Home » Community Life, Nicole Phillips, Recent Posts

Accepting the Unacceptable

June 19, 2012 – 10:09 pm71 Comments

By Nicole Phillips
As a united Jewish community, we must no longer accept the unacceptable.  We have been complacent and have had the fallacious assumption that we cannot expect change in Orthodox thinking.  It has been shockingly too frequent that we read or hear of Orthodox Rabbis’ comments or behaviours that are outside the boundaries of acceptable moral standards.  Regarding the sexual abuse at Yeshivah College, the cover-up came from the highest level.  Rabbi Glick, Yeshivah Principal from 1986 to 2007 told a concerned parent, “Rabbi Groner would not permit Cyprys to work as a security guard if he was a threat to anyone.”  In any hierarchical structure, where there is unquestioning following of a ‘highly respected leader’, who has ultimate control – the last word – there develops a breeding ground for all types of abuse.  In this structure, there is a subservient second tier, those who work with or for the charismatic leader, honoured to be in the inner circle of influence.  They do nothing to ‘rock the boat’.  The highly subservient third tier live in the belief that their best interests are taken care of by tiers one and two.  They have handed over their trust completely and therefore their ability to question and possibly even important aspects of their autonomy.  In addition, in such cultures, avoidance of shame is paramount.  So, a woman being beaten by her husband cannot tell a friend for ‘fear of gossip’, cannot tell police for fear of people finding out and bringing ‘shame’ to the whole community and cannot leave, as the burden of shame of divorce, diminished marriage prospects for her children, or just the hardship of being a solo mother to many is too overwhelming to contemplate.

The unquestioned power of the male Orthodox Rabbis at work seems to be mirrored at home.  In an article in the Australian Jewish News, 17 June 2011, entitled ‘Guardian of the Western Wall’, Rabbi Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall, when asked about his reasons for not allowing women to pray there, stated, “The Kotel is a home for all Jewish people.  If a father has 10 children and each goes around the world, picks up his own traditions and comes back to his father’s house and insists on practising them, there will be a huge catastrophe there.  If we want everybody to be in the same house together, the best way is to follow the father’s way.”  There are multiple implications in this statement.  Children are discouraged from questioning authority (father and Torah), finding their own path in life, thereby remaining stunted emotional and intellectual versions of their potential.  The house, belonging only to the father, will descend into chaos if this did occur (no dissent will be tolerated).  There is a clear prescription for all members of the family to obey the father absolutely – the climate for abuse has been established.

Rabbis’ attitudes to homosexuality can also no longer be tolerated.  Rabbi Glick stated in 2012 that in the 1980s, students were advised “it was not Jewish practice” to be homosexual and would not be asked to leave the school “unless they were promoting these practices”, but: “My understanding is that homosexuality can be cured.”  Really?  And we have allowed such men to educate and nurture our young people.  Many Orthodox gay youth descend into mental illness, marry and live a lie or flee town, losing everyone they love and everything familiar in order to be true to themselves.  Many develop internalised homophobia as they have been taught to feel self-hate and disgust.

I have heard the Torah invoked to explain such attitudes.  My response is simple:  Where we have been required to adapt, we have done so – otherwise we would still be stone-throwing polygamous barbarians! (at least the men anyway, no extra spouses for the ladies!)

Of course, this discussion applies to all patriarchal, hierarchical religions.  Cardinal George Pell has stated:  “There is a right way of living, and it is our task to try to find it and follow it.”  He has dismissed climate change concern as “a symptom of pagan emptiness” and preaches about the sins of contraception, abortion, homosexuality and sex out of marriage.  A decade ago, a Melbourne man alleged that Pell was the man who molested him as a 12-year-old, and after a church-appointed inquiry, Pell said he was “grateful to God” for being exonerated.  He has also allowed known paedophile priests to continue working within the Catholic Church.  However, we have to leave this disgraceful mess to the Catholics and clean up our own back yard.

The time has come.  We must expect our Rabbis to learn outside of the teachings of the Torah.  They must bring their attitudes in line with community expectations.  They need to understand that power and control do not keep people close.  Listening, accepting, being open and kind do.  They have nothing to fear and everything to gain.  Orthodox women must be part of this discussion.

We, as a united community, can no longer accept the unacceptable.

Dr Nicole Phillips is a psychiatrist in Armadale, Melbourne. She has devoted most of her career to the special mental health needs of women and, in addition, for the last 10 years she  has held a voluntary position as medical advisor to ME/CFS Australia and is medical editor of the Association’s journal, Emerge.(Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome is a widely misunderstood serious medical NOT psychiatric illness

Print Friendly


  • letters in the age says:

    Rabbi Cowens statement about homosexuality should also not be excluded

    Great article and the gay lobby have been brilliant in exposing the repulsive and ridiculous hypocricy of the religious right

    Its time the next generation of jewish leaders deal with crimes and abuse within the whole diaspora

    Act now!!

  • Nathan Cherny says:

    great articulation of one of the major problems confronting our pluralistic and heterogeneous Jewish communities. At the heart of the issue is the complete negation of this heterogeneity and pluralism by an Orthodoxy that negates the legitimacy of Jewish life that is not consistent with their ideological (theological) tunnel vision.

    We need freedom of Jewish religious expression and an end to the hegemony that reflect only their reality and which is so harmful and insulting to all of those Jews who live different forms of Jewish life.

    With fond memories of you in Habonim


  • Hypocrisy says:

    We must expect our Rabbis to learn outside of the teachings of the Torah. They must bring their attitudes in line with community expectations.”

    Perhaps we must expect the honoured author of this article to learn outside the teachings of psychiatry. she should actually learn the teachings of the Torah herself (which she quite obviously hasn’t…) before telling others to learn outside of them. And apparently, her idea of equality and ‘openness’ is telling the Rabbis that they must fit the expectations of the community…

    What a load of self serving and misinformed nonsense…

    I have more to write on the whole article, but I’d rather spend my time usefully.

  • Daniel Levy says:


    The difference between Psychiatry and Torah is that Psychiatry is useful in the 21st century.

    That is why Dr. Phillips presumably has no time for your fairy stories. She’s too busy in that pesky little thing that I guess you might begrudgingly call reality, helping her patients recover from their issues. Some of which are inflicted on them by those waving their skyfairy book and claiming it gives them a license to persecute others because they happen to be female, gay or had their childhood innocence taken from them by a “respected” elder.

  • Hypocrisy says:

    Daniel, if what you say is what she believes, then who is she to tell the Rabbis what to do?! Only someone within a community should have that right, just like an Australian prime minister doesn’t have the right to tell a Canadian prime minister what to do, for example.

    And no one believes that Torah gives the right to persecute anyone, and I find your comments highly offensive. It’s funny that you are doing exactly what you blame religion of doing… Go look in a mirror.

  • Ilana Leeds says:

    @ Hypocrisy (apt name for you by the way you must have had some ruch hakodesh when you chose it)
    You are wrong if you think Torah is not relevant to the 21st Century. It is a timeless document and unless you study it the significance of its lessons and message to us all will be missed.
    Psychiatry is a relatively recent discipline and they have in the short time they have been allowed to fiddle with people’s heads and lives indulged in practices that I find quite gut wrenchingly barbaric and very questionable. Things like giving lobotomies to gay people in order to cure them of their homosexuality and loading children who are ‘problematic’ with drugs in order to make them tractable and more socially acceptable. Shock treatment etc etc, I will not go on as you can all do your own investigations.
    Torah and the study of Torah is spiritually, mentally and physically cleansing. Torah will be around for much longer than psychiatry and has been. Torah is timeless and there are more answers and a greater sense of reality there than even the best psychiatrist could offer you.
    When you do really live by Torah there is a closer attachment to an intrinsic reality that is far more true to the human condition than is found in most secular disciplines. There are Rabbis who condemn unconditionally what has happened to many and who despise the cover up of the actions of a flawed few. I find this article just another excuse to bash the Orthodox Jewish communities. Has the author ever lived an observant life even for one month. I am sure her views would change if she did. Ignorance is bliss for some however.

  • Ilana Leeds says:

    Sorry my comment should have been directed at Daniel Levy. Sorry Hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is an age old problem, recognised in Torah too. Sorry for my sharp misguided verbal missles directed at you. Apologies.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    @Hypocrisy, ” then who is she to tell the Rabbis what to do?!”.

    She is a highly educated practitioner of medical science who has seen the immeasurable damage inflicted on the human mind by organised religion.

    “And no one believes that Torah gives the right to persecute anyone”

    Yes, they do. Shimon Cowen himself said that the torah gives rabbis the right to campaign against marriage equality. You may refuse to acknowledge this as persecution, but that is simply the equivalent of putting your fingers in your ears and yelling “LALALALALALALALALA”.


    On the Torah you wrote:

    “It is a timeless document and unless you study it the significance of its lessons and message to us all will be missed.”

    Juxtapose this with what you write about Psychiatry:

    “Psychiatry is a relatively recent discipline and they have in the short time they have been allowed to fiddle with people’s heads and lives indulged in practices that I find quite gut wrenchingly barbaric and very questionable.”

    Do you find stoning women to death for adultery barbaric? Or stoning people to death for failing to observe the sabbath? You’re saying you find nothing in the torah barbaric? Have you -read- the torah?

    Notice that none of the capital punishments outlined in the torah are in force today. Why? Secular society made these rituals null and void. Bollocks it hasn’t changed, it’s changed a great deal. We actually just discard large parts of it. But religious nuts refuse to acknowledge this. More of the “LALALALALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU FINGERS IN MY EARS” school of thought.

    Your brazen attack on Psychiatry is also quite ridiculous. Maybe you’d be better off in the Church of Scientology? Their raison d’etre is attacking Psychiatry.

    There is no doubting that medical science has made revolutionary changes in the last two centuries. In the 1800s we were using leeches to cure colds. In the 1900s lobotomies for mental diseases (some of which were not actually mental diseases).

    The great testimony to medical science (indeed all science) is its ability to adapt to new data. To seek the truth and not rest on its laurels.

    The same cannot be said for the intransigent beliefs of religion. Resisting change in the overwhelming face of new evidence.

    You may enjoy being a stick in the mud, but society would like to progress.

  • Hypocrisy says:

    Bb@ ilana

    Yes, I was wondering why that was directed at me. It’s ok though.

    By the way, I would like to add that I myself am going to be a certified Rabbi very , and that makes this article especially insulting. Apparently I’m primitive, chauvinistic, , don’t listen to community opinion, and as the title of this article implies, my views and actions are ‘unacceptable’…

    Also, the author takes for granted that Rabbis are all followed and listened to by their communities without question… That’s a really good joke, because one of the biggest problems Rabbis have nowadays I getting people to listen to them at all… They are also usually under huge pressure by boards and chairmen made up of businessmen who know very little Torah at all and tell the Rabbis what to do…

  • Daniel Levy says:


    ” I would like to add that I myself am going to be a certified Rabbi very”

    Assuming you meant to write ‘soon’ after ‘very’, congratulations on becoming a rabbi! It’s so nice for you in your position of privilege as a man to have the right to become a rabbi and study for it.

    I’m sure there were many women studying alongside you to become rabbis as well? OOPS LOL gender roles my bad. No women allowed.

    But TOTALLY not persecution.

  • Hypocrisy says:

    It’s not Torah that gives the right to oppose homosexual marriage, it’s free speech. And even though there is no right to free speech when it is hate or racist, to oppose gay marriage is NOT hate or even homophobic. There are SECULAR and studies proving that it damages their children, whether or not you block your ears and ‘LALALA’, as you put it.

    There’s also a difference between tolerance and acceptance. I TOLERATE homosexuals. They can do whatever they want, I don’t mind or care. Really, I have nothing against them. But I DON’T have to accept them, like you don’t have to accept religion. However, with homosexual marriage, my taxes go to their increased married social welfare, etc.

  • Hypocrisy says:


    Contrary to popular opinion, woman CAN decide on matters of Jewish law just like a Rabbi, if she studies all the necessary material. The biggest problem with it is that most women who wish to become Rabbis do it out of ‘spite’ or for feministic reasons, as well as those that do it do so in a somewhat immodest fashion…

    If you bother to check history, there were even women Hasidic Rebbes who women, the ‘Maid of Ludomir’ being a famous example.

  • Hypocrisy says:

    Oh, just by the way, I’m sorry about missing words here and there. I’m typing on a phone which for some reason cuts out words I write

  • Daniel Levy says:

    “There are SECULAR and studies proving that it damages their children, whether or not you block your ears and ‘LALALA’, as you put it.”

    Firstly, that is the textbook definition of homophobia. Fearing that homosexuality damages children. Second, show me just one study – that is properly peer reviewed and has not been thoroughly debunked – showing that homosexual parents damage children.

    While you frantically try to search for one, let me link you to the ones showing no harmful effects whatsoever:


    That link has a bunch of the research conclusion from a whole host of papers, together with their sources.

    Let’s see what you’ve got ;)

    “The biggest problem with it is that most women who wish to become Rabbis do it out of ‘spite’ or for feministic reasons, as well as those that do it do so in a somewhat immodest fashion…”

    That’s not condescending in the slightest. So any woman who wants to be a rabbi is just a rebellious feminist?

    You claim to not be primitive and chauvinistic but you very clearly are.

    It’s telling that your most famous example of a female rabbi is called a maid.

    Even when you’re trying to be pluralistic, you show your disdain for women.

    And I’m not interested in a few speckled women rabbis over history that managed to break through. Name me just TEN orthodox female rabbis that are alive today.

  • Hypocrisy says:

    i will answer the women Rabbis question. And no, I’m not dodging the homosexual question, I just don’t have time because I have a function to attend.
    I’ll endeavour to answer that soon.

    realise I must clarify. I was talking about women Rabbis who I met. One supposedly orthodox. I want to make it clear that I am PRO the idea of women Rabbis, but in the confines of modesty, which also applies to men, not just women. Also, they should be able to prove that they are doing it for the correct reasons, which the way, I will admit, a real problem with male rabbis as well, and must be fixed.

    As for the ‘maid comment, her correct title is in yiddish, ‘der moyd fun ludomir’, while even though it literally translates as maid, it is also the yiddish equivalent of ‘Ms.’ She was called that as an affectionate term, and also because she remained unmarried and celibate her whole life, out of her own choice.

    And it’s irrelevant how many there are today, the fact is that it IS technically possible, and I DO support it, the question is how to do it properly. And just because many orthodox men may oppose it, doesn’t mean the Torah does. In this case, I will agree with you that some education of the orthodox populace is required.

  • Chaya says:

    Daniel and Hypocrisy,
    I understand that this is a heated debate and its a sensitive subject matter but this in fighting and gender equality mud slinging doesn’t help anyone. I am a female and I love Torah and I love Chassidus. I am not overly religious, however I understand that in Judaism women are viewed as more spiritually pure than a man. Even the way G-d designed our bodies reflects this.
    During bentching women do not have to wash their fingertips because we are already pure, we do not need to lay Tefillin or wear tzitzit because we do not need to simply because we are already highly attuned to our Yezter Tov or good inclinations.
    You’re speaking about gender inequality within the Torah and Judaism but you’re failing to see the inequality is towards the man.
    We as a community should be proud to have differences of opinion, as the saying goes, 2 Jews 3 opinions. I just feel that maybe its time to unite together in the fact that we are connected, we are a family. No matter which country you go to throughout the world you are always able to find a place to daven, a Shabbos meal or a someone willing to help.
    Let’s be grateful for this.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    @Hypocrisy, how hard is it to google a link to a study? That’s all I’m asking you for. Takes literally 3 seconds.

    Re: women, if you’re in favour of women rabbis, why are you so angry at Dr. Phillips for calling for female rabbis? Why did you not qualify this in your original reply?


    I have no desire to argue with you as unlike “Hypocrisy” you aren’t coming from a place of harm or malice towards others. However, I would encourage you to read the following:


    The reason why you get those “special concessions” and praise of being “more pure” is so they can butter you up to shunt you into gender roles. And you’ve grown up all your life with that sort of brainwashing so it all makes sense to you, but you should read the psychological tactics that have been used on you to get you to that point.

  • Hypocrisy says:

    While chaya is technically wrong in some of the chassidic arguments she makes, she is right about the inequality being against men, from a galactic, practical Jewish law, perspective. Without going into details, though I do intended to write on the subject in the future, a Jewish woman’s legal rights in marriage FAR outstrip a man’s, abd he has major obligations to her, while she has very few to him. This is all very clear in Maimonides and all other codifiers. She must be provided for if she is widowed by the community, while there is no such obligation to a widower. She can never be divorced against her will unless she commits adultery and the like, whereas a man cannot refuse her a divorce and a Jewish court is obligated to force him to, if she wants. Unless it is not in the child’s interests, she has full rights of guardianship of their children until 6 years of age, then the boys go to the father and the girls to the mother, though the best interests of the children always override this rule. A woman is not obligated to work to for her family, a man is. The list goes on and on… Women’s rights? Judaism was always historically the best in this aspect, and continues to be.

  • letters in the age says:

    Respect people

    Knowledge is power

    Ignorance is bliss Daniel


  • Daniel Levy says:

    Oh yes Hypocrisy, so unequal.

    Tell me, do women recite the following prayer:


    No, it’s the men who recite:


    The chauvinism is entrenched.

    And yet, for all the “rights” you list, there’s still the small matter of women literally being defined as second class citizen in prayer and in gender roles.

    You can point to the few speckles of things that treat women like human beings, and they do exist, but at the end of the day, the torah is intrinsically chauvinistic.

  • DrPeterS says:


  • Daniel Levy says:


    Aren’t you now guilty of the same thing?

  • Yaron says:


    I agree that all the power is with the women. That is why there are so many male agunot running around the community. Must be because the woman have all the power in those relationships.

  • Yaron says:


    I agree that we should have consideration for the victims, what you are asking for is to shut down public debate and ignore the culture in Yeshiva that allowed the abuse to happen in the first place.

    This is the one sure way of ensuring that the abuse continues.

  • TheSadducee says:

    I’m not sure what Cardinal Pell has to do with this issue? He is not part of our community so why bring him up?

    Run out of dirty Jewish linen to air?

    Incidentally, it should be noted that Pell’s enquiry was conducted by retired Victorian Supreme Court Justice, Alec Southwell QC (a non-Catholic and more than qualified to conduct this type of investigation – I do sincerely hope the writer isn’t suggesting that he didn’t do his job properly?) because the complainant would not go to the police to pursue his complaint.

    Otherwise a tedious opinion piece – if you don’t like what the religious people are saying then ignore them. No one is being made to stay with them or follow them against their will and they can’t influence your life unless you let them.

    I would also suggest that the author consider how unpleasant it is to generally refer to Orthodox rabbis without qualifiers – i.e. broadbrushing the entire group of Orthodox rabbis – apply it to any ethnic group and one could be rightly called out for racism and/or ignorance.

  • Hypocrisy says:

    Ididn’tsayas against the author’s call for female Rabbis. I am however, against her motivation. a is not a tool for gender equality, it is for serving G-d alone.

    As for the typical ‘though has not made a woman’ argumentperhapsld look at the Jerusalem Talmud as to why that blessing was instituted. The reason given there is because women in those days were belittled by society. They were thanking G-d for saving them from a societal issue that existed back then. It is true that this reason does not apply anymore, but but don’t have the right to abolish a talmudic enactment.

    As for the agunah argument, firstly, I don’t know where this misconception comes from that there are so many, while the cases the Jewish courts know about are not so many. Either way, it IS a problem, but it also the other way, women not accepting the divorce. And they, unlike men, cannot be pressured by the courts. And if women could divorce their husbands, then that would be extremely unfair on men, as men are required, as stipulated in their marriage document, to pay at the very minimum one ‘maneh’ which in nowadays currency is upwards of $33,000, when they divorce.

  • Hypocrisy says:

    As for the homosexual issue, Daniel, I wish to write well and think about it first, not just copy some

  • Daniel Levy says:

    The Sad,

    “Otherwise a tedious opinion piece – if you don’t like what the religious people are saying then ignore them. No one is being made to stay with them or follow them against their will and they can’t influence your life unless you let them.”

