The New RCA Resolution About Women Rabbis – What It is, and What It Is Not

JOFA (Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance) continues to be disappointed by the RCA’s insistence that only men may assume positions of “rabbinic status,” which as far as we can tell, amounts to nothing more than an obsession with titles… We are disappointed that America’s largest association of Orthodox rabbis spends its time developing redundant statements (see 2010 Statement, 2013 Statement) absent of halakhic grounding…

The above JOFA advocacy statement and a petition in support of the ordination of women as rabbis, as pushback to the new Rabbinical Council of America resolution concerning women rabbis, have been posted on the Facebook pages of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and numerous Open Orthodox constituents. Whereas I normally do not react to JOFA statements, in this case, JOFA’s statement evinces great misunderstanding and provides the opportunity to clarify and educate.

Although I am a member of the RCA’s Executive Committee and I voted in favor of the above resolution (which was voted upon by the entire RCA membership), I am not an RCA officer, nor an RCA representative, nor do I represent the drafters of the RCA resolution. I speak for myself only, yet as someone who has intimate familiarity with many of the issues and the background.

Contrary to the belief of JOFA and the Open Orthodox rabbinate, the RCA’s position that women may not be ordained as clergy is based on the clear rulings and direct counsel of Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, Rabbi Hershel Schachter, Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz and Rabbi Mordechai Willig, all of whom presented their positions against the ordination of women to the RCA in 2010 and appealed to the RCA to vote in favor of a 2010 resolution to that effect. These preeminent halachic authorities presented a variety of reasons and analysis thereof for their decision, but the decision was uniform. (Please also see this incisive article.)

The RCA resolution of 2010 was, unfortunately, circumvented by some rabbis. Other rabbis, who are in the field and have been defending the position of the RCA poskim in the face of local Open Orthodox rabbinic and lay challenges, felt that something more specific was needed. Additionally, female clergy have been increasingly employed by Orthodox-identified congregations and schools over the past several years. It was against this backdrop and in response to these important developments that the 2015 RCA resolution on the matter was drafted, submitted for passage and adopted.

Some of us in the RCA were quite disappointed that mainstream institutional Orthodoxy had largely done nothing to address the growing trend of women rabbis, despite credible assertions on the part of leaders of mainstream institutional Orthodoxy that they are committed to the RCA’s halachic authorities and oppose the ordination of women (and other Open Orthodox innovations). Open Orthodoxy has been on the march for over a decade, three classes of women have been ordained by Yeshivat Maharat, but all we heard from mainstream institutional Orthodoxy was silence. It was clear that something had to be done, and that it required a grassroots initiative.

The new RCA resolution not only affirms the position of the RCA’s poskim against the ordination of women, but it stipulates:

Therefore, the Rabbinical Council of America

  • Resolves to educate and inform our community that RCA members with positions in Orthodox institutions may not
    1. Ordain women into the Orthodox rabbinate, regardless of the title used; or
    2. Hire or ratify the hiring of a woman into a rabbinic position at an Orthodox institution; or
    3. Allow a title implying rabbinic ordination to be used by a teacher of Limudei Kodesh in an Orthodox institution; and,
  • Commits to an educational effort to publicize its policy by:
    1. Republishing its policies on this matter; and,
    2. Clearly communicating and disseminating these policies to its members and the community.

The drafters of the resolution sought to restrict the focus to the ordination of women, and not to address the propriety of Yoatzot Halacha and other newly-created women’s titles and the programs which grant those titles. Unfortunately, despite this intent, many have construed the wording of the resolution as actually endorsing the Yoatzot programs and so forth. Although this seems to be a legitimate reading of the resolution, this was not at all its intent. The drafters purposefully did not want to convey an opinion about the propriety of Yoatzot programs and the like, as the RCA has no official position on the matter, and many RCA members, this writer included, are not in favor of such programs. This is a critical point of clarification that must be made and publicized.

