7/05/2009

I Am the Maharetzin

[Note: My wife is not a Mahara"t, though she has, for many years, filled roles that may easily be described as rabbinic]
As part of my husbandly duties as Maharetzin, I would like to announce that my wife will be speaking 3 times in the next two weeks in the Baltimore/ Washington area: For the next two Tuesday nights (7/7 and 7/14), 8-9:30pm at the National Synagogue (free of charge), on the topic "Asking for What you Want: Chana and the B'not Tzelophchad"; Wednesday, July 15 at WIT Baltimore, 10-11pm. The topic has to do with the biblical DIna, and there is a charge for the class, but I don't have any more details right now. All shiurim are for women only.

This gives me the opportunity to write about a topic I've been avoiding for a while - the Maharat. The record shows that I wrote, in February 2006, that "that there's a real problem that there's no way to recognize a learned Orthodox woman" and that "there's actually a pressing need for some way to recognize the achievements of Orthodox women so that they can get the benefits that they would accrue if they were a different gender or denomination". Will the title "Maharat" allow its bearers to claim parsonage on their income taxes, or land those non-rabbinic jobs that are reserved for those with ordination (e.g., Judaic studies principals, Hillel directors), only time will tell. Time will tell if this is attempt to address the issue will succeed; there's no question, though, that it is addressing a very real need.

In truth, there are many "Maharat"s out there already - perhaps not 'officially', but in terms of all but name (and pay scale) they fill those quasi-rabbinic roles (since I'm no longer practicing as a rabbi, but my wife still serves in a quasi-rabbinic capacity to many of her students, I guess that makes me a Maharetzin).
By the way, the Maharetzin often fills a major role (I propose that there be a session at the next JOFA conference entitled: 'The Role of the Maharetzin'). In my case, I help prepare the shiurim - often providing an idea and a few sources, which the Rebbetzin/Maharat then runs with and teaches better than I ever could.
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