Woman who is break­ing the Ortho­dox mould

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY SI­MON ROCKER

THE FIRST Ortho­dox woman in North Amer­ica to take the ti­tle “rabbi” has been ap­pointed to a con­gre­ga­tional post, she re­vealed in an in­ter­view at Lim­mud this week.

Rabbi Lila Kagedan re­ceived semichah (or­di­na­tion) from the women’s sem­i­nary Yeshi­vat Ma­harat in New York in the sum­mer.

The Cana­dian-born med­i­cal ethi­cist said that she was not yet in a po­si­tion to dis­close the name of the Amer­i­can Ortho­dox syn­a­gogue that has re­cruited her, hav­ing only just signed the con­tract.

Since it opened six years ago, grad­u­ates of Ma­harat have avoided the ti­tle “rabbi” and called them­selves ma­harat, a newly minted term for a fe­male spir­i­tual leader, or, more con­tentiously, rabba.

T h

e Rabbi Lila Kagedan main­stream Ortho­dox Rabbinical Coun­cil of Amer­ica re­it­er­ated its op­po­si­tion to women’s or­di­na­tion in any form in the au­tumn.

While she re­spected the choices of other col­leagues, Rabbi Kagedan said that opt­ing for “rabbi” was not “as in­no­va­tive nec­es­sar­ily as may ap­pear”.

The rules of Yeshi­vat Ma­harat, she ex­plained, were that it con­ferred a de­gree of semichah on stu­dents but left it to in­di­vid­u­als to take “the ti­tle that is most ap­pro­pri­ate for them”.

“I wanted to take a ti­tle in a po­si­tion of serv­ing the com­mu­nity, so that peo­ple would know ex­actly what it is I was trained to do and ex­actly in what ca­pac­ity I was there to serve them,” she said.

She ac­knowl­edged that “change is dif­fi­cult and fright­en­ing. We are very much used to a cer­tain aes­thetic when we say ‘rabbi’.”

While the past few weeks since she an­nounced her de­ci­sion had been “stormy”, she had also re­ceived “ex­tra­or­di­nary sup­port”, in­clud­ing from un­ex­pected di­rec­tions.

De­spite the con­tro­versy, she felt that there was a grow­ing will­ing­ness to ap­pre­ci­ate the role that women like her were play­ing in com­mu­ni­ties “and not get so hung up on the ti­tle”.

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