Some Open Orthodox rabbis have alleged that the RCA is placing people outside of Orthodoxy, discriminating against those who do not agree with the RCA position, and changing the rules. Nothing could be further from the truth. The RCA resolution is based on the 2010 pronouncements of the RCA’s poskim, whose articulation of the issues merely continued the rabbinic tradition of millennia and did not change anything. On the contrary, this problem was not created by the RCA, and those who broke rank with traditional Orthodoxy and introduced the problem and precipitated the present schism should think hard about their actions and trajectory.



I present here a snippet from a previous article on the ordination of women rabbis:

Within the week, three Orthodox-identified rabbinical ordination programs for women granted semicha (ordination) to their graduating classes. (Please see here and here.) While the mainstream organs of Orthodoxy do not recognize or approve of the ordination of women (here are RCA statements about the matter), the reasons for not accepting the legitimacy of semicha for women remain a mystery to some.

Various articles have been published about the topic (please see here for R. Hershel Schachter’s article); I would like to take one approach and provide some elaboration.

Halachic analysis of contemporary rabbinical ordination of women was first put forth by R. Saul Lieberman (please see here for R. Gil Student’s important presentation thereof), who in 1979 expressed his opposition to such on the part of Jewish Theological Seminary.

Although R. Lieberman’s tenure at JTS was the subject of controversy and was certainly not viewed favorably by Orthodox leadership, R. Lieberman was Orthodox and was very well-versed in our topic; his ruling on it is thus quite pivotal and precedential. R. Lieberman’s position was discussed in my initial article on rabbinical ordination for women, but that article focused more on the definition of Mesorah (Torah tradition). Let us turn here to the actual issue of semicha for women.

Lieberman demonstrates that even though modern-day semicha is not the original semicha that was conferred by Moshe upon Yehoshua and that continued to be conferred upon subsequent scholars until one-and-a-half a millennia ago, modern-day semicha is most certainly a carryover and model of the original semicha. The original semicha empowered one to serve as dayan, rabbinic judge, and that is exactly what contemporary semicha represents, as evidenced in the earliest of rabbinic literature that discusses the purpose and function of contemporary semicha. Since women cannot serve as rabbinic judges (Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 7:4, with the exception of cases of binding arbitration, in which the status of dayan is forgone [Sanhedrin 24, Rambam Hil. Sanhederin 7:2] – and modern-day semicha is decidedly not modeled on this), the rabbinical ordination of women is not valid and is distortive of the very essence of semicha. To grant semicha to women makes no sense, and to do so would “make ourselves objects of derision and jest”, proclaimed R. Lieberman.

The end of the matter is that it is clear from the sources that being called by the title “rav” (“Rabbi he shall be called”) reflects on the fitness to issue legal decisions and to judge, and we should not empty the title “rav” of its meaning from the way it has been understood by the Jewish people throughout the generations. Since a woman is not fit to judge, and she cannot become qualified for this…

Those who promote the ordination of women as rabbis either erroneously assert that modern-day semicha is a novel contrivance that has no controlling precedent, or they turn to the example of Devorah the Prophetess, who judged the Jewish People. (Shoftim 4:4)  However, Devorah did not have semicha and did not sit on the Sanhedrin. Rishonim (medieval halachic authorities) explain that she either was a leader and teacher, that she practiced binding arbitration, that she provided instruction for dayanim, or the like. To use Devorah – someone who did not have semicha and did not qualify for it – as the precedent for women rabbis is quite a stretch.

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66 Responses

  1. Shmuel W says:

    Yasher Koach to the RCA and to R’ Gordimer for defending the historical and future parameters of Torah Judaism. Ashrecah

  2. Noam Stadlan says:

    so where is the psak Halacha? The RCA didn’t write one? No carefully reasoned analysis, sources, proof? Compelling arguments rather than name calling? There isn’t one? But aren’t you a group of rabbis that make decisions based on Halacha? Guess it was a political decision. Thanks for clarifying.

