Rabba Sara Hurwitz of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, who was invited to speak at the Young Israel of Hewlett on a Shabbat several weeks ago, has come and gone. But a flare-up over her title continues to reverberate in the Five Towns community, prompting rabbis and others there to lash out at each other.
In the book of Genesis, God allows Adam to create names for all the beasts and birds in existence. With that powerful act, the first man establishes the identity of every earthly creature. From then on the image and function of a whale or a dove would always be tied to its name.
After much debate and despite predictions of a schism, the Rabbinical Council of America, the nation’s largest group of Orthodox rabbis, this week approved without dissent a carefully balanced resolution on women’s communal roles in Orthodox Jewish life.
The statement affirms a longstanding prohibition of women rabbis but allows congregational rabbis flexibility in determining appropriate roles for women in their synagogues and communities.
This letter is being written in support of Rabba Sara Hurwitz. We are two 13-year-old Jewish girls who heard her speak and were extremely moved by her cause (“RCA Set To Rule On Women’s Roles,” April 23).
Orthodox rabbis seek ‘consensus’ resolution at meeting; will it satisfy anyone?
Editor And Publisher
As the controversy over women’s roles within Modern Orthodoxy has roiled over the past few months, the leadership of the largest body of Orthodox rabbis in the U.S. has consistently pointed to its upcoming national conference as the time for sorting out, dealing with and resolving the thorny issue.
Now, on the eve of the Rabbinical Council of America’s convention — and with women edging closer to rabbinic duties in some high-profile synagogues — some members suggest expectations may be too high.
The title “rabbi” does not come with any sort of divine inspiration, magical power or secret handshake. So why all the fuss over Sara Hurwitz’s title (“Rabba Hurwitz Mulling Retracting New Title,” March 19)?
Throughout the Young Israel network of synagogues, interns who have not received semicha of any sort are casually called rabbi. In the yeshiva system, male teachers of religious subjects are called rabbi whether or not they have received rabbinical ordination from an accredited seminary.
Lost in the furor over Sara Hurwitz’s title is the broader issue of women’s roles within Modern Orthodoxy.
Dina Najman, rosh kehila (head of the congregation) at Kehilat Orach Eliezer on the Upper West Side, spends a majority of her day answering halachic questions, teaching classes expounding upon Jewish texts and counseling couples and individuals who are having personal difficulties. Her male rabbinic colleagues often consult with her on questions of bioethics, her area of expertise.
The bulk of the work that she does, she says, is not gender specific — and shouldn’t be viewed that way.
Avi Weiss’ main point for having a woman on his rabbinic staff at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale is that “90 percent” of what a rabba (woman rabbi) does is the same as what a rabbi does. In Avi’s shul, a rabba gives sermons from the pulpit, teaches classes, visits the sick, provides spiritual and halachic guidance, and works with bat mitzvah girls, and Sara Hurwitz does that all quite nicely. So why not give her honor equal to her colleagues who are men?
Tells JOFA conference that controversial title may be hindrance; her shul now reviewing the situation.
Elicia Brown And Gary Rosenblatt
Sara Hurwitz, the woman of the hour at this year’s international conference of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA), revealed here on Sunday that she is considering relinquishing her controversial and unique new title of “rabba.”