Sisterhood Blog

New York Mag On Rabbi Avi Weiss' Rabba-Rousing

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

  • Print
  • Share Share

Abigail Pogrebin’s story, “The Rabbi and the Rabba,” in this week’s New York magazine, takes an insightful look at the man behind the making of the first woman in America to be ordained as Orthodox clergy, Rabbi Avi Weiss.

Pogrebin does a good job of capturing many aspects of Weiss’ complicated personality; his ardent political activism, which he can pursue single-mindedly, his political savvy and also his kindness toward people in need of ordinary kinds of support, through illness and grief. She certainly captures the impetuousness with which he plunged forth when it came to changing Sara Hurwitz’s title from “maharat” to “rabba,” a shift which precipitated enormous outcry from the Orthodox establishment.

Weiss, who until the past few years was best known for his advocacy on behalf of Soviet Jewry and imprisoned spy Jonathan Pollard, and his activism protesting the presence of a Carmelite convent at the Auschwitz death camp, has of late been more involved in the creation of a place for the most modern of Orthodox Jews, through his Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and, last year, a place to train women Yeshivat Maharat. for positions as Orthodox religious leaders.

The article is ever so slightly snarky, describing Hurwitz as dressing “a little haphazardly” in an “ill-fitting suit,” and Weiss as someone who is “not a careful dresser” and “can’t cook a simple meal,” (it is New York magazine, after all, the glossiest tabloid in town), but also captures essential truths and contradictions about Weiss.

Lots can be said about the activist rabbi, much of it positive and some of it, depending on where you sit on the issues to which he’s devoted, critical, but one thing is incontrovertible: he’s a man of conviction who acts on his beliefs.

And, at a time when the far-right wing of the Orthodox Jewish community seems to move expectations of behavior for the religious ever-rightward, Weiss has definitely created space for those who think that women can have a voice outside of their homes – and perhaps even in the synagogue.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Sara Hurwitz, Rabba, Avi Weiss, Yeshivat 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!
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • 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.