    • Yaakov Menken says:

      In order to claim that the article contains “No carefully reasoned analysis, sources, proof [or] compelling arguments,” Noam Stadlan must pretend that all of Rabbi Gordimer’s references, links to articles, and even his detailed explanation of R. Saul Lieberman’s reasoning, simply do not exist. Instead he makes the rather insulting claim that Rabbi Gordimer engaged in “name calling.” [I would note that this is not the first time in recent history that a proponent of Open Orthodox-style changes has falsely claimed that Rabbi Gordimer would stoop to that level.]

      The question we must ask, then, is why. Why would the writer make such patently counter-factual claims about the article? Well, perhaps it is because he is the creator of the “petition in support of the ordination of women as rabbis” to which Rabbi Gordimer refers. The sum total of the carefully reasoned analysis, sources and proof presented on Dr. Stadlan’s petition is: “we believe individual communities and all of Klal Yisrael can only benefit from the inclusion of the voices and ideas of highly trained and committed women in positions of communal authority.”

      I feel it would have been more appropriate for Dr. Stadlan to have pointed this out, himself.

  3. mb says:

    Now I’m going to seek punitive damages in my law suit against Cross-Currents.

  4. dr.bill says:

    I agree that one cannot logically infer support for a yoetzet halacha from the RCA statement alone. However, what can be conjectured from (what I hear was) both the positions of 3 YU leaders, among others, and the narrowness of the vote is a wholly other matter. As should be obvious to anyone, change does occur in traditional societies, albeit at a different pace. This fight over the title Rabbi is a sideshow; events in Israel make discussion about a yoetzet/toenet and the longer term prospects for a growing number of for women scholars and leaders a foregone conclusion. And if women achieve the prominence of Devorah, who was not a dayan, as both bible scholars and halakhists agree, they will have achieved their primary objectives, regardless of titles. And, btw, one of Prof. Lieberman’s greatest talmidim, who exited JTS over ordination, davened in a shul led by a woman who did use the title – Rabbi. In general, when you quote opinions/pesakim see how students and contemporaries understood them.

  5. slc says:

    Realistically, given what you are saying.

    Do you think any of the living Rabbis above would quote a book of halacha by a yoetetzet, about say, s*xual matters and halacha involved in fertility, breast, and ovarian cancer, especially if our pretend yoetztet was well known to be quite brilliant in law and have say a background in nursing/oncology in a psak halacha – thereby basing his answers on our pretend yoetzet’s halachic opinions?

    It is already becoming less unusual if there is a yoetzet around for congregational rabbis to refuse to make psak for women (as a friend of mine, and a former congregational rabbi noted and also did himself) – their knowledge is deeper than that of a rabbis in the topics of niddah, ect that they cover, and they have more congregational experience dealing with said issues with women, and many congregational rabbis quickly realize that after talking to one.

    If you think they would quote (or at a minimum, you would quote)

    would you also trust a lay male halachicist who likes to study all the sources involving kashrut, has a phd in organic chemistry, and is a food scientist with the USDA? Would you quote an opinion by that person – why or why not?

    The limits seem to be ill defined in the way the resolution is worded, if only because these examples can continue to crop up about what makes someone a legal authority to quote, what gives someone the right to issue a ruling, and what makes someone a congregational minister seem to be three things that overlap

    • Rebbetzin says:

      I have found the opposite to be the case. There are areas where the yoatzot are machmir counter to mainstream halachic opinion. I had a congregant call me and tell me that a yoetzet adviced her to separate from her husband “just in case” for a few nights. She finally called the rabbi because she couldn’t deal with the anxiety this approach was causing and the psak was that she was mutar and had been the whole time. This position is also on their advice column on their website. It was very disturbing to see this trend that was based on emotions rather than rov poskim

  6. Steve Brizel says:

    R Gordimer deserves a huge Yasher Koach for pointing out that the agenda and ideology of JOFA is radical egalitarian feminism which open;y is against all gender based distinctions in halacha, hashkafa and minhag..

  7. Steve Brizel says:

    Dr Stadlan-I support R Menken’s comments fully. Engaging in disdain for a POV or not engaging in any discussion as a way of ignoring the points raised therein is a form of intellectual McCarthyism that you should reject. Like it or not, R Gordimer ( and many others ) disagree with your POV but we are always willing to engage in discussion and debate.

