Forward Thinking

Maharats Win Support of Jewish Women

By Anne Cohen

  • Print
  • Share Share

The first class of maharats may be controversial among the Orthodox. But the graduates enjoy overwhelming support from Jewish women from other denominations, who see the battle for recognition as part and parcel of the struggles they faced — and won.

“It’s an affirmation of everything that has led to this moment, as well as creating a direction for the future,” said Rabbi Jacqueline Koch Ellenson, head of the Reform Women’s Rabbinic Network. “Women in the Modern Orthodox community have really stepped up and taken their place in the halls of Jewish learning.”

Both the Reform and Conservative movements ordain women rabbis.

Ellenson attended the graduation with her husband, Rabbi David Ellenson, president of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

Conservative Jews also backed the maharats.

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik and Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, president and executive vice president, respectively, of the conservative Rabbinical Assembly, expressed the organization’s support for the three graduates in a statement issued on June 18.

“We know that the voices of Ruth Balinsky Friedman, Rachel Kohl Finegold and Abby Brown Scheier, each of whom will be known as ‘maharat,’ will reflect their great level of learning and their preparedness for leadership,” they wrote. “They will inspire other women to achieve the highest level of Jewish learning as they express their own religious commitment and understanding in a way that will strengthen the entire Jewish community.”

Rabbi Ilana Garber, co-chair of the Women’s Committee of the Rabbinical Assembly, says that women in religious leadership positions need to stick together.

“Who doesn’t face opposition? There will always be opposition,” she said.” Strong women need to continue to be strong and be grateful for our strong male allies. It’s never going to be perfect. “

Some whispered that the vocal support of Reform and Conservative Jewry might boomerang by causing Orthodox leaders to circle the wagons in defense of traditionalism.

“I think the naysayers will say what they want to say, regardless,” Kohl Finegold said. “But having 500 people [at] that [graduation] speaks for itself.”

Contact Anne Cohen at cohen@forward.com


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: yeshivat maharat, women, rabbi, orthodox, maharat

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.