SACRED returned to its roots at the Women’s Gaol at Johannesburg’s Constitution Hill on Sunday 23rd November, presenting a programme called “The Role of Women in Religious Leadership.” Representatives of Protestant, Baha’i and Cape Town’s Open Mosque joined Rabbi Julia Margolis, who completed requirements for Ordination as an external student of the Abraham Geiger College (Berlin-Potsdam) earlier this year.
In her keynote address, Rabbi Margolis pointed out the difficult road to acceptance as a female Jewish leader—a path made easier by the role-model provided by her mother, Rabbi Ylena Rubinstein and earlier women Rabbis including the first woman Rabbi Regina Jonas. It is interesting to note that Rabbi Margolis and her mother are the first known mother-daughter rabbinic dynasty.
Zaakhira Akram, a University of Cape Town graduate and practicing lawyer, represented the now two-month old Open Mosque. She spoke with passion of the shifting social norms the innovative Mosque represents, in which females enter, pray, study and lead alongside men. Her mention of a perceived obligation for practitioners of Islam to blend into their surrounding society, showed a close resemblance to the beginnings of Progressive Judaism in the 19th century.
A common theme amongst the three main Abrahamic religions was that many of the obstacles in the path of full acceptance of female religious leaders derive, not from foundational texts, but from later interpretations. Another theme was the vital importance of female education, which was particularly highlighted by Khwezi Fudu Cenenda from the Baha’i Office of Public Affairs. The session revealed that each of the represented faith communities has reached a different stage in the roles women take and the acceptance if female leadership.
SACRED was delighted to have a past winner of the Barclays Business Woman of the Year Award, Reeva Forman, acting as MC. As well as contributing her business success Reeva serves in many Jewish leadership capacities, including the SAJBD, SAZF and SAUPJ, and was thus the choice pick to be MC. Other valued participants included Rabbi Sa’ar Shaked who began the talks with a musical interfaith meditation and Rev. Lutz Ackermann of the Lutheran Church of Peace, Hillbrow, who has given the church a new life as an inner-city centre of hope. The Reverend talked about the increasing acceptance of female leaders in the various Christian denominations.