October 14th, 2014
Sweden will get its first female rabbi when Ute Steyer of New York’s Yeshiva University takes up the post at the Great Synagogue of Stockholm in January.
“I expect there will plenty of challenges in the beginning,” Ms Steyer said. “First, it will take some time before people get used to having a female rabbi. Second, this is a rather secular and culturally oriented community. I have to find the right balance between the religious and the intellectual aspects of Judaism in my role as rabbi.”
Ms Steyer believes the reason it has taken relatively long for Sweden to get a female rabbi is down to the size of the community. “We’re not as diverse as other communities in the US and Europe. It takes time before getting past certain thresholds, like hiring a woman for a post that for centuries has been occupied by men.”
Ingrid Lomfors, president of the Stockholm Jewish Community, said the “time is ripe” for a female rabbi. “We’re part of the Swedish society, which is an equal society and we must also start working with those questions in earnest,” she said.
Ms Steyer grew up in London, Athens and Berlin. She speaks fluent Swedish, having worked at Ericsson and the Chamber of Commerce in Stockholm in the 1990s. She also studied at the University of Lund in southern Sweden. In 2009, she received her Rabbinic Ordination (S’mikha) from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.
Stockholm’s Great Synagogue is affiliated with Masorti Europe.