    Your naive worldview does not account for social pressures, and the brainwashing of religion. You also don’t take into account the fact that for homosexuals, they can’t just ignore the people who denigrate you for your sexual preference when they’re actively attempting to deny you equal rights. They have to confront them head on.

    So far the only arguments that have been advanced by those in opposition boil down to:

    “Be quiet, stop making trouble”

    That doesn’t cut the mustard.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    @Hypocrisy, if you wish to write well, you may consider finis-

  • Hypocrisy says:

    Daniel, as I mentioned, I’m having phone issues. The typing on this website doesn’t work properly on the default Android browser, for some reason. My apologies.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Hypocrisy, amidst the heat of debate, that really was an attempt at a good-natured joke.

  • TheSadducee says:


    I’m reluctant to engage with you because of your generally boorish attitude however I strongly disagree with your response.

    The fact is that homosexual people (a term btw which is loaded in itself and not accepted by everyone in the GBLTI community) have much more to worry about than what religious rabbis or religious leaders have to say and lobby for. (And they should confront them IMHO)

    They should reflect on the fact that the leader of their democratically elected left-wing Govt. (allied with the Greens) will not publicly support full equality for political reasons that are not entirely based on religious influence ie. they consider that public opposition is significant enough to effect them electorally.

  • Hypocrisy says:

    Lol, sorry, I guess I missed that… Either way, I would like to say I’m grateful for your (most of the time) civility. I would also like to point out that I truly believe that Judaism is not chauvinistic, if I did, I probably wouldn’t be religious… We can argue forhours about all the details, (which I have spent a huge amount of time researching, because I DO believe strongly in gender equality, regardless what you may think). Let’s just agree to disagree. I’m not against continuing this debate in a different place, like a online chat or something…

  • Daniel Levy says:

    The Sad,

    So because there are bigger fish to fry, they shouldn’t go after the smaller fish?

    Plenty of people are taking Gillard to task over her policy on equal marriage rights.

    Others are going after the religious lobbies. Are you unable to comprehend a multi-faceted approach?

  • The premise of this piece – that we are a “united Jewish community” and therefore the Orthodox must “bring their attitudes in line” with contemporary thinking – is highly flawed.

    We are in fact a highly fractured Jewish community, having moved far beyond the cliché of “2 Jews; 3 opinions”. Many opinions are put forward on these very pages about the lack of sufficiently broad communal representation by roof bodies on important issues.

    Orthodox Judaism by its nature is inclined to give greater weight to tradition over contemporary thinking, and that is unlikely to change. Yet even within Orthodoxy (in the spectrum from Modern- to Ultra- and all in between), there is sufficient diversity, fracturing and heated debate that it is naive to make generalizations.

    To be sure, there are some antiquated attitudes to contemporary issues within Orthodoxy. Some Orthodox societies do retain the culture and power structures Nicole speaks of, and are therefore very challenged in dealing with the scourge of sexual abuse which continues to take place. Other Orthodox societies are working their way through these issues (at varying rates and with varying degrees of success) and should be encouraged rather than condemned.

    Orthodox Judaism has been challenged by modernity – from the use of time-clocks to control lights on Shabbat to medical ethics issues like ART (assisted reproductive technologies) and end-of-life issues – and has found ways to deal with them within a Torah framework. The issues referred to by Nicole are no different.

    And as Sadduccee points out, bringing in Pell (which has been fully dealt with by our judicial system), and pulling dated quotes out of the air are purely there for inflammatory value, and leave little room for debate or respect for dissenting opinions. It seems that intolerance isn’t just something associated with Orthodox Judaism.

  • Hypocrisy says:

    David, I couldn’t have put it better myself.

  • Reality Check says:

    Again something simple made complicated. Of course the 3 main religions are sexist. It’s just that the women folk have been brainwashed to believing that because they are women, they have different, which are just as important, if not more, yeah right, as men’s to play.

    And in regard to homosexuality, what do you expect from ultra-religious people who wear the same clothes of their dead rabbis wore 100 years ago and believe the world is some 6000 years old and the Earth is the centre of the universe. In a word, they are somewhat backward.

    And protecting alleged sex offenders, this is a tribal response garnished with paranoia.

  • Nicole Phillips says:

    Although I expected some heated debate, please keep it calm and respectful!Let me make it clear-I am in no way running down Orthodoxy. I know there are many Orthodox Rabbis that would never have behaved like those at Yeshivah. The Torah has much wisdom that will always be applicable. I am saying that Orthodox Rabbis need to listen to and represent their community.They should not be allowed the “final say” on important social justice issues without community debate.And I do believe ,as a non Orthodox Jew I have a right to comment,because when Rabbis speak in public they in fact do represent all of us and we all have a right to comment on issues of social justice even though we are not directly involved. And, please, no more digs at psychiatry-I have spent my life aiding people with emotional baggage, often from trauma.

  • Nicole Phillips says:

    Also, one more thing. Regarding the earlier comment about victims being retraumatised by the ongoing debates-why do we never stop talking about the Holocaust-so it will never happen again.

  • Alex Fein says:

    Fabulous article, Nicole.

