Orthodox ban womenfrom clerical roles
ONE OF America’s most powerful Orthodox organisations has moved to stop the appointment of women to clerical roles in congregations.
A ruling from a panel of rabbis convened by the Orthodox Union says women should not be appointed as a rabbi or in any position suggesting the status of a member of the clergy.
More than a dozen women have been ordained at the independent Yeshivat Maharat in New York over the past few years. They have used a variety of titles, including at least one who has called herself “rabbi”.
But seven influential centrist Orthodox rabbis — including leaders of the rabbinical seminary at Yeshiva University such as Rabbi Hershel Schachter and the head of the Beth Din of America, Rabbi Gedalia Schwartz — found no precedents within tradition to support the ordination of women.
“We feel that the absence of institutionalised women’s rabbinic leadership has been both deliberate and meaningful and should continue to be preserved,” they declared. Women should not fulfil clerical functions such as officiating at life cycle events or deliver sermons from the pulpit in synagogue, they ruled. However, women should be able to serve in roles such as scholars of residence or directors of adult education, they added.
Female role models were “absolutely critical for the spiritual growth of our community” and women should be given “fitting titles” which indicate the i mportance of such roles.
Apart from operating America’s best-known kashrut service, the OU runs the National Council of Synagogue Youth and provides resources to 400 Orthodox communities.
The OU ruling was criticised by the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, which said it failed to “acknowledge the vast number of modern Orthodox Jews and communities throughout America and Israel that already have female leadership”.
Women should not officiate at life cycle events’