If you have daughters, take a moment and think of 3 contemporary female role models who inspire your daughters with their wisdom, insight, and intellectual acumen in Torah. I would bet you couldn't name three. Now switch gears and name role models for your son(s) and I am sure there is no shortage of names of prominent Roshei Yeshiva which roll off the tongue. I cannot help but view together the reaction of many to the woman featured in this article with the story I overheard on Shabbos from a father bemoaning his teenage daughter’s lack of interest in ruchniyus. I am not entertaining a debate here over the issue of woman as Rabbis – that is a political question and I don’t do politics. But I do take issue with those who do not see the harmful effects produced by the dearth of role models and lack of serious learning opportunities open to young women. Lessons on tzniyus and baking challah don’t make for a serious and profound commitment to Judaism for the intellectually curious any more than knowing how to put on tefillin and wear a kippah would satisfy an intellectually gifted ben Torah. I admit my bias to thinking of Judaism primarily as an intellectual experience - if you disagree, you should probably not bother reading this blog : ) I do not mean to suggest that every girl needs to be thrust into a demanding regimen of learning when she has other interests. Nor do I mean that every girl needs to learn gemara or shach and taz. Even for those who want to learn, there is plenty to go through without ever learning gemara. For those who can excel in limudei kodesh and have a willingness to do so, why should they not be afforded every opportunity to succeed personally, to share their knowledge with other young women, and to serve as role models of avodas Hashem for the entire community? How can you expect a young lady raised in a modern orthodox home to feel good about Judaism when she might be attending a high school and taking AP physics, AP History, studying for the SAT, but has never met a woman who knows more than basic chumash and Rashi and some halachos heard orally which the sources for remain unknown? Judaism without thinking, Judaism without role models who have a deep intellectual commitment and understanding of Torah, seems to me to be a sterile experience and an experience we should not force upon young women who aspire to a deeper and more profound connection to avodas Hashem.
(Yes, I am in a bad mood, which leads to these type posts. I will snap out of it and get back to learning topics soon, I hope).