Belda Lindenbaum, Pioneer of Orthodox Jewish Feminism, Dies at 76

Lindenbaum was co-founder of the Midreshet Lindenbaum women’s seminary and vice president of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance.

Michal Fattal

Belda Lindenbaum, the co-founder of the Midreshet Lindenbaum women’s seminary program in Israel combining religious studies and army service, and other programs to advance Orthodox women, has died.

Lindenbaum, who according to the Jewish Women’s Archive “was driven by the birth of her daughters to create new opportunities for Jewish women and girls,” died on Tuesday in her Manhattan home. She was 76.

Lindenbaum was a vice president and founding board member of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance and a founding board member of the New York-based Yeshivat Maharat, which ordains Orthodox Jewish woman. She joined her husband Marcel Lindenbaum and Rabbi Shlomo Riskin in founding Midreshet Lindenbaum, a women’s program of rigorous religious studies in Jerusalem. She also served as president of the board of the Drisha Institute for women, president of the American Friends of Bar-Ilan University and a board member of Ramaz Day School, all based in New York.

“Belda devoted her life, in addition to her wholehearted commitment to Marcel and her family, to being an indefatigable advocate for women’s rights to leadership roles in the broader Jewish community and for women’s right to divorce in Jewish law. She was deeply religious, and insisted that her God of love and compassion would not and could not allow women to be held captive to their husbands, or aspire to be less than worthy scholars in the classical literature of our tradition,” Riskin, who is chief rabbi of the West Bank settlement Efrat, said in a statement.

“Belda, together with Marcel, changed the course of the modern Orthodox community by building Jewish institutions where women’s Torah scholarship, authority and leadership have become part of the fabric of the Jewish communal landscape. Her vision and tireless efforts on behalf of the Jewish people were driven by a love for Torah that is fair and just,” said Rabba Sara Hurwitz, dean of Yeshivat Maharat in a statement.

Lindenbaum is survived by her husband, five children, 18 grandchildren, and two siblings.