Issue 1: transforming tomorrow
/ 8. Interview with Rachel Rosenbluth
Interview with Rachel Rosenbluth
Rachel Rosenbluth is one of the first Jewish women to be ordained as a rabbi by an orthodox institution in Israel. Read why she sees herself as a bridge builder and how she accepted the invitation to participate in a ten-day Sufi pilgrimage festival in India.
An interview by Alexander Görlach
"I call on men to speak less and to listen more"
Görlach: Being ordained as a woman is unfortunately not a given in every religion. How – in your opinion – can change come about regarding the equality of women and men in the realm of religion?
Rosenbluth: My ordination is somewhat rare in Judaism as well, especially in the orthodox denomination. Getting ordained from a traditional rabbinical program feels like a small part in a greater, and slow shift, towards inclusivity and egalitarianism. Most religions have been dominated by patriarchal dynamics for thousands of years, and I applaud women of all faiths who are taking wild steps into positions of power and leadership. My advice is for women to continue to take risks, ask for the leadership they desire, and build communities based on their values. Although many doors will close before one can open, the patience and grace to maintain our integrity in the face of exclusion is key.
I call on men to trust women, to strengthen in their integrity, and create more opportunities for women to learn and be included in religious experiences. I call on men to create more spaces for women to pray, more opportunities for women to learn, to support women to become more empowered. I call on men to speak less and to listen more to the experiences of the women in their communities, to the pain and to the dreams of girls and women. And I call on women not to give up on their faiths, just because there has been so much exclusion and pain in the name of religion for so long. Instead, I call on women to mobilize and reclaim their faiths as forces for good in the world and to feel empowered with ownership over traditions that have been governed by men for so many years. It’s time for our voices to be loud, to be heard and to uplift our faiths, for the good of the world. To share the invitation of activist and writer Rebecca Solnit, it is time for a hopefulness that demands action. There is vast momentum already underway, transformation is happening.
„Travel has been a gift of experience of the diversity and beauty of life. It is humbling and teaches me to understand how similar people are across cultures and regions and religions.”
Görlach: In your website you call yourself a rabbi, traveler, an artist, and a bridge builder. What does traveling add to your work and your perception of the world?
Rosenbluth: Traveling is a window to the world. It gives me the gift of encountering other cultures, developing friendship across political and geographical divides, gaining insight into how people live, and a glimpse into the beauty of the natural world. The Jewish mystical sages tell us “ta chazei,” an invitation to “come and see”, to step out of the world of thinking and to step into the world of experience. Travel has been a gift of experience of the diversity and beauty of life. It is humbling and teaches me to understand how similar people are across cultures and regions and religions. In my work as a religious peacemaker, it has taught me how much common humanity people have, and how, if we have a chance to sit, to drink chai, to get to know each other – even with barely any common language – there are grounds for friendship, mutuality, and love.
Görlach: In times of Corona there has, obviously, not been much traveling. What are we missing out on, when the opportunity of meeting new people is taken away from us?
Rosenbluth: While we are missing out on the ability to travel and see new parts of the world and connect with new people, Corona has given us the chance to slow down and to be more present with our own families and communities. Social media has also helped us stay in touch with people from different parts of the world and maintain connection. I look forward to the next chance to host or be hosted.
Görlach: Talking of bridges: whom do you want to connect, and what is the bridge running over?
Rosenbluth: I hope to connect people that wouldn’t usually have the chance to meet; or even more so, those who, from a political perspective, may be considered enemies. I find it moving that encounter can actually connect people on the basis of shared humanity, despite the politics, walls, trauma, fear and narratives which often divide people. So, that is what the bridge runs over – fear, distrust, hate, otherness – the physical and emotional walls between peoples. The most personal example in my work is connecting Israelis and Palestinians – yet, it holds true for people on different sides of any political spectrum. I also enjoy connecting folks of faith, so that religion becomes a force for unification and collaboration, rather than divisiveness.
„Their fiery experience had an impact on my own connection with God; a reminder that we are all dedicating our lives in Service, despite my path being Jewish and theirs being Islam.”
Görlach: Inter-religious dialogue also aims to build a bridge between different beliefs: have you seen much progress in this domain recently?
Rosenbluth:Absolutely. From the work of Religions For Peace to new initiatives between Abrahamic faiths such as 1000 Abrahamic Circles Project, and well-established initiatives like Abrahamic Reunion, to my own personal experiences as a guest in communities of different cultures – I sense growth in this field. When people are exposed to powerful, constructive work, it is inspiring. People are thirsty for hopeful constructive initiatives, and the movement of social change right now is garnering more and more momentum. Inter-religious dialogue is playing a part in this. I recommend that people check out the Revolutionary Love Project by Sikh Activist Valarie Kaur for an initiative that is promoting love, peace and justice during this time of social unrest in the US.
Görlach: You have been exploring many different spiritual traditions. Is there any experience in particular that you would like to share about this journey?
Rosenbluth: I was invited to participate in the Urs festival, a 10 day, stay up all night, Sufi pilgrimage holiday in Ajmer, Rajasthan, India. To be a young Jewish, Canadian and Israeli woman, welcomed with open arms by the head of the Sufi order, to participate in ecstatic devotional mystical Islam was an incredible opportunity. I was hosted very graciously and shared a room with wonderful women from Iran. They invited me into the devotional poetry and mystical world of the Dargah. Their fiery experience had an impact on my own connection with God; a reminder that we are all dedicating our lives in Service, despite my path being Jewish and theirs being Islam. The kinship that evolved between women in devotion and the love that emerged from the chaos of the experience were really precious.
Rabbi Bluth is a young Rabbi and entrepreneur, ordained in 2019 from Beit midrash Har-El in Jerusalem. Her ordination began culturally immersive travel to devotional communities all over the world. Bluth is a senior contributor to Living Jewishly, and produced the Soul Brew morning show with Beth Tzedec Congregation in Toronto. She is an active member of Religions for Peace, and is a member of a standing commission.
Reach her at: www.rbluth.com / Insta: @blu.th