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!
  • "Despite the great pain and sadness surrounding a captured soldier, this should not shape the face of this particular conflict – not in making concessions and not in negotiations, not in sobering assessments of this operation’s achievements or the need to either retreat or move forward." Do you agree?
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • 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.