UPDATED: RCA Resolution Says Women Can’t Be Ordained As Rabbis

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12:30PM EST: The RCA’s 51st Annual Convention held in Scarsdale, NY has concluded, and what is probably the highlight of the event was a unanimous resolution which was passed, that women can not be ordained as rabbi’s.

Although Rabbi Avi Weiss’ name was not mentioned, the resolution was a clear blow to his recent announcement that he has ordained Sara Hurwitz, giving her the title “Mahara’t” – an acronym for Manhiga Hilchatit Ruchanit Toranit. That title didn’t work out for Weiss as well as he planned, so after a year of “Mahara’t, Sara Hurwitz was given another title: “Rabbah.”

His announcements created a firestorm which prompted a harsh response from the Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah Of America, which read (in part): “These developments represent a radical and dangerous departure from Jewish tradition and the mesoras haTorah, and must be condemned in the strongest terms. Any congregation with a woman in a rabbinical position of any sort cannot be considered Orthodox.”

Among the distinguished speakers at the RCA Convention was Rav Herschel Schachter Shlita, Rosh Yeshiva & Rosh Kollel of Yeshiva University (RIETS), who said that it’s Halachically forbidden for women to be Rabbi’s.

Further details will be posted as they become available to YWN.

UPDATE – PRESS RELEASE FROM RCA:

Members of the Rabbinical Council of America from all over North America gathered this week in Scarsdale NY for the 51st annual convention of the world’s largest organization of Orthodox rabbis. As always, the gathering was an opportunity for rabbis in pulpits, education, academia, Jewish organizational life, and the health care/military chaplaincies to strengthen their personal and professional skills and connections, via major plenary presentations, workshop sessions, and multiple networking settings.

This year’s convention deliberations were informed by a number of high profile issues confronting the Jewish people at large, and the religious community in particular. While numerous sessions were devoted to Israel, Iran, US-Israel relations, conversion issues, rabbinic boundaries, Orthodox teens, counseling, dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease, death and burial, family conflict, and others, a central topic generating sustained discussion by convention delegates involved rabbinic views on the parameters of appropriate women’s communal roles.

Having heard from a broad spectrum of members, leading congregational rabbis, and a number of respected halachic authorities, a committee headed by Rabbi Leonard Matanky of Chicago, IL, submitted a resolution on appropriate communal roles for women. Rather than delineating a specific menu or roadmap of appropriate or inappropriate roles and positions, the resolution sought to articulate the broad dimensions and values that, from an Orthodox perspective, should inform and shape the discussion and implementation of this defining issue in months and years to come. These include the importance of appropriate sensitivity to tradition, communal sensitivities, as well as the desire of both men and women to enhance Torah and mitzvoth, personally and communally. So too, is the need for a thorough foundation in appropriate halachic and communal precedent and process.

With these considerations framing the convention discussion, the convention resolution as adopted, stated as follows:

Resolution on Women’s Communal Roles in Orthodox Jewish Life

Presented to the 51st Convention of
The Rabbinical Council of America
April 26th 2010
 
1) The flowering of Torah study and teaching by God-fearing Orthodox women in recent decades stands as a significant achievement. The Rabbinical Council of America is gratified that our chaverim[1] have played a prominent role in facilitating these accomplishments.

2) We members of the Rabbinical Council of America see as our sacred and joyful duty the practice and transmission of Judaism in all of its extraordinary, multifaceted depth and richness – halakhah,[2] hashkafah,[3] tradition and historical memory.

3) In light of the opportunity created by advanced women’s learning, the Rabbinical Council of America encourages a diversity of halakhically and communally appropriate professional opportunities for learned, committed women, in the service of our collective mission to preserve and transmit our heritage. Due to our aforesaid commitment to sacred continuity, however, we cannot accept either the ordination of women or the recognition of women as members of the Orthodox rabbinate, regardless of the title.

