Women who would be Orthodox rabbis were handed a major setback Friday (Oct. 30) when the highest religious body for Modern Orthodox Jews ruled against their ordination.
The Rabbinical Council of America officially prohibited the ordination of women, or the use of the term “rabbi” or “maharat” for women, in what it described as a direct vote of its membership.
The prohibition comes six years after the founding of a yeshiva, or religious school, for women in New York City. The school, Yeshivat Maharat, has ordained less than a dozen women who use the honorific “maharat” instead of rabbi and has placed graduates and interns at 17 Orthodox synagogues in the U.S. and Canada.
The resolution states, “RCA members with positions in Orthodox institutions may not ordain women into the Orthodox rabbinate, regardless of the title used; or hire or ratify the hiring of a woman into a rabbinic position at an Orthodox institution; or allow a title implying rabbinic ordination to be used by a teacher” in an Orthodox institution.
The RCA is made up of more than 1,000 Orthodox rabbis — all men — in 14 countries in North and South America and Israel. Its members are mostly Modern Orthodox Jews who integrate traditional Jewish practices and beliefs while engaging with the secular world. About 10 percent of American Jews consider themselves Orthodox.
By Kimberly Winston
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