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"Once I had tasted the fruit of the tree of knowledge, there was no going back. "Blu Greenberg
Poster design:Henry Steiner


by Blu Greenberg

I grew up in a strong traditional family, and to me, Orthodox Judaism was perfect, including the status it conferred upon me as a female. I not only had no quarrel with differentiated roles for men and women, but also understood them to be the right order of the universe and the eternal word of God.

Then along came feminism. The idea that men and women should have equal standing, access, and power was brilliant, revolutionary, and ethical. Still, it had nothing to do with my Orthodox life. Feminism and Orthodoxy—never the twain shall meet.

But all around me others were challenging ancient divisions of men and women in all aspects of society, including religion. Slowly, I began to examine the issues in Orthodoxy through the lens of gender equality. Why had no covenantal ceremonies developed for peak moments in girls’ lives, as they had for boys? Why was study of the Talmud virtually closed to women? Why didn’t the magnificent rituals constructed by the Rabbis for grief management, such as daily Kaddish, touch women’s lives? Was the imbalance in divorce law not a protection for women, as I had been schooled, but outright discrimination?

Judaism had taught me that justice is righteousness, and once I understood that feminism fit under the larger canopy of justice, I could not let go of it.

As I continued to study the issues, I realized I did not have to choose: while Judaism was indeed the word of God, principled ideas from the general society had filtered in through the ages. Judaism never dumbed itself down in the face of new moral insights.

These last four decades have vindicated Orthodoxy’s struggle to integrate gender equality rather than ignore it. So much has changed, barely in the blink of an eye as Jews count time. Orthodox women have gained wide access to rabbinic texts closed to them for centuries. A virtual explosion of women’s learning has created the most learned generation of Jewish women in all of history. Women now fill leadership roles heretofore unimaginable. They enjoy life cycle ceremonies where none existed, are nurtured by classic Jewish mourning rituals and have different expectations of their place in communal liturgies.

We must keep before our eyes the idea of gender equality as justice, feeling eternally grateful for having tasted this fruit of the tree.

Conversation Guide


Blu Greenberg strove to break gender barriers and redefine what it means to be a modern Orthodox Jewish woman. Here she shares her experience of harmonizing feminism with Orthodox Judaism. In the quotation, Greenberg makes a Biblical reference to tasting the fruit of the tree of knowledge. 

What kind of “knowledge” is associated with the tree of knowledge in the biblical story? 

Why was there no “going back” for Greenberg? What had changed after she tasted the “fruit of the tree of knowledge”?

Have you been exposed to knowledge that changed your perspective and showed you that “there was no going back”?



Each image calls out to us to examine it, to note our thoughts and feelings, and relate these impressions to the quotation.  Often clues in the artwork suggest meaning and invite interpretation.

Designer Henry Steiner employs the images of Sir Isaac Newton and the apple to illustrate Greenberg’s words.

How does the image present the quotation? Was this how you interpreted the quotation without the image?

Why do you think the artist decided to make Sir Isaac’s face and signature prominent?

What special connection does the apple have to both the quotation and the image? What is suggested by the fact that the apple actually covers Sir Isaac’s face?

What other images of knowledge could have been employed to depict Greenberg’s quotation?


Copyright© 2012 Harold Grinspoon Foundation

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Masters Series©2012, Henry Steiner, Quote: Blu Greenberg,

Harold Grinspoon Foundation, West Springfield, MA