US/World News

Orthodox group bans ordination, hiring of women rabbis

(JTA) – The Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), the main modern Orthodox rabbinical group, formally adopted a policy prohibiting the ordination or hiring of women rabbis. The policy announced Oct. 30 by the RCA came after a direct vote of its membership, according to the organization. The resolution states: “RCA members with positions in Orthodox institutions may not ordain women into the Orthodox rabbinate, regardless of the title used; or hire or ratify the hiring of a woman into a rabbinic position at an Orthodox institution; or allow a title implying rabbinic ordination to be used by a teacher of Limudei Kodesh [religious studies] in an Orthodox institution. This resolution does not concern or address non-rabbinic positions such as Yoatzot Halacha (advisers on Jewish law), community scholars, Yeshiva University’s Graduate Program for Women in Advanced Talmudic Study, and non-rabbinic school teachers,” the resolution concludes. “So long as no rabbinic or ordained title such as “Maharat” is used in these positions, and so long as there is no implication of ordination or a rabbinic status, this resolution is inapplicable.”

Maharat is an acronym meaning female spiritual, legal and Torah leader. It is a designation granted by Yeshivat Maharat, an institution for women in Riverdale, N.Y., founded by Rabbi Avi Weiss. In 2010, following the establishment of Yeshivat Maharat, the RCA issued a resolution reaffirming the group’s “commitment to women’s Torah education and scholarship at the highest levels, and to the assumption of appropriate leadership roles within the Jewish community.” A follow-up 2013 resolution on Yeshivat Maharat, as it ordained its first cohort of maharats, said: “We cannot accept either the ordination of women or the recognition of women as members of the Orthodox rabbinate, regardless of the title. The RCA views this event as a violation of our mesorah (tradition) and regrets that the leadership of the school has chosen a path that contradicts the norms of our community.”

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