Jerusalem - Eight More Women To Earn The Title Of “Rabba” In Ordination Ceremonies
Jerusalem - Two women, Rachel Berkowitz and Dr. Meesh Hammer-Kossoy, will be ordained this week with the title “Rabba” by Rabbis Daniel Sperber and Herzl Hefter at the Jerusalem Orthodox center Har’el, reports Ha’aretz (http://bit.ly/1IO1uWF).
Berkowitz and Hammer-Kossoy are following in the footsteps of Rabba Sara Hurwitz who received her ordination in 2009 from Rabbi Avi Weiss, founder of Yeshivat Maharat in Manhattan. Yeshivat Maharat will also ordain an additional six women on Sunday.
There has been much debate over the use of the term Rabba, as it is identical to the title bestowed by the Reform and Conservative movements when ordaining women rabbis. Despite a severe backlash in the US and Israel, Rabbi Weiss has continued to ordain women, but in the last four years has referred to his women graduates as “Maharat”- a Halakhic spiritual Torah leader - instead of Rabba.
Although this year’s class was ordained as Maharats, the women have opted to call themselves Rabba, said Avital Engelberg, one of the graduates. “We had a long discussion about it. After Rabbi Weiss ordained Rabba Sara Hurwitz, Maharat was a compromise proposal. But the graduates felt it was no longer so frightening to come nearer to the real name, ‘that which isn’t uttered.’ Step by step our confidence is growing, due to the fact that more women are dealing with halakha and more Orthodox synagogues in the United States want women as part of their rabbinical staff. Maharat was suitable for a certain period, but we acquired our title with much labor.”
Rabbi Sperber, who has emerged as a key leader in the liberal Orthodoxy movement, defended the women graduates, saying he has known them for since 1992 and they have been teaching Torah for many years. “Their ordination will not change their careers, but it’s a semi-institutional recognition of the numerous years of investment and devotion.”
Though Rabbi Sperber admits to reservations about using the term Rabba and finds the term Maharat to be “a little strange,” he says, “We must not be afraid of the title ‘rabbi.’ I’m impatient. I’m too old. If the Torah doesn’t move forward with the people, it will remain in the desert, and that will be a disaster.”
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