Orthodox Schism Over Role of Women Widens After Graduation of Maharats

Despite Enthusiasm, Opposition Remains Unyielding

Gang of Four: New graduates from the groundbreaking Yeshivat Maharat join Rabba Sara Hurwitz, whose 2009 ordination helped blaze a trail for the women who are now joining the ranks of Orthodox religious leaders.
robert kalfus
Gang of Four: New graduates from the groundbreaking Yeshivat Maharat join Rabba Sara Hurwitz, whose 2009 ordination helped blaze a trail for the women who are now joining the ranks of Orthodox religious leaders.

By Anne Cohen

Published June 20, 2013, issue of June 28, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 4)

Friedman, 28, will be taking her place at Ohev Sholom: The National Synagogue, in Washington, while Kohl Finegold and Brown Scheier, 35, will both be heading to Congregation Shaar Hashomayim, in Montreal. Brown Scheier, married to Shaar Hashomayim’s Rabbi Adam Scheier, will continue in her role as educator in Jewish after-school programs, as well as within the congregation. Kohl Finegold, 32, will be starting in August as director of education and spiritual enrichment.

The graduates aren’t the first women to take up the mantle of religious leadership within the Orthodox world. But they are the first to do it with a defined set of professional skills, and within an institutional setting.

Kohl Finegold said the graduation of the maharats is part of a natural process of reform that has been going on within Orthodoxy for decades.

“This is one more step along that continuum,” Kohl Finegold said. “In the ’70s and ’80s, women were opening Gemaras, for the first time and learning. And there have been women in religious leadership roles without a degree. This is formalizing what has existed in other congregations. In some ways, this is a watershed moment, and in other ways, it’s just one more step.”

Rabba Sara Hurwitz played a big role in the process of opening up Orthodoxy to women leaders. Her 2009 ordination as the first Orthodox rabba inspired Weiss to found Yeshivat Maharat. But it was much more private, because she was the only person graduating.

The graduation at Yeshivat Maharat, on the other hand, marked a new beginning, she said.

“This is now an institution that was started with the entire mission of graduating Orthodox women leaders,” Hurwitz said.

Rabbi Adam Scheier of the Shaar Hashomayim stressed the importance of this newly defined role as the reason for his community’s interest in the maharats.

“This is not something we’re allowing or tolerating, but this is something we believe in,” he said. “We’re going to make it a priority as part of our religious community.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.