This past year was a good one for Orthodox Jewish feminists, and the years ahead hold great promise. Last June, Yeshivat Maharat, which ordains women as spiritual leaders and religious authorities, graduated its first three “maharats,” as they are called. (“Maharat” is a Hebrew acronym for “manhiga hilchatit ruchanit toranit,” a female legal, spiritual and Torah leader.) More than 500 people, from all branches of Judaism, turned out for the ceremony in New York. In December, JOFA (Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance) held its eighth international conference, attended by more than 1,000 people in an atmosphere of exuberance and optimism.
A haredi jurist is backing a rabbinic court that will address the problem of husbands who won't grant divorces.
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In what appears to be a major breakthrough in the long, tortuous effort to solve the problem of agunot (or, chained wives), an international bet din (religious court) is in formation, headed by a highly respected Orthodox rabbi, with the goal of freeing women trapped in broken marriages.