Rachel Adler

woman and Holocaust victim

Died aged unknown

Rachel Adler (born 1943 in Chicago) is professor of Modern Jewish Thought and Judaism and Gender at Hebrew Union College, at the Los Angeles campus. Adler was one of the first theologians to integrate feminist perspectives and concerns into Jewish texts and the renewal of Jewish law and ethics. In 1971, she published an article entitled "The Jew Who Wasn't There: Halacha and the Jewish Woman," in Davka magazine. This article was considered by historian Paula Hyman as one of the founding influences of the Jewish feminist movement. In 1972 she published an article entitled "Tum'ah and Toharah: Ends and Beginnings." In this article she argued that the ritual immersion of a niddah (a menstruating woman) in a mikveh did not “oppress or denigrate women.” Instead, she argued, such immersion constituted a ritual reenactment of “death and resurrection” that was actually “equally accessible to men and women.” However, she eventually renounced this position. In her essay “In Your Blood, Live: Re-visions of a Theology of Purity”, published in Tikkun in 1993, she wrote “purity and impurity do not constitute a cycle through which all members of society pass, as I argued in my [1972] essay. Instead, impurity and purity define a class system in which the most impure people are women.” In 1983, she published an essay in Moment entitled “I’ve Had Nothing Yet, So I Can’t Take More,” in which she criticized rabbinic tradition for making women “a focus of the sacred rather than active participants in its processes,” and declared that being a Jewish woman "is very much like being Alice at the Hatter’s tea party. We did not participate in making the rules, nor were we there at the beginning of the party.” In 1992, she began a women's Talmud class in her home, teaching the text (in its original Hebrew and Aramaic. This created the first rigorous Talmud study opportunity for lay women outside of New York and Israel. Adler received a PhD in Religion from the University of Southern California in 1997; her doctoral dissertation was titled “Justice and Peace Have Kissed: A Feminist Theology of Judaism." She is the author of many articles that have appeared in Blackwell's Companion to Feminist Philosophy, Beginning Anew: A Woman's Companion to the High Holy Days, Contemporary Jewish Religious Thought, Lifecycles, The Jewish Condition, and On Being a Jewish Feminist. She was awarded the 2000 Tuttleman Foundation Book Award of Gratz College and the 1999 National Jewish Book Award for Jewish Thought by the Jewish Book Council for her book Engendering Judaism: An Inclusive Theology and Ethics; this was the first time the National Jewish Book Award for Jewish Thought was ever awarded to a female theologian. Among the book's contributions to Jewish thoughts was the creation of a new ritual, brit ahuvim, to replace the traditional erusin marriage ceremony, which Adler viewed as not according with feminist ideals of equality between the sexes. Originally an Orthodox Jew, Adler made her spiritual home in the Reform movement. On May 13, 2012, she was ordained as a rabbi by the Reform seminary Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. In 2013, Adler became the first person to hold the Rabbi David Ellenson Chair in Jewish Religious Thought at Hebrew Union College.

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Family tree

Commemorated on 1 plaque

Rachel Adler [full inscription unknown]

English translation: Rachel Adler

Friedelstraße 47, Neukölln, Berlin, Germany where they lived