Pumps on the Pulpit?

Rabbi Lederman admitted, "When I go shopping, I look around and think, ‘Okay, am I going to be able to wear any of this to work?' But of course that's true for any professional woman who plays a public role." She added that she has made changes in her style in an effort to ensure her appearance doesn't interfere with her duties. An aficionado of chunky jewelry, she has phased it out of her wardrobe. "When you are giving a d'var Torah, (sermon), it's important for people to focus on your words, not on your shiny necklace."

Rabbi Sol indicated there may be a trajectory to dealing with these issues, one that settles with some time and experience, although the sense of responsibility to the congregation remains. "Early on in my rabbinate I wore more formal clothing, because you're also trying to look official and be taken seriously. As I got more used to the role I didn't want to suppress my womanhood, and that has been kind of a balance, to try to find ways to not be ostentatious about these matters."

Do clothes make the man? When you are a woman who happens to be a rabbi, this aphorism is doubly untrue. For today's female rabbis, concerns about looking girly or unduly sexy are so 20th century. Modern Judaism appreciates these women for the difficult tasks they perform as spiritual leaders in a complex, anxious, globalized world. It doesn't matter what kind of sleeves they wear once they roll them up and get to work.

Sian Gibby is a senior editor at Bloggingheads.tv and is a member of Congregation B'nai Jeshurun in Manhattan.

1/1/2000 5:00:00 AM
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