It often occurs to me how profound it is to be among the generations of women who believed quite spontaneously, that they could be more than they were slated to be by the cultural messages that engulfed us for thousands of years. How blessed to awaken at a time when the disservice done to women wasn't going to go unnoticed or unchallenged by the underdogs themselves.
I'm proud to be a part of this evolutionary step in the human experience. Even though it has most definitely colored my experience as a rabbi in, oftentimes, painful and harsh ways.
2021 is seeing a phenomenon for all humanity that I call the pushback. In all aspects of life, there is a digging in of the dominant structures of the past. The Patriarchy is alive and well and fighting to get back its lost territory. We rabbis who are women are on those frontlines and it's a difficult place to manage. But manage we do, for we are the change agents for our times.
But being a change agent is both a privilege and a struggle. I don’t believe any of us asked for this distinction. I was not prepared to be judged for my gender; I assumed I would be judged for my love of God, my love of Judaism, my love of ethics and my passion for humanity.
The most glaring challenge for me as a woman who is a rabbi is to realize how much misogyny still exists in our world, Jewish and secular, and that the politically correct cultural trends of the last decade have only driven this misogyny underground. It did not rectify the disparity between what people allowed themselves to see in women's ability and where the truth lies. In other words, the degree of passive aggressive behaviors exhibited towards rabbis who are women is high indeed.
I became a rabbi because of a powerful calling that has held me in its grip for as long as I can remember. It was to serve the highest good -- to guide people through Jewish wisdom and ethics on a path to that end for those whom I would serve. I have since learned that God's call to me was actually to assist in the shift from that old paradigm of a misogynistic world towards a new and more enlightened humanity.
Was I prepared for how painful that could be? No! And yet, I am so proud to be clear about my mission, clear about what is right and what is wrong, clear about the equality of all human souls to be loved, respected and honored no matter how deeply their identities have been encased in limitation. God's call is still the loudest and most enticing sound that inspires my soul to do whatever it must to help the change and to do it without fear.
Once upon a time I thought that I would become a rabbi, but it never dawned on me how much my gender would color my experience in this profession. I didn’t possess an idea that my gender would define the character and the challenges of my professional life. Not only am I a woman but I am a strong woman at that. You can be sure that this fact only adds to the challenges.
I am dreaming of a world where who you are can be free of the limitations that others chain you to. The world is fighting a mighty battle now. Will the old power centers yield and make room for all of us, or will they not? It may look all perfect to the outsider but that would not be truthful to claim. 5,000 years of a pronounced perspective that pegs women as secondary creatures, does not disappear in a decade. It takes time, a lot of time.
I'm in it for the long haul. That is what my God has asked of me and my life is overflowing with a sense of meaning and purpose. It’s an honor to be standing on the frontlines.
Rabbi Julie Kozlow is a community rabbi living in Prescott.