I married a rabbi.
On the surface, this declaration would not seem like a weighted statement. Many rabbis are married. It’s not disallowed like it is for Catholic priests. In fact, by Jewish law, marriage is highly valued and encouraged (especially by Jewish mothers). However, when I tell people that “I married a rabbi”, their facial expression often changes to one of either surprise, curiosity, or both. You see, I’m a male and my partner in life is female. Her chosen profession is that of a religious leader in the Jewish faith, a rabbi. Somehow, even in these modern times, to many (although not the majority) the concept of a female rabbi is taboo.
With respect to those who do not affiliate, we generally speak of three primary sects in Judaism – Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform. Each is separated by their interpretation of Jewish law. I grew up affiliated with the Conservative movement, not to be confused with the political arm of the same name. In the spectrum from liberal to conservative thinking, Conservative Judaism falls somewhere in between Orthodox and Reform as it has adapted some laws and traditions (e.g. Conservative Jews may drive to synagogue on Shabbat), but still adherers vehemently to many others (e.g. the movement has not yet recognized same-sex marriage).
My wife grew up as a Reform Jew and was ordained by Hebrew Union College (HUC), which is associated with the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ). Since it’s foundation in the late 1800’s, Reform Judaism has always been on the leading edge of adapting Jewish laws and rituals to the modern time. As is explained so eloquently by the URJ, “Reform Judaism has asserted that a Judaism frozen in time is an heirloom, not a living fountain.”
In particular, Reform Jews have long championed egalitarianism and a philosophy of inclusion rather than exclusion. The movement ordained its first female rabbi in 1972. The Conservative movement ordained a female rabbi in 1985, nearly a decade later. More liberal branches of Orthodox Judaism have given the title of rabbi to a few women, but the movement as a whole does not officially recognize women as rabbis.
What’s behind the blog name?
As both the Reform and Conservative seminaries have opened admissions to a growing number of female students, there is a comparatively growing number of men marrying rabbis. So many, that in 2006 then Jewish Theological Seminary rabbinical student, Rachel Silverman, created a t-shirt (available online) after seeing similar shirts reading “real men marry doctors”. This tongue-in-cheek statement acknowledges the rising trend, publicly mocking traditional thought.
On our wedding day, my wife’s gift to me was one of these t-shirts (light blue with navy blue lettering, if you were curious). I wore this shirt with great pride the morning after we were wed. I’m so proud of my wife and her accomplishments and am honored to stand by her side for as long as we both shall live.