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 4 of 4)

“That’s not how Halacha works,” Goldin said. “There’s consensus that’s required, [and] there’s recognition of past practice that’s required.”

Goldin darkly warned that change without support of Halacha would only lead to “schisms within the Orthodox community.”

Another establishment Orthodox group to oppose ordination of women is Yeshiva University, the pre-eminent institution of Modern Orthodoxy.

Despite the opposition, the maharats and their supporters are optimistic that attitudes are changing, even slowly.

“The pushback is very different than when I was ordained four years ago,” Hurwitz said. “Now the Orthodox community is coming to expect that women have a voice.”

Hurwitz said that progressive voices within Orthodoxy are looking to push for change in issues like conversion, the decentralization of authority and, of course, women’s rights. “I think it’s those issues that are going to force a conversation about how we are working together,” she said. “It’s not going to be the women’s issues alone. “

Kohl Finegold’s hope is that as women start to enter Orthodox synagogues and communities as religious figures, they will be appreciated not just as women, but also as leaders.

“Some are excited because I’m a woman, and that’s great,” she said. “But I’m bringing so many aspects of myself. [My gender] is not indicative of all the work that I’m going to be doing. I’m not going to be standing there saying, ‘I’m female, love me!’”

In any case, the maharats insist they are here to stay, controversial or not. As they look to the future, the three graduates are only hopeful.

“My hope for the future is that this becomes something normal,” Kohl Finegold said. “This may sound weird, but I want people to say that the graduating class of maharats isn’t a big event.”

Speaking of her four daughters, Brown Scheier said they should know they can be any kind of Jewish leader they want to be.

“I feel like they’re going to grow up in a world where this is possible,” she said. “What’s better than seeing it firsthand?”

Contact Anne Cohen at cohen@forward.com


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!
  • It’s over. The tyranny of the straight-haired, button nosed, tan-skinned girl has ended. Jewesses rejoice!
  • It's really, really, really hard to get kicked out of Hebrew school these days.
  • "If Netanyahu re-opens the settlement floodgates, he will recklessly bolster the argument of Hamas that the only language Israel understands is violence."
  • Would an ultra-Orthodox leader do a better job of running the Met Council?
  • So, who won the war — Israel or Hamas?
  • 300 Holocaust survivors spoke out against Israel. Did they play right into Hitler's hands?
  • Ari Folman's new movie 'The Congress' is a brilliant spectacle, an exhilarating visual extravaganza and a slapdash thought experiment. It's also unlike anything Forward critic Ezra Glinter has ever seen. http://jd.fo/d4unE
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • 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.