To the Editor:
As the author of the section, “Women of Valor,” in The Jewish Almanac, I feel that Ruth R. Wisse, in the article in which she discusses the Almanac [“Judaism for the Mass Market,” January], has misunderstood my aims. I was not at all patronizing, as Mrs. Wisse claims. The first list, of ten American Jewish women “rediscovered,” was of women of considerable achievement whose work is not commonly known or written about. The second part, originally titled “Women in Rabbinic Roles,” required a great deal of research, interviewing, and correspondence. I included women who had distinguished themselves in Jewish scholarship, like Beruriah, Henrietta Szold, and Rebbetzin Pesha Chaya Poupko; in leadership, like the hasidic Moyd of Ludomir and the lay preacher Lily Montagu; and women who almost were ordained, like Irma Lindheim and Martha Neumark Montor. The list of women ordained since 1972 was just the end of that section.
Novelty was not my criterion. Every one of the women I listed had distinguished herself in some area of Jewish life.
Ida Cohen Selavan
Director, Nonformal Academy of Jewish Studies
Ruth R. Wisse writes:
The description of her contribution to The Jewish Almanac by Ida Cohen Selavan illustrates my point. To emphasize women in rabbinic roles is to patronize. Why else would the achievement of Jewish women past and present be subject to the exclusive rabbinic criterion of excellence? Neither Glückel of Hameln nor Charlotte Jacobson of Hadassah qualifies as an achiever in this distorted interpretation of “women of valor.” And this slight to Jewish women appears under the banner of women’s rights!