Friday, January 11, 2008

595. Pigs fly, sort of!

This is amazing! From The Jerusalem Post (I assumed it was a joke when I first read the headline--but it's true):

Hartman to ordain women rabbis
(also via Jewschool)

In a step that marks a major change in gender roles within modern Orthodoxy, women will be ordained as Orthodox rabbis.

Jerusalem's Shalom Hartman Institute, founded by Rabbi David Hartman, himself a modern Orthodox rabbi, will open a four-year program next year to prepare women and men of all denominations - Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and also Orthodox - for rabbinic ordination.

Ordination will be provided within the framework of a teacher-training program that prepares graduates to serve in Jewish high schools in North America.

"For too long now we have been robbing ourselves of 50 percent of our potential leaders; people who can shape and inspire others," said Rabbi Donniel Hartman, co-director of the institute and son of David Hartman.

"The classic distinctions between men and women are no longer relevant. People who come to the Hartman Institute to study are committed to making gender equality in Judaism a reality."


I qualified my headline because there seems to be some doubt as to whether the word "rabbi" really means "rabbi":

Rabbi Dr. Haviva Ner-David, perhaps the first woman ever to receive Orthodox ordination (from a private rabbi, Aryeh Strikovsky, on Pessah eve 2006), said she hoped what she termed Hartman's rabbi-educator program would be "the first step toward full rabbinic ordination for Orthodox women."

She asserted that the Hartman Institute was "stopping short" of "calling them rabbis" and said this was "annoying." But, she added, "perhaps it is a political decision to start off with a half-title so as not to be too controversial and only later to give women the full title of rabbi.


And, of course, the usual (more like this can be found in comments to the Jerusalem Post article):

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, a leading modern Orthodox rabbi and head of the Ateret Yerushalayim Yeshiva, said in response to the Hartman Institute's announcement that he opposed giving women the title "rabbi."

"I think it is degrading to tell a woman that she won't be respected and appreciated unless she adopts a man's title," Aviner said. "Throughout the generations there were always scholarly women who were highly respected. Jewish law dictates that a man must stand before a learned woman just as he must stand out of respect for a learned man."

Aviner said he was more concerned with the idea that Orthodox Jews would study together with their Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist brothers and sisters.

"Learning Torah is like getting married," he said. "It is not just an intellectual exercise, it is a Jew's life. To learn with a totally secular Jew is permitted, but learning with Reform and Conservative Jews is problematic because they do not believe as I do, they do not have a fear of God."


Whatever. It's wonderful and--whether or not this venture succeeds--a huge step towards righting many wrongs, and bringing Jewish life into balance. More to come on this topic; I'm in a discussion group that's reading Engendering Judaism: An Inclusive Theology and Ethics , and have been thinking about these issues in ways I hadn't before considered.

Meanwhile, what a great way to begin Shabbat. Yasher koah to Rabbi Hartman.

No comments: