refuse to recognise our patrilineal consent people to bury, so I was not allowed to say anything while I was going to publish an article note couldn’t say that a gag order. It’s been a long time. So I can say it now. But so that was really frustrating. So then we could then we were allowed to do funerals if we were by the grave side or if we were in our buildings, but chas v’ famila we stood in their sacred space, we couldn’t set our foot –

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Wow. sure. The stories we could tell.

Rabbi Allson Conyer: Oh yeah.

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Wow, okay, and what is your favourite thing about being a female rabbi?

Rabbi Allson Conyer: Um, I guess the kind of like you just said being a token woman you know, they we represent different so being asked to be on various panels with different people to represent our movement. And just surprise people when I actually know when I’m saying, and so I just Yeah, I like the opportunities that I have. Frustrated with the opportunities that pass over but really, really honoured by the opportunities that I have and also being a role model to, to so many kids both boys and girls, you know, that women can also be rabbis, there was an Israeli family, in our congregation for a number of years, who’s actually now moved back to Israel, who she like was interviewing her daughter and said, you know, what do you want to be when you grew up? And she says, Oh, I want to be a rabbi, just like Rabbi Allison. You know, and it was just, it’s just, it’s just nice and even someone who was a woman, who’s a lawyer, said to me, when I first started, you know, it’s just it’s amazing to see you up there doing that, and it gives me confidence in my career, because, again, very backwards, from where I came from California, you know, to be able to say that women have a right and a voice and so just just to be just to be that I feel very honoured.

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: And do you get the, what now now that they hope that doing funerals is easier for you. I find that every time I do a funeral, especially for an older woman who’s passed away, that some woman who’s at that funeral says she would have been so happy that a woman rabbi did her did her funeral.

Rabbi Allson Conyer: Yeah definitely. I definitely get that and then I get people specifically asking for women Rabbi for from that route. And I’m sure also ask for a male rabbi. But yeah, no, it is very true.

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Amazing. Well, thank you so much for chatting to me

Rabbi Allson Conyer: You’re welcome.


Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Boker Tov, please tell me a little bit about who you are, where you’re from and what you would like us to call you while we’re chatting. What title would you like us to use?

Rabbi Charley Baginsky: Hi, I’m Rabbi Charley Baginsky from the UK. I’m the Chief Executive Officer of Liberal Judaism. And title? Just Charlie does. Very happy for you to call me Charley.

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Just just Charley does.

Rabbi Charley Baginsky: Or in Hebrew there was a film called Charlie V’chetzie, Charlie and a half. So we’re in Israel at the moment and so everywhere when I people say to me, what’s your name? And I say Charley, it’s Charlie! Charlie V’chetzie, which I quite like Charley and a half.

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Charley and a half. What is it like to be a female rabbi in London, and the UK?

Rabbi Charley Baginsky: So I’m often asked this question, as you might imagine, and what’s really interesting to me now, reflecting some 20 plus years since I started in the Rabbinate, is that when I entered the Rabbinate, I never thought about being a woman and a rabbi. It didn’t really occur to me. I just grew up with women rabbis around and liberal Judaism is full of very strong female leaders. But once I was in the Rabbinate, it really became very obvious that that was part of my identity, whether that was something I chose or something that was imposed on me or other people’s perceptions. I don’t look like what people think a rabbi looks like whatever that is. And so certainly that female part of it became very much part of my of my rabbinate and then also becoming a mom. That also was really influential in terms of what does it mean to be a woman Rabbi because it impacts on the different ways you interact, both with the congregation and the world. And I remember being the chair of our rabbinic conference of our rabbinic group, when I would take my children with me to rabbinic conference and kind of breastfeed through the middle of leading conference meeting, and how amazing it was I was surrounded by colleagues who were really supportive of that and a congregation who was very supportive of that. But it being very suddenly drawing really into the consciousness that gender was part of my, my rabbinate. And so I think what’s it like is such a massive question, because actually, it is my Rabbinate. And it’s wonderful to look around now some 20 something years later, one of the things that led me into the Rabbinate was seeing that there weren’t an awful lot of young women around in the rabinet. And I’m not so young now, but then being young and now looking around and seeing that there are these very inspirational young women who are not feeling like they need to be honorary men and if we look at the generations before us, they really would dress that and felt like in order to interspace whereas there’s women being women and men being men and people who have all sorts of different gender identities being themselves and so I think that part of my being a woman rabbi is being able to to showcase that confidence of bringing my female identity my being a woman rabbi to the to the picture to that party.

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Thank you. Yeah, that’s amazing. And maybe you answered this already, but you can narrow in a little more, is there a particular thing about being a female Rabbi that you love?

Rabbi Charley Baginsky: So I love the concept of creative conflict. So like when two things that don’t kind of belong together in people’s heads meet and you blow the perception and then out of that comes conversation or something new. And I still think that when people ask me who don’t know me and say, what do you do? And I say, I’m a rabbi. And they kind of look at me and think I can’t get my head around that I love that. That’s probably one of my favourite things and that creative tension.

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Amazing. Thanks for chatting.

Rabbi Charley Baginsky: Thanks for having me.


Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Shabbat Shalom and good afternoon. I’m here with another amazing female rabbi. She’s gonna tell you who she is and where she works a little bit about herself,

Rabbi Pauline Bebe: Hello, Shabbat Shalom. So I’m Pauline Bebe. I’m a rabbi in Paris, France. I’m here for connection and we’re happy to meet all the other rabbis here and all the lay people. And so I’ve been working in my congregation for a long time now. I was ordained in 1990 at West London from the Leo Baeck college and I started my congregation in 1995. And I’ve been there since then, we’ve grown I have now I have second rabbi, Rabbi Etiene Kever who is a rockstar and doing Shabbat Chag. We started the rabbinical school two years ago and and things are pretty going pretty well in Paris.

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: That’s amazing. And I think if I’m not wrong, that you have a special history in terms of being a female rabbi.

Rabbi Pauline Bebe: Yes. Well, I was the first in France actually in continental Europe after Regina Jonas and now they are five female rabbis in France.

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Amazing. Wonderful. And what’s it like to be a woman rabbi in France?

Rabbi Pauline Bebe: Well, it’s challenging but since I have my own community, people know who is the main Rabbi that I’m a woman and so I have less difficulty than at the beginning. And people are getting used to it and they’re very enthusiastic, actually.

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: And what’s your favourite thing about being a female rabbi?

Rabbi Pauline Bebe: I never know how to answer that question. Because I feel that I’m a rabbi. I don’t know what being female adds to it. Except that I have to counter people who say bad things about women rabbis. But I love my my job. I feel the main aspect of it is to be close to people and to bring them closer to Judaism and every day it’s a blessing.

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Amazing. Thank you so much for talking to me. It’s lovely to meet you.


Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: So there you have it, folks. Amazing cross section of the global women rabbinate. All progressive. Of course, there are women rabbis around the world who are not progressive rabbis and maybe one day we’ll have an opportunity to feature them as well. In the meantime, thank you for listening, and we will be back with another episode or two coming down the pipeline. Stay tuned.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai