Rachel Adler

How Adler uses feminist ideas to challenge Jewish law.

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Reprinted from Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia with permission of the author and the Jewish Women's Archive.

The writings of Rachel Adler on Jewish law and ritual have catapulted her into the center of modern Jewish religious discourse, and she is unquestionably among the leading constructive Jewish theologians, translators and liturgists of the modern era, garnering attention from Jewish and non-Jewish scholars, women and men alike.

Rachel Adler

Adler's Personal Life

Ruthelyn (later Rachel) Rubin was born in Chicago, Illinois on July 2, 1943. Her father Herman (1907-1984), born in Chicago, was an executive in a large insurance company. Her mother, Lorraine (née Helman, 1918-2003), also born in Chicago, was a fourth-generation Chicagoan on her mother's side. She had a master's degree in guidance and counseling and was the chairwoman of a large guidance department at a suburban high school. They married in 1941 and their second daughter Laurel was born in 1946.

Rachel Adler married Moshe Adler, an Orthodox rabbi, on December 20, 1964. While this marriage ended in divorce in 1984, the union did produce one son, Amitai Bezalel, born on July 10, 1973.

In September 1987 Adler married Los Angeles attorney David Schulman (b. 1951), a committed Reform Jew and social activist who is Supervising Attorney of the AIDS Discrimination Unit of the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office. The couple now lives in Los Angeles, where Adler serves as Associate Professor of Jewish Religious Thought and Feminist Studies at the Los Angeles campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

Academic Accomplishments

Adler earned her B.A. and M.A. degrees in English Literature at Northwestern University in 1965 and 1966 and received an M.S.W. from the University of Minnesota in 1980.

In 1986 Adler enrolled in the joint Hebrew Union College-University of Southern California doctoral program in Religion and received her Ph.D. degree in 1997. Her doctoral dissertation, "Justice and Peace Have Kissed: A Feminist Theology of Judaism," served as the basis for her award-winning book, Engendering Judaism: An Inclusive Theology and Ethics, which, in 1999, won the National Jewish Book Award as best book in Religious Thought.

Adler's Writings on Niddah

Her 1971 publication of "The Jew Who Wasn't There: Halakhah and the Jewish Woman," in Davka, as well as her 1972 publication for The Jewish Catalogue, of "Tum'ah and Taharah: Ends and Beginnings," first gained Adler international attention as an articulate feminist spokesperson.

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Rabbi David Ellenson

Rabbi David Ellenson is President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) and I.H. Anna Grancell Professor of Jewish Religious Thought. As a distinguished scholar and leader of the Reform Movement, he is recognized for his research in Jewish religious thought, ethics, and modern Jewish history. He received his Ph.D. from Columbia University and was ordained by HUC-JIR.