Shira Hanau ● Times of Israel
Henkin’s status as a Jewish legal authority lent weight to his support for expanded female roles, while his moderation helped the changes take root in the mainstream community
JTA — Rabbi Yehuda Herzl Henkin, a pioneer in the world of Orthodox Jewish feminism who experienced personal tragedy later in life, died Wednesday in Israel.
Henkin and his wife, Rabbanit Chana Henkin, founded a program for women to study the laws of family purity and answer Jewish legal questions on the subject — breaking new ground for women’s leadership roles in Orthodox communities. In 2018, Henkin was the recipient of the Katz Prize in recognition of his work on women’s place in Orthodoxy as well as his numerous published works of Jewish legal opinions.
In 2015, the Henkins’ son and daughter-in-law, Eitam and Naama Henkin, were killed in a terrorist attack in front of their four children. Eitam Henkin had been a scholar in his own right and a close student of his father.
Yehuda Herzl Henkin was born in the United States in 1945 and attended the Yeshivah of Flatbush, an Orthodox school in Brooklyn, before studying with his grandfather, Rabbi Yosef Eliyahu Henkin, one of the most important Jewish legal authorities in New York City for much of the 20th century. Henkin studied with his grandfather for five years and received semicha, rabbinic ordination, from him.
Along with his wife, also a teacher of Torah, Henkin moved to Israel in 1972 and settled in the community of Beit She’an in the north. It was there that Chana Henkin became involved in educating women in the local communities about the laws of taharat hamishpacha, family purity.
The couple later moved to Jerusalem, where Chana Henkin founded Nishmat, a seminary for women to study Torah, in 1990. In 2000, the Henkins and Rabbi Yaakov Warhaftig founded a program for women to become experts in questions of family purity.