Women’s History Month Spotlight: An Orthodox Woman Rabbi?
Since I do American Jewish history, I figure I would honour Women’s History Month with a post about the recent ordination of a woman as an Orthodox rabbi. This article in The Jewish Daily Forward describes Orthodox “rabbi Avi Weiss’s decision in January to confer the title of ‘rabba’ upon Sara Hurwitz and make her a full member of the rabbinic staff at his Bronx synagogue, the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale. According to Jewish law, rabbis can ordain other rabbis, so a rabbinical degree is not a requirement.
The long struggle for women to become rabbis began in 19th century America. Historian Pamela Nadell’s excellent book Women Who Would Be Rabbis: A History of Women’s Ordination, 1889-1985 documents the efforts of the Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative movements. Those efforts have been tremendously succesful. The cantorial students in the Reform and Conservative movements are now the majority, and some speculate that soon a majority of non-Orthodox rabbis will be women, leading to a feminization of the rabbinical profession.
The feminization critique is obviously bullshit, though I think the prediction that rabbinical schools will become majority female is probably correct. If some Orthodox rabbis continue to ordain women, it strikes me those rabbas will merge with the growing egalitarian Orthodox movement.
In any case, I take this a positive development for feminism and for Judaism.