Ellen Cannon, a professor of political science, knows a thing or two about power structures but Jewish Orthodoxy - and the patriarchy that comes with it - doesn't faze her.
"The aim of Orthodoxy is not patriarchal control," she said. "The aim of Orthodoxy is a clear framework for continuity of the Jewish people."
At the same time she applauds women in the rabbinic, who cantor and who are emerging in leadership positions in the non-Orthodox Jewish world. "This reflects the pluralism and diversity of religious life in this country," she said. "It is a mirror image of what it means to be an American."
Dr. Cannon, a professor of political science and public policy at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, and CEO of Cannon Consulting Group, which specializes in public policy issues, will be the guest speaker Sunday at the Sixth Annual Jewish Women's Symposium. Her presentation on "Tradition: A Rx for Jewish Survival," will follow a 1 p.m. luncheon at Congregation Children of Israel on Walton Way.
Dr. Cannon grew up in the 1960s in Manhattan, N.Y., and witnessed the conflicts over civil rights and Vietnam. Yet she saw modernity as a part of religious life, not at odds with it, she said.
"My heart goes out to those who consistently see tradition in a negative way," she said.
In her synagogue in Chicago, men and women do not sit together. She is frequently asked whether she feels like a second-class citizen, but does not feel that way at all, she said.
"The sense of sisterhood is indescribable," Dr. Cannon said. "We are together in prayer. We study together weekly just as women."
Dr. Cannon teaches a weekly Torah class to women, despite her travels. "I wouldn't miss this for the world," she said. "It is inter-generational with women in their 90s and in their teens."
She also speaks regularly to the entire congregation. "They bring over the podium to the women's side and I belt out a huge lecture," she said. "Then we go to a community lunch and we sing together for hours."
She has been lecturing for 30 years. Audiences everywhere she goes are hungry for the spirit, she said. "Women want to authentically blend their faith and life in a way that feels decent and good in their souls."
Whatever the denomination, women choose to use their faith and tradition as an anchor. "It is a tremendously supportive part of life in terms of women's workaday world which is fragmented," she said. "You struggle with the world of faith. It is a constantly adaptive life. (But) there is a path there. It is not arbitrary."
Dr. Cannon's visit is sponsored by the Sisterhoods of Adas Yeshurun and Congregation Children of Israel, Hadassah and the Women's Division of the Jewish Federation of Augusta.
Who: Dr. Ellen Cannon
What: Jewish Women's Symposium
When: 1 p.m. Sunday
Where: Congregation Children of Israel, 3005 Walton Way
How much: $15
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