Dr. Ronit Irshai: Spearheading a Spiritual Revolution for Modern Orthodox Women

Dr. Ronit Irshai is fueling an Orthodox feminist revolution. One of a select cadre of scholars exploring the “dynamite combination” of halakha and feminist thought, she is a sought-after speaker, author of an innovative work on fertility and Jewish law, and activist in the Orthodox Jewish feminist organization Kolech (A Women’s Voice).


Dr. Irshai is the Academic Advisor and Assistant Professor at the Gender Studies Program at Bar-Ilan and a researcher at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.  In the past she was also a visiting scholar at the Women Studies in Religion Program at Harvard Divinity School

(“a dream experience”, she reminisces), where she worked on analyzing the tension between feminist critique and Halakha, Jewish theology and Jewish bioethics. In the book she authored about fertility and Jewish law, Irshai explores whether religious perceptions can serve as a source for human rights or as a source to deny them.


“My firm commitment to halakha, human dignity and equality inspires me to find ways to increase women’s involvement in synagogue and other rituals,” stresses Irshai, a former Doctoral Fellow of Excellence and recipient of a Schupf post-doctorate scholarship. “This is Tikkun Olam!”


Pregnant with her fifth child, Irshai enrolled in BIU’s Gender Studies Program after hearing Prof. Tamar Ross’s “fascinating lectures” on Judaism and feminism, and studied with the Program’s founder, the late Prof. Dafna Izraeli, with Ross and Prof. Noam Zohar as advisors. “My doctoral fellowship afforded me with a great opportunity and crucial support,” recalls Irshai, the first in her family to obtain a PhD.


“BIU is the only university that deals in depth with the connection between Judaism and feminism   an oxymoron for many secular feminists,” she says. “Fostering a feminist approach to the philosophy of Jewish law is still a challenging task both within academia and in the Modern Orthodox community. However slowly, but surely, we see progress.”


Charting a bold path with her hybrid commitment to both halakha and feminism, Irshai, who dons a tallit and reads the Torah in her synagogue (from the women’s section) advocates “consulting the books to find ways to enable women to enlarge their part. I see it as a spiritual revolution to bring women closer to holiness.”
For more on Dr. Irshai click here.