Rabbi Naamah Kelman Speaks at the Knesset on International Women's Day - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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Rabbi Naamah Kelman Speaks at the Knesset on International Women's Day

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014


Rabbi Naamah Kelman, Dean, HUC-JIR/Jerusalem, was invited to give a shiur at the Knesset's Beit Midrash in honor of International Women's Day on March 4, 2014.

Rabbi Kelman was asked by MK Ruth Calderon to teach about the story of the Daughters of Zelopchad from the Book of Numbers. These five remarkable women were the first to demand a portion of the Promised Land from Moses, as there were no male heirs. Not only did God approve of their rightful demand, Moses turned this into law. These Daughters of Zelophchad remained an untold minor story throughout the generations until the rise of Jewish feminism who reclaimed them and gave them new interpretations for our time.

In addition to telling their story, Rabbi Kelman connected them to Queen Esther, as we prepared for Purim. Esther is a descendant of Benjamin; these Daughters, decendants of Joseph. Joseph and Esther have a lot in common, using their wits, beauty, and courage; they found themselves serving Kings when their intervention was critical for saving our people. We all hoped that Esther found her inner strength from her "great-aunts," five sisters who dared to make change and bring us closer to equality and justice.

Rabbi Naamah Kelman was appointed Dean of HUC-JIR/Jerusalem on July 1, 2009. Ordained by HUC-JIR in Israel in 1992, Rabbi Kelman has devoted her career to strengthening the Reform Movement's outreach, community organizing, and Jewish education. She has been intensely involved in the emerging education system of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism and was among the founders of the first Progressive Day School, where she has overseen the development of curricular materials, teacher training programs, and family education. At HUC-JIR/Jerusalem, she has strengthened the Year-In-Israel Program for North American first-year rabbinical, cantorial, and education students, advanced professional development for the Israeli Rabbinical Program, and has been a catalyst for new and innovative programs in the areas of pluralistic Jewish education and pastoral counseling. Learn more about Rabbi Kelman >

Each year in March, the Women's Committee of the United Nations convenes and in it are delegates of all member states. The Israeli delegation is made up jointly by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Authority for the Advancement of Women, varying its composition in relation to the topics expected to be debated. The members of the Israeli delegation also hold conferences with Jewish women and representatives of Jewish women's organizations from the Diaspora. This connection is meant to encourage cooperation and initiate exclusive projects with women of the Diaspora, as well as strengthening the influence of the Jewish lobby over the government.  International Women's Day is marked in Israel by public demonstrations, events and panels concerning the state of women in areas such as equality in pay, equality in work opportunities, the struggle against family violence, etc. Learn more about International Women's Day in Israel >

Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates leaders to serve North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, museums, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. www.huc.edu