Skip To Content

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Breaking News

Beth Din of America Adds First Female to Board

One of the the preeminent rabbinic courts of North America is set to add its first female board member.

Michelle Friedman

The Beth Din of America invited Dr. Michelle Friedman, the founder and chair of the Department of Pastoral Counseling at New York’s Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (YCT), to join its board. Founded in 1999, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah is a modern Orthodox rabbinical seminary, that has at times clashed with the Beth Din of America’s parent organization, the Rabbinical Council of America.

Rabbi Shlomo Weissmann, director of the Beth Din of America, told the N.Y. Jewish Week that they had been looking to “repopulate” the board since 2012. Friedman was one of “several women” invited to join the 30-person board. He told the Jewish Week that the names of the other women invited are not yet public.

Founded in 1960 by the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), the Beth Din of America adjudicates commercial, communal and matrimonial conflicts in accordance with Jewish law. In 1994, it became an independent organization, with a separate board of directors.

The board, on which Friedman will serve, has “no role in formulating halachic policy or halachic decision-making,” Weissmann told the Jewish Week. Rather, Friedman’s role on the board will be restricted to “governance and fundraising.”

The Beth Din of American and the RCA also jointly oversee the Geirus Protocols and Standards (GPS), which govern a regional network of rabbinic courts for conversion.

Friedman’s invitation comes after the RCA announced last week that it would form a new committee to review its conversion process. The committee — which included five female members, a first in the RCA’s history — was formed in response to the Oct. 14 arrest of Rabbi Barry Freundel, a former member of the RCA who was charged with voyeurism for allegedly filming women (including conversion candidates) in the mikvah, or ritual bath.

According to the RCA’s website, Freundel’s arrest “brought to light the need for a thorough review of GPS to identify changes that will ensure a more effective and appropriate conversion process.”

On Friedman’s invitation to join the board of the Beth Din of America, Rabbi Asher Lopatin, the president of the YCT Rabbinical School told JTA: “Yeshivat Chovevei Torah is very proud of [Friedman]. She is one of the key founders and key parts of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, and we are very happy that the Beth Din has made this decision.”


Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.