The Contemporary Rebbetzin: What’s It Like to Be a Rebbetzin in 2017?

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by Avigayil Perry

New article in Jewish Action magazine:

It was the chicken soup that made all the difference.
Fifteen years ago, when Rabbi Daniel and Batya Friedman moved to Edmonton, Canada, where the weather can plunge to a bone-chilling twenty degrees below zero, there was no Friday night minyan at Beth Israel, the local Orthodox shul. Drawing upon the recent influx of tradition-minded South African Jews, Rabbi Friedman, who was hired to lead Beth Israel, quickly established a minyan. To lure people in, he started offering piping hot, homemade chicken soup along with freshly made potato kugel—courtesy of his wife.t was the chicken soup that made all the difference.

It worked.

The Friday night minyan grew and, after a few years, even thrived. But the early years were difficult, confesses Batya Friedman, who prefers “Rabbanit” over rebbetzin. To attract daveners, the minyan was called for 6:00 pm—even when Shabbat came in as early as 4:00 pm. Rabbanit Friedman would gather her young daughters—a toddler and a baby at the time—and wait in the shul for the minyan, and then the meal, to start. As the hours wore on, her children would grow tired and cranky. Then the rabbi and his family would have to walk home in the bitter cold. “Those were challenging times,” she says.

In the life of a rebbetzin, the sacrifices are often steep. Back in the 80s and 90s, when Rebbetzin Judi Steinig, a rebbetzin for more than thirty years, was busy raising her children, her husband served as the rabbi of the Young Israel of Bayside, a small, struggling shul in Queens, New York. But it didn’t make sense for the couple to move to Bayside—and so they occupied two homes. During the week, they lived in a larger house in the Bronx, where their kids had more room to play and friends in the neighborhood, and for Shabbat they would move to the tiny apartment above the shul. “We were packing every week,” Rebbetzin Steinig recalls. How did she handle such an exhausting routine? “You rise to the challenge.”

Continued in Jewish Action: link

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

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