“Are you going to be a rabbi?” For several years after I started wearing a kippah, I got asked this question in all sorts of places. At the grocery store, on an airplane… It was my second most common question, directly after “Is that a yarmulke? I didn’t know that women wore them”. Anyone who already knew that some women wore kippot seemed to also presume that any woman who actually did so, outside the synagogue, must either be a rabbi or was going to end up being one. And indeed, while I was quite set against the idea at the time, I seem to have ended up a rabbi anyway.
While I stopped getting the question, oddly enough, around when I started rabbinical school (perhaps people in New York are more used to women in kippot than folks in Waltham, Mass), it does open a certain, rather depressing, line of thought.
Maybe the only women who care enough about the particular practice to take it on are the ones who are so invested in religion that they, for the most part, end up as rabbis. There isn’t much of a place carved out for really invested, educated laity in the liberal Jewish world. It isn’t something that I like to look at, but it is, right now, something of a fact on the ground. If you know something about Judaism, and have invested sufficient personal energy in a practice that people tend to associate with men to wear it in the streets- you’re probably going to end up in the rabbinate, because where else do you fit?
The problem for me is that I don't want the only women who take this seriously to be women who go into the rabbinate. I hate the notion that the only women who are willing to go out of their way for the sort of Judaism I believe in are those who want to make it their career. But how do I persuade anyone to do this, when I know what they're going to be asked are "are you a rabbi?"...