4) Young Orthodox women are now being reared, educated, and inspired by mothers, teachers and mentors who are themselves beneficiaries of advanced women’s Torah education.  As members of the new generation rise to positions of influence and stature, we pray that they will contribute to an ever-broadening and ever-deepening wellspring of talmud Torah,[4] yir’at Shamayim,[5] and dikduk be-mitzvot.[6]

[1] members
[2] Jewish Law
[3] Jewish thought
[4] Torah study
[5] fear of Heaven
[6] scrupulous observance of commandments

(Yehuda Drudgestein – YWN)




21 COMMENTS

  1. “however, we cannot accept either the ordination of women or the recognition of women as members of the Orthodox rabbinate, regardless of the title.”

    I think they should have specifically delineated what titles they are referring to.
    As it stands now, YCT can continue to call them Maharat’s and claim that she is not on the rabbinate, she is just a Manhiga Ruchanit, someone who does pastoral care and teaching etc.

    I think they should unequivocally say you can’t ordain someone as a maharat or Rabba. That would bring real closure to the issue.

    Also will this resolution have teeth? Will they expel a member who does continue to ordain people with the title of Maharat or Raba. Unless this resolution is enforced, I think it won’t accomplish that much.

  2. re I doubt this will make any difference
    When you dont say anything you wont make a difference
    When no one cares about what you say you wont make a difference

  3. Although I agree with the RCA on this position; it still doesnt explain why they promote a pro-feminist agenda when it comes to GITTIN. They have distanced themselves from true “Minhag avoseinu beyodeinu” by using “unconventional” methods to extract Gittin from men who are not truly recalcitrant, including advising women to go to the courts shelo kehalocho.
    Edited.

  4. While I agree wholeheartedly with the resolution, it does not bode well that a report presented to an organization of that supposedly consists of Rabbonim required an English translation of all of the Lashon Hakodesh terms.

  5. Chaval on klal yisrael that the RCA Resolution did not provide a klar derech forward for women to be more involved in tzarchei tzibbur. I would like to see the RCA and the Agudah work together to come up with a viable path for these women.

  6. gregaaron

    You’re kidding right? It’s a press release. They translated the Hebrew words in their resolution so the public would understand it.

  7. #3 basmelech, according to the gemara in Sanhedrin, anyone with semichah can give semichah to anyone else.

    #7 lakewooder2, while I haven’t read the Yated on this, it is very clear that this resolution is closer to Rabbi Weiss’s position than it is of that of Agudath Israel, which rejects all communal roles for women.

  8. Dear gregaaron

    I think that they were translating so that the general public (who may not understand) understands their position

  9. BSD
    Number 8: I think the English translations are given so that everyone can understand what is written. Not everyone reading these documents will be Frum Yidden * And even some of the Frum won’t understand all the non English words. It’s a good / nice thing to do when you know that there are going to be people reading this, but they don’t understand the Hebrew words.
    * Religious Jews

  10. #11 charliehall – does that mean that someone who received semicha, and went off the derech,can still give semicha? I am not saying Avi Weiss is totally off the derech, but, he is definitely not on the mainstream derech.

  11. to “muss”- I don’t believe a word of what you said. By any stretch of the imagination, giving a title to a woman cannot be “jaharog ve’al jaavor”. this is preposterous.

  12. #11 charliehall – The semicha mentioned in the gemarra is NOT the same as the semicha given today. Our batei din are not “semoochim” in the true meaning of the term as the gemara defines it. That is part of the reason why we can no longer judge certain types of cases (e.g. capital punishment). Today’s semichos are not worth much more than the paper they are written on.

  13. #15 – why yeihoreg v’al yaavor? did he explain why so strict?

    Rav Schachter explained that even the smallest infraction can become “yehareg ve’al ya’avor” – even how you tie your shoe – if it is in the context of “she’as hashmad” – a time when Jews are being persecuted for keeping Judaism, even down to the smallest detail like how Jews tie their shoes. Rav Soloveitchik applied this concept to what he saw as a she’as hashmad in the and ‘50’s and ‘60’s, when the Conservative and Reform movements’ popularity in Jewish circles created an atmosphere of pressure on Orthodox Jews to compromise their halacha and conform to Reform and Conservative styles of “Judaism”. Thus, even davening in a Reform or Conservative synagogue, with mixed seating and other issurim, while not normally seen as a central violation meriting “yehareg ve’al ya’avor”, in the context of the social pressures and climate of the ‘50’s and ‘60’s were classified by the Rav as “yehareg ve’al ya’avor”.