Ultimately, as many areas of common ground as we can find, and as much agreed-upon progress as we can make, the divisions around women’s ritual participation and leadership roles may not be paper-over-able, and the differences may be irreconcilable. But if divorce must come, let it be a conscious uncoupling. … In the case of a dissolving relationship, this approach has the merit of easing the way forward, joined as the exes will be by shared custody of their children. In the case of Orthodoxy, even if the denomination splits, we will be joined by shared custody of our families, our shuls, our schools, and, ultimately, our commitments and futures as Jews. Unity and comity are good things, but I am not at all convinced that the community is better served by a false front that tries to conceal or patch the deep discord behind it than by frank acknowledgment of irreconcilable differences. I am certain, however, that further denunciation, out-throwing, and name-calling is not what the community needs. If you decide you cannot daven in a shul that follows a certain practice, don’t. If you feel you cannot eat in someone’s home, don’t. (You could invite them to yours, or go out to eat together to a very kosher establishment.) But do it without rancor, bitterness, and ugliness. Goodness knows, we don’t need any more of that.
Pirkei Avot teaches that any dispute that is for the sake of heaven will endure. Decades ago, I heard Rabbi Berel Wein say that this means that when a dispute is not merely a fight about personalities or power, but a bedrock dispute of Judaism which implicates fundamental Jewish values on either side, the dispute itself endures. It is not subject to being simply, neatly resolved and put to rest. The debates over women’s ritual participation and leadership roles will continue to be engaged in, as they should. They will not be settled easily. What we can do is find a way to engage in those debates that helps us make headway as a community, rather than sitting here, getting trench foot and gangrene and waiting for the shells to fall.
Rivka Press Schwartz, “Climbing Out of Our Trenches: Towards a Different Conversation”, Tacit Knowledge (21 December 2016) [https://rpschwartz.com/2016/12/21/climbing-out-of-our-trenches-towards-a-different-conversation-about-women-and-orthodoxy/]