Avi Weiss’ Riverdale Orthodox Shul To Have Woman Lead Kabbolas Shabbos Tonight


avi-weissIn a move that apparently would make “history” for an Orthodox synagogue in the United States, the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale is scheduled tonight to have a woman lead a Kabbolas Shabbos service where both men and women are expected to be in the pews, according to the Jewish Week.

The Jewish week reports:

A one-page e-mail letter was sent Friday morning to members of the synagogue, which is led by Rabbi Avi Weiss. The rabbi was recently embroiled in a major controversy over assigning the title Rabba to an HIR spiritual leader, Sara Hurwitz. The letter states: “Kabbalat Shabbat will be led by a woman. This is a halachically acceptable practice, and models our values.” While some Orthodox synagogues have women’s tefillah groups, a woman leading a Friday-night service for both men and women has apparently not been done in an Orthodox shul.

Traditional interpretation of Jewish law bars women from such a public role in the prayer service for various reasons.

The letter to congregants seems to anticipate controversy. “We recognize that this type of tefillah is not practiced in other Orthodox synagogues. We hope other synagogues will make room for this type of inclusive tefillah. Nonetheless, in deference to our own inclusive values beyond women’s involvement, and not wanting to distance ourselves from the Orthodox communal standards, we are not having this tefillah as our only Friday night tefillah, but as an addition to the Main Sanctuary tefillah.”

The letter, in making a halachic justification for a woman leading a Kabbalat Shabbat service, says that in such a service “no distinctions are made between men’s and women’s involvement,” and that it “is not an obligatory prayer service and contains no devarim shebikdushah (liturgical elements like Barkhu and Kedushah which have male leaders).”

The move to have a woman, Lamelle Ryman, lead a Kabbalat service, comes about three months after the Rabba controversy, in which Rabbi Weiss was widely believed to have caved to Orthodox critics who termed the title Rabba to be beyond Orthodox norms. Rabbi Weiss agreed to not use the title again.

Calls and e-mails to HIR Rabbis Weiss, Steven Exler and Hurwitz early Friday afternoon were not returned. A call to Ryman was not returned.

Read more at The Jewish Week.

{The Jewish Week}

{Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. And you are reporting this because it effects the rest of the klal how? This is just Lashon Harah. If you don’t like what he does in his shul ignore him, it has no impact on you or your life.

  2. what is all the noise about? there are many synagogue sthat do this. So he calls it Orthodox? it’s not. I call myself Napolean.

  3. It’s simple. The new “Rabba” Paskened for woman can lead Kabbolas Shabbos!
    This Weiss is a Reform Rabbi L’chol Hadeios. By definishion, a reform rabbi is someone that reforms the Torah. The fact that he may not (yet) drive on Shabbos, doesn’t make him into an orthodox rabbi.

  4. Instead of calling himself Orthodox, why doesn’t Mr. Weiss be honest and call himself, “Conservative,” which is what he is.

  5. Ridiculous. Rabbi’s don’t deserve their title if they don’t follow what has become halachic interpretation of Jewish law. Take it away.

  6. are the men going to switch to the Ezras ^Noshim and the women to the (Bais Tiflah)?

    How about the bathrooms? I’m confused

    Can’t wait for the movie to come out

  7. “We recognize that this type of tefillah is not practiced in other Orthodox synagogues.”

    umm that goes against the definition of being orthdox. altough he is correct there IS halachic grounds to allow it, its still not orthdoxy even in its modern mutation

  8. Oh, come on. Doesn’t anyone here that there were many poskim that allowed hearing a woman’s voice singing pesukim and zemiros, on the smach that the holy content would balance out the hirhur/erva problem? Avi Weiss doesn’t respect cultural precedent, but he’s not a fool.

  9. HaGoan Rav Herschel Schachter shlita of Yeshivas Yitzchak Elchonon and the OU denounced Weiss and all his deviations over a decade ago which is why he left YU

  10. I don’t understand what the news is – the Conservative movement has been doing this for ages and Avi Weiss has joined them a long time ago.

    I think the real question is – Since when does Matzav cover news of Conservative Judaism?

  11. This comes right after a controversy emerged with one of the faculty from the ‘yeshivah’ of Rabbi Weiss, ‘Yeshivat Chovevei Torah’, Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgott, who came out with an open letter to the Jewish community promoting tolerance for those who are pushing and practicing the toeivah lifestyle.

    So now they want tolerance for toeivah, tolerance for kol ishah (or are you going to tell me that she will make a real Litvishe kabbolas Shabbos with no singing?? After all, R. Weiss is a Bobover and they like to sing there.), tolerance for Reform and Conservative…I think something is wrong here.

    Torah means something. It is not the same things as modern liberalism. Torah does not mean tolerance for any innovation and new fad and style.

    Enough already! Dayeinu!

  12. Haha I called this one! I knew Kabbolos Shabbos was next on their list. Coming soon: giving a woman one of the sheva brochos.

  13. To all of you who ask about Kol Isha. This issue is an old one and has been dealt with in Tshuvos by the Sridei Eish, The Sdei Chemed, rav Ovadia Yoseh, Rav Shamma, and the latest tshuvot by Rav David Bigman and Rav Yehuda Henkin. People We are going back here almost 50 years. Get over it.
    It would be nice if someone who knows Halacha would offer a comment.

  14. To #31, Straight Daas,

    Funny name for someone who has no Daas. Have you ever been in the schul? Have you ever met or spoken to Rabbi Weiss?
    You don’t even know how to spell conservative, let alone to know what the differences are. First become educated, then maybe you can have enough Daas to comment.

  15. To #33, Homer in Boro Park:
    Someone who knows Halacha understands that the issue of Kol Isha as it relates to zmirot or tfilla has been dealt by many Poskim. Many of these Poskim that I have mentioned in a previous comment concluded that this type of singing does not fall under the category of Kol Isha and Is Mutar. If you want to be machmir, that is your perogative. But do not have the audacity to impose your chumrot on others.

  16. What the real story should read is: “Conservative temple headed by Avi Weiss is only Conservative temple in the world which features a mechitza”.

  17. I read the original letter, from #19’s post, and it refers to hurwitz as “rabba.” As I suspected, Weiss never abandoned the title “rabba.” Cheirem!!!

  18. As someone who learnt in YU.

    This has nothing to do with halachic kulos or chumros but the rebellion against Torah and Torah leaders that Mr. Weiss began a decade ago when he founded Edah.

    Mr. Weiss according to Rav H. Schachter shlita(who graded it) got a 7 on his smicha exam.

  19. #36, that would actually be Shaar Hashamayim in Montreal. Avi runs a “traditional” place (aka nisht ahin nisht aher), but he keeps getting less traditional. Not to mention, he creeps my wife out.

  20. To Comment#40 (No I am not commenting to myself)

    Edah was founded by Rabbi Saul Berman, an acknowleged Gadol BeTorah.

    Please do not make accusations that a. are not true and b. you can’t corroborate.

  21. Sheldon, you are doing your job and that is sticking by your rav, and showing respect for those whom you feel have earned it.

    However, this is not a quibble with Modern Orthodoxy, or nuances. There is a major breach here, and there is going to be some serious soul searching in your community, guaranteed. Don’t be turned off by the peanut gallery. Put on your own thinking cap, talk to a broad variety of people who deserve respect, maybe even rabbanim outside your milieu, and make some informed decisions.

  22. Did anyone notice that in the letter there’s a paragraph called “Precedent” in which they reference their own prior usage of women in tefila. Maybe it’s just me, but how is that a precedent?

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