7/12/2010

NY Mag Profiles R. Avi Weiss and his Mission to Ordain Women

This article is very well researched and well done - the litmus test is that it is fair to R. Shai Held as well as R. Avi Shafran (and many in between). The criticisms are serious and made by serious people, not Samuel Heilman holding-forth-at-the-kiddush style flippant speculation. Its portrait of of R. Weiss is very well done, sympathetic but certainly not a whitewash.

As readers of this blog know (click on the 'gender' tag for more), I am in favor of creating a may to recognize Orthodox clergywomen so that they may: a) earn higher salaries; b) get jobs in Jewish organizations (federations, Hillels, umbrella organizations, NPOs, etc.) that often give preference to ordained applicant - jobs that are often filled by non-Orthodox women rabbis; c) claim the tax benefits (parsonage) of recognized clergy. The title is rather meaningless. That said, Maharat sounds silly, and Rabba, as the article indicates, is bound to cause controversy.

My term of choice would be Tanna'it. It means "teacher," but it has a history. It was the title of Osnat Barzani, a 17th century Kurdish-Jewish rabbinic figure and Rosh Yeshiva. As the haredi community has taught us, in the fight for the hearts and minds of the people, the key is not to avoid innovation completely, but to give that innovation the appearance of tradition.
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