    The nature of online debate is that generally, those who agree with you will tell you so in private. Those who disagree are far more likely to comment on the piece publicly.

    I imagine you’ve received a lot of positive feedback for what is a brave, fair, and well argued piece.


    FWIW re women and their supposed spiritual superiority to men – if that is a comforting, private belief for certain women, it’s absolutely none of my business.

    To claim publicly that it is a universal truth, however, flies in the face of any objective investigation within the framework of any discipline (including rigorously intellectual religious inquiry).

    It is a sop and nothing more and quite an insult to the intelligence of many Orthodox women (and men, for that matter).

    As Yaron rightly pointed out, the issue of agunot alone is sufficient evidence that women are most certainly not considered in any way superior to men.

    It is grossly disingenuous to suggest that men are equally penalised by female partners’ intransigence in cases of divorce. The simple fact of mamzerut gives lie to that.

    To explain: a man who has not divorced his wife can father children with as many other women as he likes. As long as those women are Jewish, the children’s status will be as full members of the Jewish community.

    Should a woman who has not received a divorce have children with a man who is not her husband, that child will be a bastard – a mamzer – and will be denied many rights as a Jew within the community, not least of which is the right to marry most other Jews.


    And please remember: In almost all cases women cannot be witnesses in a Jewish court.

    Shall we claim that this too is evidence of women’s elevated spiritual status?

  • Chaya says:

    Alex; thank you for your post, I feel a small sum of your comments were directed towards me. I must clarify that I am not overly religious and I was not bought up religious.

    Also I must clarify that my previous statements were based on my small amount of learning and understanding of that learning. I in no way meant any offence to anybody and I never meant to try to justify anything, I sincerely apologise if this is the impression that came across.


  • Alex Fein says:

    Hi Chaya.

    There’s absolutely no need to apologise!

    Indeed, if I said anything that might have offended you personally, *I* apologise.

    In fact, my comments were directed far more towards the gentlemen who were arguing the “elevated status” case.

    I’d like to make it clear: it’s simply none of my business how you or any other woman experiences Judaism. If certain rituals or ways of understanding it give you solace or joy, that’s wonderful and I would hate to impugn your experience in any way.

    My arguments only relate to the public discourse regarding women’s roles in Judaism.

  • Chaya says:

    Hi Alex, I must have misunderstood. I understand this is such a sensitive topic. We all experience our Judaism differently and we all view opinions differently. I’m looking at this whole exchange in a positive way, we are free as people to discuss our feelings and opinions and we are also proud to have them. I have loved being part of this debate and I wish there was more conversation like this in every community, unfortunately with some insular communities this is not possible. I respect and appreciate all the views put forth in this debate and as a 28 year old Jewish female it is definitely making me take a look and assess my own views and opinions which at the end of the day, is what community is all about :)

  • Alex Fein says:

    Hi Chaya.

    You’re quite right! It’s a great thing to be able to discuss these matters in a public forum. It’s one of the many reasons Galus is such an important resource for the community.

    If you’d like, you’re also welcome to email me at alex.fein at gmail dot com

  • Manny Waks says:

    Well done Nicole! I particularly appreciated your explanation of the multi-tiered system within any hierarchical structure – it seems to be supported by the Yeshivah (and other ultra-Orthodox) structure.

    Alex: ‘The nature of online debate is that generally, those who agree with you will tell you so in private. Those who disagree are far more likely to comment on the piece publicly.’

    I couldn’t agree with you more (and thank you for prompting me to comment)!

  • TheSadducee says:


    This was hardly a fabulous comment piece.

    Certainly provocative, but it over-generalised with regard to Orthodox rabbis – something the author has themselves subsequently tried to clarify in the face of valid criticism in this regard.

    There was also the totally gratuitous and irrelevant comments about the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney.

    To slightly misquote Tertullian – What has Rome to do with Jerusalem?

    I am also dissapointed with the authors early responses (or failure thereof) to the substantive criticisms eg. look to David Werdiger’s comment earlier.

  • TheSadducee says:


    Hardly a revelation with regards to the tiered structure that is articulated in the article. Ever heard of the public service?

  • Manny Waks says:

    The Sadducee :-)

  • Daniel Levy says:

    The Sad,

    It’s very interesting that you actually use Tertullian’s quote. It shows that you truly do not understand how much you have missed the forest for the trees.

    It’s the same sick perversion of an insular power structure which results in such abuses. So why not lump them in together? It is the same abuse with a different flavour. Ostensibly the only tangible difference is Jesus.

  • Facing Denial says:

    Act now!! Let’s bring forth justice to the victims who DESERVE and CRAVE recognition from the community. Times are changing, we cannot sit in a dark cave and deny what we ALL KNOW has occurred. It’s UNACCEPTABLE the trickery, isolation and deceit the victims and others who support the victims are facing. It’s childish and irrelevant.

    We must try to cease the occurrence of abuse, at ALL costs. The wellbeing of a human being is worth FAR MORE then all of this immaturity and constant lies which are dressed in immorality.

  • Facing Denial says:

    I also want to reiterate the IMPORTANCE of the author’s comment saying, “Why do we keep talking about the holocaust? So it will never happen again.”

