Friday, May 7, 2010
What's A Rabba?
"Enthusiastic applause greeted Sara Hurwitz when she stepped to the podium last month to address a gathering of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance in New York. ... Rabbi Pinchos Lipshutz warned, 'We cannot allow someone whose guide is 20th century feminism ... to hijack and attmept to redefine Orthodixy.' ... The uproar threatens to formally splinter the long-volatile Orthodox movement into liberal and conservative factions. 'The two wings are moving further and further apart,' says Brandeis University historian Jonathan D. Sarna. 'The issue of women in a very significant divider, and it wlll take all the diplomacy that can be mustered to keep Orthodoxy from splitting.' ... In a 1984 essay she presciently wrote: 'It seems but a matter of time that a woman who is as well-versed in rabbinic sources as a male ... will say to herself" "Why not me?"' ... In March 2009, after months of deliberation, Rabbi Weiss invented a title for her, 'maharat,' which is an acronym of the Hebrew words for halachic, spiritual and Torah leader. ... The title failed to catch on. 'People didn't know what maharat meant,' Rabba Hurwitz says. 'Rabba is a more respectful and accurate description of who I am and what I do.' Speaking about the controversy, she adds: I understand that people are concerned. This is new, but nothing I am doing is outside the framework of Jewish law.' ... She can, moreover, do some things that a male rabbi cannot, like be a reasuring prescence on the female side of the barrier, or mechitzah, that separates men and women in an Orthodox synagogue; and she can field intimate questions that some women are more comfortable asking another woman. 'All of that,' Rabba Hurwitz says, 'adds to the community'," my emphasis, Evan Goldstein at the WSJ, 23 April 2010, link:
Interesting. Weiss "invented a title for her", yet "nothing [she] is doing is outside the framework of Jewish law." What would Antonin Scalia say about this if asked?