Rabbi Simcha Krauss, who fought for women’s rights in Orthodoxy, dies at 85

Shira Hanau, Times of Israel

Krauss remembered as a ‘gentle giant’ who wielded his years of study and experience as pulpit rabbi and teacher of Talmud to free ‘chained women,’ support women’s prayer groups

JTA — Rabbi Simcha Krauss, a leading figure of Modern Orthodox Judaism who was a forceful advocate for women’s rights within Orthodoxy, died Thursday at 85.

Krauss’s efforts, which included creating a rabbinical court to support women whose husbands refused to divorce them, frequently earned him scorn from traditionalists within Orthodoxy. But many others saw him as a “gentle giant” who wielded his years of study and experience to fight for women’s rights in Jewish law.

Krauss was born in Romania and came to the United States in 1948. He attended City College in New York, earned a master’s degree from the New School and later taught political science at St. Louis University and Utica College of Syracuse University.

Coming from a long line of rabbis, Krauss studied at Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin in Brooklyn, where he received his rabbinical ordination from Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner in 1963, and later studied with the Modern Orthodox luminary Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik. Krauss served as a congregational rabbi for decades, first in Utica, New York, and later in St. Louis and in the Hillcrest neighborhood of Queens, where he led the Young Israel of Hillcrest for 25 years.

During his years in Queens, Krauss taught Talmud at Yeshiva University and began to get more involved in issues related to the role of women in Orthodoxy. In the 1990s, he began supporting the practice of women’s prayer groups, in which women gathered to worship together without men and often to read from the Torah together, a ritual traditionally only performed by men in Orthodox communities.

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