Assault On Authentic Orthodoxy Continues As Orthodox Woman Gets Title of ‘Rabbah’ Rather Than ‘Maharat”


chovevei-torahTo understand the background of this story, we highly recommend that two prior reports about Chovevei Torah, here and here, be read. The following is from a JTA report, which follows earlier developments and attempts by Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, Rabbi Avi Weiss, Sara Hurwitz, and others to redefine Orthodox Judaism and, among other things, install women in clergy positions in Orthodox shuls.

The following is from the JTA report:

An Orthodox clergywoman will now be known as “rabbah” rather than an acronym that had been created on her behalf.

Sara Hurwitz, who has been performing rabbinical duties at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale in New York City, last year had been given the title of Maharat — a Hebrew acronym that stands for a leader in legal, spiritual and Torah matters.

But in a statement issued Wednesday, Rabbi Avi Weiss, spiritual leader of the Hebrew Institute and Hurwitz’s mentor, said the acronym had failed to take hold and that Hurwitz would henceforth be called “rabbah,” a feminized version of the title “rabbi.”

“This will make it clear to everyone that Sara Hurwitz is a full member of our rabbinic staff, a rabbi with the additional quality of a distinct woman’s voice,” said the statement issued by Weiss’ office.

Hurwitz, who has served at the Hebrew Institute for nearly seven years, has completed the same course of training and examination as male Orthodox rabbinical students. Her curriculum was modeled after that of the male students at the liberal rabbinical school Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in Riverdale, which Weiss founded and now leads.

The JTA report can be seen here.

{Dovid Newscenter}


  1. Maybe I’m missing something, but what’s the “assault”? Who cares what the title is? If a Maharat or a Rabbah are both going to be doing the same exact things, and those things are within the bounds of Halacha, then who cares what the actual title is? It’s just wordplay – isn’t it?

    It’s not like we’re talking about Smicah (Rabbinic Ordination).

  2. Maharat did not take hold, Rabbah will not take hold. The proper title of one who attempts to to destroy the Mesorah from within is Nachash.

  3. I think he’s pretty sly.
    With all of the mess in the frum world right now, this is not the time for “us” to play the “defender of the mesorah” game.
    He’s a calculating fellow indeed.

  4. Any reader of Jewish history knows that there has often been women who held leadership positions. The grandmother of the Maharshal was a Rosh Yeshiva, etc etc. This woman is filling the “non-psak” function that Rabbis fill, counseling in shalom bayis and the like, and there is nothing in our mesorah against that. If they chooses to give her a title that will cause her to be viewed with respect, I do not know why that should bother anyone. Even in the Chareidi world, many “Rebbitzens” are not the wives of Rabbis, but woman who fill some Rabbi type roles (teaching, giving guidance). “You say Rebbitzen, I say Rabbah, lets call the whole thing off”

  5. there is no such thing as “authentic” orthodoxy, especially since orthodox is a brand new word invented for jews only within the last 100 years. seriously, until the rise of the conservative and reform movements, there was no such thing as “orthodox” jews. there was observant and non observant. there was religious or less religious “traidiotnal” jews.
    Who says who can decide what is “authentic” surely not Lakewood and Flat bush and boro park. I dont think previous generation of jews looked anything like lakewood and flatbush and boro park, so who really decides what is authentic? today the most “authentic” mesorah is many of the yidden from sephardic lands. now thats authentic. yemenite mesorah. how about that? your headline is arrogrant and haughty.

  6. i’m not saying that i’m totally comfortable with the idea, but can anyone please explain to me what halacha this violates to deserve such an angry response by so many??

  7. I think it’s quite humorous. Is it like Rabba emunasecha? Are we saying that women rabbis are big? That’s what the word means.
    I had a friend who went to one of these weddings, where they were very E.R.A. When the rabbi had a brocha under the chuppah, he said, “Asher yatzar es ha-adam v’es ha-adama!” (It would be quite comical if it weren’t also sad!)

  8. I will call her by the title “Rubber” since this so called yesibah is a fake makom. Weiss has flipped his lid. That place has gone insane.

  9. 12 (Yehoshua): there’s teaching, giving guidance, and some other things (one rebbetzin I know could look at clothes before her husband shatnez-tested them to say if they needed it or not), and there’s paskening and officiating at chasunas, etc.

  10. I was in Rabbi Weiss’s shul on 1/23/10-Parshat Bo–when he announced to the congregation that Sara has full “Semicha.[ordination]” There is no doubt that his aim to follow the Egalitarian Orthodox approach.

  11. get your facts straight. She will not be sitting ona beis din or officiating at chasunas or performing other functions which are assur. The rest is just your fear and lack of knowledge.

  12. Avodah zara (egel) seems to be at the root of all EGELitarianism. Given a choice, an egalitarian will never suppress their “ism”, always raising their ideology above Judaism and halacha. Much of Judaism is based in breaking all other isms and habits. We don’t eat on Yom Kippur and other fasts. We don’t work one out of every 7 days. Chain smokers go 25 hours without a puff. Vegans will have to eat a kezayis of meat for korban Pesach (you can quickly identify someone who’s overboard in their vegan “ism” when they try to work around this). Conservative is 20 years behind Reform in practice. Modern Orthodoxism will be merely a half century behind Conservatism.


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