It is hard to believe that she is gone. The vigor and charm of Belda Kaufman Lindenbaum lives on for the numerous women and men who knew and admired her. She lives on for the members of numerous Torah institutions for women that she headed and established.
She lives on for her family and for her husband Marcel with whom she partnered in most of her endeavors. Together with her husband, Belda Lindenbaum changed the fabric of modern Orthodox life in the U.S.A. and in Israel by establishing Torah institutions for women’s learning and leadership.
In Israel, Belda and Marcel Lindenbaum founded, with the assistance of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin of Efrat, Midreshet Lindenbaum, which provides a program of religious studies and army service for women patterned after the men’s hesder yeshiva system. Simultaneously, in the U.S.A. Mrs. Belda Lindenbaum served as president of the American Friends of Bar-Ilan University and of the board of the Drisha Institute for Women.
The visionary champion of women’s rights in Judaism was first and foremost a devoted wife and mother. Belda’s life journey was compelled partly by her personal piety, by her belief that the G-d of love and compassion would not allow women to have secondary roles in family life, to be subservient to their husbands, or to be held captive by their husbands (“agunot”) when they wished to divorce. G-d would also not consider women to be less intelligent and worthy of Jewish scholarship than men. To a larger extent, however, her devotion to these issues was that of a mother. Her concern for women was part of a maternal embrace for her daughters, providing them with loving protection and solid opportunities for their future in Jewish life.
In the United States, Belda Lindenbaum became a founding board member of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA), continuing to function as the organization’s vice president. As if all the above responsibilities were not overwhelming even for a person as gifted as Belda, she also undertook to be a founding board member of Yeshivat Maharat, president of the American Friends of Bar-Ilan University and a board member of Ramaz Day School.
Her own words poetically sum up Belda Lindenbaum’s impact: “My mother, myself, and my two daughters represent the ‘chut hameshulash,’ the threefold chain that cannot be broken, that chain of feminist thought and action which will extend to future generations until equity and justice for women become a Jewish religious norm.”