    Sexual abuse is a form of torture, what the Jews went through in the Holocaust can most definitely be compared to the torture in the holocaust. Sexual abuse is discrimination, physical pain, feelings of worthlessness and mistreatment. WE NEED TO CEASE THE ONGOING TORTURE OF THE INNOCENT!

  • Facing Denial says:

    One last thing, I also find it extremely amusing that women for example ‘Hypocrisy’ and ‘Ilana Leeds’ think they can compare their knowledge to a true academic and professional opposed to you ladies who trust a document that was written thousands and thousands of years ago, we don’t even know who by! We live in an era where people don’t dress in the skin of the sheep they kill. It’s time to adapt and understand that MORE ADVANCED, MORE ILLOGICAL AND MORE VALID explanations for the world, mental wellbeing and simply human nature have been found.

    As outsiders, we have no right to tell the Rabbi how to conduct his services. Yet, if sexual abuse is involved, and innocent people are being harmed because their are people in orthodoxy who refuse to accept the sexuality they were BORN with, then yes, the PROFESSIONALS must intervene to try and bring forth JUSTICE to those in denial.

  • Levi says:

    “Orthodox women must be part of this discussion”

    Isn’t it ironic that this opinion piece from Nicole immediately promted a response from the only female posters on this forum all rebutting and contradicting the notion that Orthodox Judiasm is somehow prejudiced against women etc…

    but what would Chaya and Illana Leeds know? They and hundreds or possibly thousands of other women in the orthodox community are too primitive to understand that they are tvoppressed and need to be liberated by their more enlightened secular Jewish feminist sisters.

    Go Nicole…you tell ‘em sista! With the help of Daniel Levy et al you will eventually “liberate” them…

    “Let me make it clear-I am in no way running down Orthodoxy.”

    No of course not. You just quite coincidentally expressed all of your deep seated biases and
    prejudices…the “running down” bit was really just unintentional “collateral damage.”

    What transpired at yeshiva was unacceptable and a major injustice was done to the victims. This injustice however, does not give you the green light to smear Judaism and it’s values…using offenisve terms like “stone throwing polygamous barbarians.” This biggotted forum is a disgrace. golus australis indeed.

  • letters in the age says:

    Dear Nicole,

    Your work as a psychiatrist brings depth and credibility to this sensitive issue


  • Levi says:

    “Orthodox Judaism has been challenged by modernity – from the use of time-clocks to control lights on Shabbat to medical ethics issues like ART (assisted reproductive technologies) and end-of-life issues – and has found ways to deal with them within a Torah framework. The issues referred to by Nicole are no different.”

    David werdiger, to be fair one of the main issues that Nicole referred to is homosexuality…a little different to time clocks and medical ethics…etc. Homosexuality is a clear prohibition of the Torah. There are is leniency with this issue. There is nothing to be ashamed of in stating this. As a representative of orthodox Judiasm and chabad on this forum, your politically correct dancing around this issue isn’t really helping…and is dishonest at best.

  • Levi says:

    Oops ment to say ‘no leniancy’…no Freudian slip I promise;)

  • Marky says:

    My wife doesn’t want a female rabbi. Neither does my mother in law, daughters, nieces or any female I know in our community. They also don’t want females to lead prayers.

    I never thought that even my mother in law needed a psychiatrist. It seems now that they all need one, to be told that their views are unacceptable.

    However, there is one young girl, who may not need a shrink. She wants to be an AFL footballer. But she was told “sorry, men only”.

  • Truth says:

    Nicole Phillips you are a genius!! This article is articulate, confronting and a precise depiction of the immaturity the orthodox community are showing! You go girl!

  • Levi,

    I don’t know enough about the issue to comment at length, and having seen what often happens to discussions here, I don’t want to see this thread hijacked by a single issue in a broader topic, and I have commented on this issue elsewhere.

    Here’s what I know: there is a specific Torah prohibition against the act of anal sex between two men. There is no prohibition against being same sex attracted. In my view, what is behind the strident Orthodox position against homosexuality is that gay culture flies in the face of the traditional family unit, and seeks to provide an acceptable alternative.

    There are some Orthodox Rabbis who seek to reconcile the irreconcilable – they are few. Even those who do would not go so far as to suggest that homosexuality is normative.

    I hosted a lecture from someone who knows a lot more about this issue a while back. Here is the podcast if you’re interested http://jbdmelbourne.podbean.com/2010/11/23/judaism-and-homosexuality/

  • Yaron says:

    There seems to be a bit of faulty logic here. The fact that some women in one family do not want a female rabbi therefore no woman wants a female rabbi.

    The Orthodox community should not be looking for ways to exclude people.

    If there is a way to permit it within the boundaries of halacha, why should it not happen for those who want it. You don’t like it, don’t go.

    This argument would be the same as saying you have done a poll at Adass and they reject a particular leniency, therefore everyone in the community agrees

  • Reality Check says:

    Yaron, do you really expect logic from someone who thinks the world is 6000 years old? And David, your graphic description of homosexual acts, interesting! Now where exectly can I find that in the Bible?

