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IndianaGreen Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-24-09 11:41 AM
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Orthodox Women To Be Trained As Clergy, If Not Yet as Rabbis
Orthodox Women To Be Trained As Clergy, If Not Yet as Rabbis

New Yeshiva Seeks To Challenge Tradition While Maintaining It

By Anthony Weiss
Published May 20, 2009, issue of May 29, 2009.

Plans for a new school to train Orthodox women as clergy are pushing the issue of the role of women in Orthodox Judaism to a new and untested frontier.

Rabbi Avi Weiss, a leading advocate for a more liberal Orthodoxy, and Sara Hurwitz, a protg of Weiss, are now taking inquiries and applications for Yeshivat Maharat, a four-year program set to open this fall to train women as full members of the Rabbinic Clergy, according to an e-mail announcement. But they will not, as of yet, be called rabbis.

Were training women to be rabbis, Hurwitz told the Forward. What they will be called is something were working out.

The move appears to place Weiss and Hurwitz at the precipice of what is possible under traditional Orthodox law without actually jumping off. In striking that balance, they are risking the possibility of alienating those to the left who want an equal rabbinical role for women and those to the right who argue that spiritual leadership is incompatible with the place of women in Orthodox society.

My best guess is that we are seeing further evidence of a coming division in Orthodoxy between left and right, said Jonathan Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University. But, he noted, Rabbi Weiss has not only been able to push the envelope, but to do so successfully.

Though the Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative movements all have ordained women as rabbis for decades, and have long viewed men and women as having all the same rights in religious matters, the Orthodox world has continued to maintain limits on the communal functions women can perform. According to Halacha, traditional Jewish law, a woman cannot sign a marriage or divorce certificate, preside over a conversion or be counted as a member of a minyan.
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