A former French journalist becomes an Orthodox rabbi in Israel

After converting to Judaism and undertaking three intensive years of Jewish studies, 40-year-old former journalist Eliora Peretz recently became one of the few women in Israel to receive an Orthodox rabbinical ordination. She was born in France into a Christian family and was not an obvious candidate to become a pioneering Orthodox rabbi in Israel, as AFP reports.

Female rabbis have become increasingly common in more liberal Jewish denominations, but among the Orthodox, opportunities for high-level religious study and positions of religious authority are reserved for men. Israel’s Orthodox-controlled chief rabbinate has also refused to recognize Peretz’s credentials, meaning she cannot officiate at a recognized synagogue.

Peretz told AFP that she does not see herself as an activist for rabbinical gender equality, but rather as a “pioneer” and someone comfortable pointing out the injustices of the Israeli rabbinical establishment. . “There is nothing written in our religious texts that prevents a woman from marrying a couple, but it is forbidden in Israel,” said Peretz, a married mother of two, during an interview in a synagogue in Jerusalem.

Although current rules prevent her from officially leading a congregation, she said she could “be a spiritual guide, offer lessons and answer questions from congregants…just like any male rabbi.” Peretz, a French-Swiss dual national, received his ordination from Daniel Sperber, winner of the prestigious Israel Prize for his achievements in Talmudic study and a revered rabbi who challenged the Orthodox establishment.

Sperber particularly made headlines in 2020 for being a rare member of the Orthodox community to speak out against “gay conversion therapy,” a practice widely seen as a violation of human rights.

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In 2019, a group of Orthodox women went to Israel’s Supreme Court to overturn a ban preventing them from taking the male-only rabbinical exam. There has not yet been a final decision in this case.

Currently, only one Israeli citizen leads an Orthodox congregation. Shira Mirvis has been named the “spiritual leader” of a community in the settlement of Efrat in the occupied West Bank, but she too has not been recognized by Israel’s rabbinate nor does she officially serve as rabbi.

(with agency contributions)


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Post expires at 11:09am on Monday July 4th, 2022