  • Wolf says:

    Just because some Rabbis have behaved in a way that is NOT in accordance with Torah, does not mean that Torah is ‘bad’. It means these ‘Rabbis’ a fruadelent people, mis-representing both themselves to the Jewish community, and Jews to the wider community. It is an absolute Chillel Hashem.

  • Reality Check – it’s just a translation of Vayikra 18:22

  • Reality Check says:

    David, just had a look at the ArtScroll translation of Vayikra 18:22, and still; no-where near as colourful as your translation, although there is nothing wrong with it. Regards

  • Levi says:

    David werdiger, II think it’s pretty clear that no one here is referring to platonic relationships…

    It’s interesting to note that that this weeks Torah portion is “Korach”. Korach was upset that Moses didn’t make him a priest and challenged the authority of Moses by inciting a large mob against him. Korach was very successful at this because he did it under the guise of bringing “equality for all.” He and this mob scoffed and mocked Moses and His brother Aron for their “illogical” and” old fashioned” Torah views. Sounds familiar? The more things change the more they stay the same.

    To Korach’s credit, he surely knew his stuff and what he was criticizing…unlike the ignormaouses here.

    The idea that Judiasm and the teachings of Torah is “old fashioned” and not with “the times” is about as old as the Jewish religion itself. The story of Chanukah – a holiday which is ironically popular with secular Jews- is a fine example of this. The Greeks and their assimilated Jewish
    counterparts laughed and scoffed at observant Jews for being “old fashioned” and very
    illogical. They went as far as prohibiting any Jewish law that could not be logically explained –
    i.e. circumcision, establishing the new month etc. Judaism still prevailed despite all the odds. And guess what? it’s never going to “reform” to embrace the “values” of the mob. There is absolutely no shame in the fact that Torah transcends logic and all of these laws, including the illogical laws were giving to us by G-d Almighty and we only do something or refrain from doing something because it is G-d’s Will.

  • cb says:

    I’m late to this thread, but here are a few thoughts:

    Daniel said:
    “That’s not condescending in the slightest. So any woman who wants to be a rabbi is just a rebellious feminist?”

    Yes, Daniel. Apparently being a feminist (i.e. someone who believes males and females should be treated equally) is even worse than being a homosexual!!! lol!

    Regarding women being spiritually superior:

    Daniel Levy: “The reason why you get those “special concessions” and praise of being “more pure” is so they can butter you up to shunt you into gender roles.

    Hypocrisy: “Women’s rights? Judaism was always historically the best in this aspect, and continues to be.”

    In my opinion, you are actually both right, to an extent. Historically, in Ancient times when women seemed to have no rights in almost ANY society, the Jewish law did grant women certain rights, including property rights, that other societies did not, and probably protected women to some extent when other societies would not. However, I do get very cynical when I hear that women can’t do this or don’t have to do that because they are more spiritually superior than men. It doesn’t seem to match the other aspects and attitudes of Judaism/Jews. For example, when certain Charedi men refuse to sit anywhere near women on buses in Israel, I’m pretty sure it’s not because they think that women are spiritually superior. It’s women being forced (and harassed) to sit at the back, not men being forced to sit at either the front or the back. Also why would it be the allegedly spiritually inferior gender that have been the Jewish religious leaders (i.e rabbis) all these millennia? More likely, some people came up with the “spiritually superior” argument later on, to explain away all the gender inequities and deflect criticism.


    “No, it’s the men who recite:
    The chauvinism is entrenched.”
    To be honest, at the time they came up with this prayer, it must have REALLY sucked to be a woman! But that sort of prayer does reinforce a male chauvinist outlook, suggesting that men are superior to/more important than woman.


    “My wife doesn’t want a female rabbi. Neither does my mother in law, daughters, nieces or any female I know in our community. They also don’t want females to lead prayers.”

    This reminds me of an ex-family friend of ours who said women shouldn’t hold management positions because 100% of women have PMS! Apparently his wife and his daughter are 100% of women! (and men are apparently NEVER in a bad mood!)

    We’re all not used to female rabbis. It seems strange even to me when I see one, and I am a big believer in gender equality. So it’s understandable that people are somewhat opposed to them. Also, it may not be the most pressing issue in everyone’s mind. But many people also think it should happen, just as women are afforded almost every opportunity that men are in the non-religious scene. Many things have changed over time in Judaism after all – e.g. no more polygamy, no executions or “punishments”

  • letters in the age says:


    nice riposte


  • cb says:

    Thanks, letters!

  • Reality Check says:

    cb. in my Siddur, it says ….. for making me according to Your Will.

  • cb says:

    Reality check:

    I was quoting what someone else said there, but I do understand Hebrew (since I was a small child as my parents are Israeli)- I heard the boys at my Jewish primary school say that prayer every day for over 2 years, it says thank god for not making me an “Isha” – that means “woman”. Perhaps you are referring to the prayer that women say which does actually translate to “thank you for making me according to your will”. Unless your siddur is a specifically progressive one!

  • Reality Check says:

    No cb, my Siddur is the Artscroll, and even in the Hebrew there is no mention of woman. Whereas for men, it says for not having made me a wmoman. And seeing what me dear wife went through when carrying and giving birth to our children, and the crap women have to up with, I can see why.

Leave a comment!

You must be logged in to post a comment.