First Orthodox Woman Rabbi is ordained in NY By Stacey Dresner NEW YORK - Last week, Rabbi Avi Weiss, senior rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale (HIR) and founder of the Yshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School, named Sara Hurwitz "Rabbah" the feminine version of "Rabbi" making her the first woman named by an Orthodox rabbi to the role of congregational rabbi. Weiss appointed Hurwitz assistant rabbi of HIR and said that the title of Rabbah was to "make it clear that Sara Hurwitz is a full member of our rabbinic staff, a rabbi with the additional quality of a distinct woman's voice." Hurwitz trained with Weiss for many years and has interned in his congregation, functioning as a communal professional. She has already held the title of "Maharat" - an acronym for "Manhiga Hilchatit Ruchanit Toranit" - which means spiritual leader and teacher of Torah. Hurwitz is also dean of Yeshivat Maharat, founded by Rabbi Weiss in the fall of 2009 to train Orthodox women as communal leaders. This institution is separate from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, which trains men. By week's end, several of the Orthodox movement's religious bodies were weighing in on the subject. Among the most vocal was Agudath Israel of America. The organization released a statement from its Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah of America (Council of Sages) concerning Weiss's smichah - ordination - of Hurwitz: "These developments represent a radical and dangerous departure from Jewish tradition and the mesoras ha Torah, and must be condemned in the strongest terms. Any congregation with a woman in a rabbinical position of any sort cannot be considered Orthodox." Rabbi Yossi Pollak of Beit Chaverim Synagogue of Westport/Norwalk, a former student of Rabbi Avi Weiss, commented on the Weiss decision last week and Agudath Israel's statement. "My teacher, Rabbi Weiss, has made an important decision that fits the needs of his own congregation, which follows Jewish law as he understands it," Pollak said. "The statement by the Council of Torah Sages did not indicate what violation of Jewish law has taken place, and so I don't believe that they have a basis for condemning the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale or any other synagogue that employs women in rabbinical functions." Rabbi Yitzhok Adler, spiritual leader of Beth David Synagogue in West Hartford, questioned Agudath Israel's condemnation of Rabbi Weiss, whose congregation is a member of the Orthodox Union (OU) and not Agudas Israel. "What is troublesome about the statement by [Agudath Israel] is, number one, what business does any agency have in poking its nose in the operations of an independent congregation? Hebrew Institute of Riverdale is not an affiliate of Agudath Israel." Rabbi Adler added that he thinks this Weiss' move has the potential to affect not only the Orthodox world, but other Jewish movements as well. "The establishment of Yeshivat Maharat has the capacity not only to impact Orthodox congregational life, it also has the capacity to impact congregational life outside of the Orthodox community," he said. "We know there are unaffiliated and unaligned congregations around the country who select and hire clergy not based on denominational training but on spiritual ideology and there very well might be congregations not aligned with national Orthodox movements that might feel their constituencies would be best served with female clergy leadership." Adler said that he would consider bringing a graduate of Yeshivat Maharat to Beth David. "I would definitely consider bringing an intern to my congregation, if I believe that person, male or female, had a significant and meaningful message and contribution. I personally do not believe that what Rabbi Weiss has instituted at Yeshivat Maharat is, to be honest, a legitimate rabbinical training program. I, however, would never negate the virtues of what he is doing, the Torah that he is teaching and the capacity of his students to make significant, positive differences in Jewish communities." Adler said that, although he would not grant an intern from Yeshivat Maharat rabbinic responsibilities, he would bestow upon her educational, pastoral, programming, and administrative responsibilities. "I don't personally see a problem with the training of women to serve the Orthodox community in clergy capacity," noted Adler. "I think it is long overdue. I also don't see a problem in a title with credentials for a woman who has mastered a certain curriculum and demonstrated mastery of skills, because that is simply the reality of where the world is today, but based on my familiarity of the vision and curriculum of Yeshivat Maharat, I don't consider it to be equivalent to the training that takes place in a traditional rabbinic program."