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‘Is Knowledge Power? Orthodox Jewish Women’s Authority in the 21st Century’

Lindsay Simmonds
Panel Discussion with our
Scholar in Residence
Lindsay Simmonds

“The male attempt to equate one point of view with objective truth by the appeal to pure reason is… just another way of privileging its partial knowledge and imposing it on everyone else.” So said Professor Tamar Ross in her important book ‘Expanding the Palace of Torah’. One may agree or disagree with Professor Ross, but the issues of knowledge and power for women in the Jewish community are crucial. Come along and hear our panel discussion.

This panel will discuss how we might respond to 21st century educational opportunities for women within the orthodox Jewish community and share the arguments generated by this phenomenon: should it be embraced, mandated, rejected or vilified? How does access to sacred texts empower orthodox women? What religious leadership opportunities ought to be open to them or created for them? And why is the UK’s religious education for girls and women so different from similar communities in the US and Israel?


Jo Greenaway

Joanne has the privilege of working in the London Beth Din as Get Caseworker in a newly created role focusing on difficult divorce cases, working with the Dayanim and the Registrar.  This involves advising on both civil and Jewish legal systems and the interrelationship between the two and devising new strategies to deal with recalcitrant parties.  She is also involved with child protection in the United Synagogue. She is a current participant of the newly created Chief Rabbi’s Ma’ayan Programme for training women to be high-level educators for the Jewish community, as well as advisors in the area of Taharat Hamishpacha (laws of family purity) and women’s health issues.
Prior to this she studied languages at Cambridge before qualifying as a lawyer and working in private practice for 12 years, in the field of international arbitration. Outside work she enjoys learning and teaches regularly in various Jewish settings. She is a graduate of the Susi Bradfield Educational Leadership programme and the Gamechangers programme for senior Jewish community leaders and in 2015 was nominated as one of the ’40 under 40’.

Rabbi Dr Michael Harris

Rabbi Dr Michael Harris has been Rabbi of Hampstead Synagogue since 1995.  He is also a Research Fellow at The London School of Jewish Studies and an Affiliated Lecturer in the Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge. His Ph.D is in philosophy, from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. His first book, Divine Command Ethics: Jewish and Christian Perspectives was published in 2003. He co-edited Radical Responsibility: Celebrating the Thought of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks (Maggid Books, 2012) and has published articles and reviews in scholarly journals. He has recently published another book, Faith Without Fear: Unresolved Issues in Modern Orthodoxy (Vallentine Mitchell, 2015), and is co-author, with Daniel Rynhold, of the forthcoming Nietzsche, Soloveitchik and Contemporary Jewish Philosophy (Cambridge University Press).

Rabbi Chaim Rapoport

‘Rabbi Chaim Rapoport (b. Manchester, England, 1963) is an author, educator, lecturer and Judaic scholar. He lectures in London and around the world on topics pertaining to Jewish life and law and is the author of several books and articles.

In 1998, after many years as a communal Rabbi in both Australia and the UK, Rabbi Rapoport was appointed as a member of the Chief Rabbi’s Cabinet and Advisor to the Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, on matters of Jewish Medical Ethics and served in this position until the retirement of Rabbi Sacks in 2013. In this capacity, he served as the Chief Rabbi’s spokesperson to the media and as an intermediary between himself and the British medical establishment and several other prominent organisations. During this period he gave a regular lecture to the United Synagogue Rabbinate at the London School of Jewish Studies.

Rabbi Rapoport has written about homosexuality from an Orthodox perspective. His book, Judaism and Homosexuality: An Authentic Orthodox View (Vallentine Mitchell, 2004), was prefaced by Dayan Berel Berkowitz, a senior Judge of the Beth Din of the Federation of Synagogues, where he describes it as “the first meaningful attempt to articulate a strictly orthodox perspective on the question of Homosexuality”. The book’s forward was written by the then Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks who described Rapoport as “a courageous figure who has written on a difficult subject that many would rather avoid”. The book stakes out a position on Homosexuality and Judaism designed “to mitigate the painful consequences of Orthodoxy’s uncompromising rejection of homosexuality.”, exploring the intersection between halakhah and homosexuality.’

Lindsay Simmonds

Lindsay is the current Scholar-in-Residence at Hampstead United Synagogue, and lectures widely on Gender and Judaism. She has a degree in Speech and Language Pathology and an MSc in Gender Studies from the LSE, where she is now completing her PhD at the Gender Institute. Lindsay studied at Nishmat in Jerusalem, was a Bruria Scholar at Midreshet Lindenbaum, and is a graduate of the LSJS Susi Bradfield Women Educators’ Fellowships. She is a member of the Cambridge Co-Exist Leadership Programme which promotes respectful, deep and long-lasting friendship and collegiality between faith leaders in the Christian, Jewish and Moslem communities in the UK, and is involved in several inter-faith projects in the UK.

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