In one of the local rags, there was an article last week about how a congregation wanted to name their shul, being built now, after a woman who tragically died young. The article reports how they asked the Rav of Modiin (the one who is Aryeh Deri's brother-in-law, not Rav Ovadia Yosef's son-in-law or Rav Y. M. Lau's son) whether it was permissible to name a shul after a woman. He responded affirmatively.
The amazing thing about this story is not just that this is the type of question that people seem to think needs to be asked of a rabbi, or that they entertain the possibility that it, in fact, is forbidden to name a shul after a woman, or that this is the type of issue for whom three different rabbis need to be hired from my municipal tax shekels, but that the local non-religious rag felt this to be newsworthy. Sheesh. Bourgeois as it is, Modiin isn't THAT dull.
Regarding the issue itself, let's put it into a bit of perspective:
- From the age of 18, Rav Ovadia began delivering shiurim at a shul founded by Persian Jews. The name of the shul was 'Ohel Rachel'. Coincidentally, this name is identical to the proposed name of the Modiin shul.
- There's a well-known shul in Katamon called 'Ohel Rivka'.
- There's a shul in Har Nof called 'Pnei Shmuel', named for its donors - a couple whose names were Samuel and Fanny (think of it in Hebrew).
- There's a shul in Weschester County called 'Young Israel of New Rochelle'
- Go to the 'search by name' feature on GoDaven, and punch in any of the classics - Sarah, Rivka, Rachel, Leah, Miriam, Devorah, Chaya, Elisheva, Rina, and, of course, Beth.