The prospect of more women serving as Orthodox rabbis is just around the corner. A recent article in The Forward discusses the opening of a new yeshiva that plans to train women as Orthodox clergy. Interestingly, however, graduates will not yet be called “rabbis.” According to Sara Hurwitz, one of the program’s founders:
We’re training women to be rabbis … What they will be called is something we’re working out.
The program is partly a brainchild of Rabbi Avi Weiss, who has long been an advocate for what he calls “Open Orthodoxy,” and is the founder of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, an “Open Orthodox” rabbinical school based in NYC.
Rabbi Weiss stressed that the halachic limitations on women would be observed, and thus some functions would still need to be performed by men. But that does not mean that women will fulfill any less of a leadership role, he stresses.
“The Orthodox model is not the Conservative and Reform model, where the roles of men and women in general and in leadership are identical,” Weiss told the Forward. “In Orthodoxy, the roles significantly overlap, but there are very clear distinctions.”
The issue of women rabbis is still hotly debated within Orthodoxy, and Weiss has long drawn criticism for his positions.
Despite the controversy of the topic, most people are not aware of the history of women within Orthodoxy, nor of the fact that there are already a small number of women who have received Orthodox smicha. Despite your position on the issue, it will be interesting to observe how these women clergy will be received in the Orthodox world.