JTS Chancellor Shuly Rubin Schwartz: An Insightful Portrait into the Role of Women

Posted on Nov 23, 2020

Dr. Shuly Rubin Schwartz, the daughter of a Rebbetzin, grew up with Torah Fund and its values, thanks to her mom’s involvement. Having been an American Jewish historian, she lovingly once wrote about “Schechters’ Seminary” (that Solomon Schechter was the head of JTS and Mathilde Schechter was its heart) and how the Seminary morphed into the premier institution it is today. Mathilde was the one who founded the first residence hall, the first sukkah, one of the first published hymnals, and ultimately Women’s League.

The original goal of Women’s League was to support the Jewish Theological Seminary’s students and community, but even more important, it was an organization for women to develop their leadership skills and become Jewishly educated. They were taught to present D’vrei Torah, lead meetings and hone communication skills. This was also a place where women could develop friendships and create camaraderie.

Chancellor Schwartz, as Dean of List College for 25 years, helped cultivate the next generation of lay leaders and the Mathilde Schechter Residence Hall was essential to realizing the mission of List College. Torah Fund gave the space for students to enjoy Shabbat dinners and learn how to live and enjoy a Jewish life. The religious heart of JTS is, of course, the Women’s League Seminary Synagogue. As Dean of the Gershon Kekst Graduate School and of List College, Chancellor Schwartz saw at close range the crucial role that Torah Fund’s scholarship support played in ensuring that talented students would be able to attend.

Conservative Judaism has always prioritized women. Even back in 1909, Solomon Schechter founded the Teacher’s Institute so that women could gain an advanced education in Jewish studies and prepare for careers in Jewish education. Over the years, Women’s League educated women, both for synagogue skills and in the home. Once Conservative Judaism embraced egalitarian and began ordaining women rabbis, women’s leadership grew exponentially.

Chancellor Schwartz closed by saying that Judaism is rich and complex, all at the same time, and can provide meaning and a place for every Jew.

Chadashot plans to conduct additional interviews in the coming months with Chancellor Schwartz.

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