Nidal Elora, the rare Orthodox rabbinate in Israel

Born into a Christian family in France, Elora Peretz converted to Judaism to establish herself as one of the few Orthodox rabbis in Israel. The only problem, not least, is that she cannot take over the head of a synagogue, a position reserved for men in this Jewish current.

In the orthodox Jewish world, women rarely have access to religious texts and are generally absent from places of Talmudic study, unlike in liberal Judaism, where women can become rabbis, such as the French Delphine Horvilleur.

Elora Peretz, a former journalist and mother of two, is one of the few women in Israel who received a rabbinic degree a few months ago, awarded by Rabbi Daniel Sperber, of a more open orthodox stream than others.

But her diploma, which she received after three years of intensive study, is not recognized by the Israeli rabbinate, and therefore she will not be able to work in a synagogue.

“I will not evolve in a society that tells me + ma’am, welcome +,” laments Elora Peretz, who hopes to establish herself as a “pioneer,” by paving the way for a generation that “will benefit from the work we do.”

However, she has studied exactly the same course as the “recognized” rabbis, and thus knows all about food laws, from those of the weekly Sabbath rest, life as a married couple, marriage or the period of mourning.

In an interview with AFP conducted in a synagogue in Jerusalem, Elora Peretz protested that “there is nothing in our texts that prevents a woman from marrying a married couple, but this is forbidden in Israel.”

Several ultra-Orthodox women in the same situation as they were turned to the Israeli Supreme Court in 2019 to force the rabbinate to allow women to take the certification exams reserved for men.

But there has been little progress, as only one Israeli, Shira Mirvis, has been leading an Orthodox sect for a year in Efrat, a colony in the occupied West Bank, laments Elora Peretz, whose blonde hair partially covers a headdress like a worn. by married Orthodox Jews.

She says, “In the absence of being a community rabbinic, she can be a spiritual guide and give lessons, answering believers’ questions on topics she is proficient in ‘as much as a male rabbi’.”

“For me, the rabbi’s role is to help give meaning to the daily practice of Judaism,” she explains, saying she wants to help “people who ask questions.”

– ‘God is my light’ –

Before becoming a rabbi, Elora Peretz, born Alexandra in Strasbourg, lived another life. PhD in Political Communication and Journalism, she chose to invest in Religious Studies.

This Swiss French, who has lived in France, the United Kingdom and the United States, says that from her early childhood she “felt” the attraction of Judaism.

Her “Journey of Encounters” then prompted her to change her religion, and she chose the name Elora, which in Hebrew means “God is my light.”

“Through studying, over the years, I realized that what was offered to women was limited in the depth of the topics covered, so I had no choice but to become a rabbi to study what surprised me,” she explains.

“I became a rabbi that came from my passion for Torah texts and for the people of Israel,” she says, continuing to deepen the texts several times a week at a Center for Studies in Jerusalem.

“Madame Rabbi” or “Madame Rabbi”? Ms. Peretz prefers the second option, but considers this discussion less important.

“My main goal is to get to an exchange, in meetings, and I don’t want to prevent myself from getting a title, otherwise I wouldn’t have done anything,” she asserts.

She refuses to be at the center of controversy, eschews discussions of religious feminism and believes that “no one takes the place of the other, and no one fights the other.”

The rabbi adds with a smile: “We add knowledge, and it is a blessing for all.”

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