hile this exhibition will be seen as groundbreaking for
some in the Jewish and arts communities, it expresses
Reform Judaism’s long-held commitments to affirm the
dignity and equality of all people. Soon after its inception,
at a conference in Breslau in 1846, Reform leaders presented
a report, entitled “For Total Equality,” which stated: “The
halakhic position of women must undergo a change….
For our religious consciousness, which grants all humans an
equal degree of natural holiness, it is a sacred duty to express
most emphatically the complete religious equality of the
female sex.” The “natural holiness” they affirmed found its
roots in the biblical story in which humanity was described
as created in the image and likeness of God.
While the central issue in 19th-century Reform communities
was women’s enfranchisement in religious life, the sentiments
those leaders articulated have continued to guide us. Theirs
has been the lens through which we have tried to look honestly
at the ways we as individuals and as a Movement are translat-
ing this belief into practice. Over the last 150 years, we have
reworked rites of passage to reflect our commitment to
equality: we have created new prayerbooks and educational
materials that reflect our inclusive stance; we have opened
our doors to many Jews who felt marginalized or rejected
from other parts of the Jewish community; we have worked
for the civil rights of all peoples – all as an expression of our
fundamental belief in the holiness of every human being.
The most recent decades have led us to reexamine our
understandings of ourselves as sexual and gendered beings.
They have challenged us as individuals and as society to
consider the ways that our being embodied, gendered, and
sexual influence our experience of ourselves and the world.
While Hebrew is a gendered language and its God-language
is male, the Hebrew Bible is clear that God, unlike the gods
of many other ancient religions, has no body, no gender,
no sexual identity, and does not engage in sexual behavior.
Contrast this with the stories of the gods of Ancient Greece
and Rome.) The Bible presents countless images of God, from
the still small voice to the crashing thunder to the waters
that flow, and on and on. Each image gives us a glimpse
at a different aspect of God. Each image gives us another
opportunity to relate to God in a different way. From the
Holocaust imagery of what blind hatred and rejection
wrought to the imagery and
texts of artists who challenge
some long-held conceptions,
this exhibition presents the
struggles, the joys, and the
yearnings of the last decades
and asks all of us to consider
what it means to be created
in God’s image.
Created in God’s Image
Rabbi Nancy H. Wiener, D.Min.,
Director, Blaustein Center for Pastoral Counseling, HUC-JIR/New York
Dorit Jordan Dotan