Sisterhood Blog

New 'Hecksher' for Ordination of Orthodox Women Rabbis

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

  • Print
  • Share Share

When Rabbi Avi Weiss announced in May that he is opening a center for the training of female Orthodox clergy, it was heralded by many as a watershed moment.

At the Kolech conference in Jerusalem earlier this month, women’s ordination was much-discussed, the idea endorsed by Rabbi Yoel Bin Nun, and participants decided that female Orthodox clergy should be called “Rabba.” Kolech is an Israeli religious feminist organization. Writer Elana Sztokman blogs about the conference here.

These developments have been important, yes, but not altogether unexpected from the people involved, and haven’t struck me as the big breakthrough needed for the issue not to remain marginal to the mainstream Orthodox community. But reading this new article in the current issue of The Jewish Press, though, made me say “wow.”

In his opinion piece Rabbi Michael Broyde — a widely respected mainstream Orthodox rabbi, lawyer, rabbinical court judge and expert on halacha, and not someone most would describe as progressive — argues cogently for the formal training of women as Orthodox clergy (although he says they shouldn’t be given the same title as men):

Formal institutional training for women who wish to be part of the Orthodox clergy - teaching, preaching and answering questions of halacha and hashgacha — is an improvement over the current lack of any formal training and therefore a good idea. Such programs, granting degrees conferring fitness to be a member of the Orthodox clergy, are a wise idea whose time has come. …

Training people for a job is more prudent that expecting them to do such a job untrained. If they are serving in these roles and servicing our community well, the Orthodox community will grow.

The opening of institutions to train women as members of the Orthodox clergy would be an excellent alternative to law school, and would serve as a logical progression in the development of women’s Torah education in the Orthodox community.

Rabbi Broyde’s piece, to me, marks the beginning of public acceptance of female rabbis, no matter what their title, by the heart of the American Orthodox community.

Hershele Sat. Jul 25, 2009

The pressure on these fine orthodox gentlemen is coming from their wives. That's the way it works. And has worked in Jewish history. the men have the power over the law, their wives and daughters have the power over the men. :>)

See the Book of Numbers, 36. Moses granted the right of inheritance of land to the daughters of Zelophehad, who would normally have been cut out of any right to their father's land, as he had no sons when he died.

Moses changed tribal law on the spot. And he didn't have to sleep on the couch that night.

Have a good day! And stay away from Deal for a while, at least until the newspaper photographers leave.

Linda Tue. Aug 4, 2009

see this video clip on Jewish Feminism

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.