  8. Steve Brizel says:

    The JOFA statement contained this nugget of misinformation:

    “Most of all, we are disappointed that America’s largest association of Orthodox rabbis spends its time developing redundant statements (see 2010 Statement, 2013 Statement) absent of halakhic grounding, rather than addressing Orthodoxy’s real challenges — and particularly, the development of a systemic halakhic solution to resolve the agunah crisis.”

    One wonders whether JOFA endorses or even has heard of or read the RCA PNA. Such a statement ignores the real progress that the RCA PNA has achieved in the committed MO world.

  9. Bency says:

    “the RCA’s position that women may not be ordained as clergy is based on the clear rulings and direct counsel of Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein…) I am curious- did RAL ZT’L ever issue a clear statement on this? Can it be viewed anywhere?

  10. Noam stadlan says:

    R. Menken unfortunately has misunderstood my comment. I did not ask why R. Gordimer takes a certain position. I asked why the RCA took its position and where was the RCA psak and Halachic justification. Unless R. Gordimer is now also the RCA press secretary, the question stands- unanswered. I thank R Menken for mentioning my petition and urge all those interested to read and sign.

    • dr. bill says:

      The debate between Noam Stadlan and Yaacov Menken and the statement by the Moetzet got me thinking. I tended to doubt the Moetzet would rely on the opinion of the Grash :), quoted by Rav Schachter and others. Instead their proclamation reads: ‘“OPEN ORTHODOXY,” And its leaders and affiliated entities….have shown countless times that they reject the basic tenets of our faith, particularly the authority of the Torah and its Sages’ and as a result…’”Open Orthodoxy” is not a form of Torah Judaism (Orthodoxy).… ”

      I agree that emunat chachamim is an important part of our mesorah, and believing in the role of Rabbis in the development of halakha is fundamental to Jewish tradition.
      However, as the Ben Ish Chai pointed out that the ability of Rabbis to decide between accepted opinions is not as great as the ability to invent, albeit with support of a concurring opinion, new concepts derived from classical principles. From that perspective, those innovators are, in fact, more important exemplars of emunat chachamim; it is they who are reliant on rabbinic authority to pioneer new directions. That of course turns the argument into my authorities (greatly) outweigh yours; an entirely legitimate argument, but hardly a plausible basis for declaring something outside the tent.

      In any case, as Dr. Stadlan points out, written arguments are preferable to proclamations by either the RCA or the Moetzet.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      Dr Stadlan-instead of just repeating your prior post, why not reread the 2010 RCA resolution which is based on Piskei Ha;aqcha, which you have stated that you reject.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      What Dr Stadlan should mentionif he is being truly objective and portraying himself as being the victim of persecution by those who differ ( a classical tactic of those who find that others disagree with their POV) is that his wife is studying to be a Maharat, and has been an active feminist for years.

  11. dr. bill says:

    I love the picture accompanying the article. Just imagine what would transpire if the NYT had a picture like that accompanying an article on YCT; I guess – eis laasos laShem haifairuh torasecha.

  12. Proudjew says:

    Avrohom. You are so lucky to have been part of the elite few that were able to hear from those Rabbis in 2010. It is too bad that the regular population of jews wasn’t invited to that elite conclave. It is more than likely a simpleton with a law degree like myself wouldn’t have been able to understand them anyway. It is ridiculous to establish your argument based on statements that most people were not privileged to hear nor can they read or listen to such statements. Can you imagine making an argument like that in a court of law? “Jury, I want you to just believe this hearsay which supports my personal views.” Fortunately, everyone was present at har sinai, men and women of all ages. This recent development of a rabbinic conclave issuing fatwahs/resolutions (after the sanhendrin no longer existed) is meaningless in the scheme of jewish history. I can’t wait for my children to read this resolution in 20 years and laugh.
    Lastly. I fail to understand why you, as an attorney, had failed to advise your colleagues of the vague nature of the language of the resolution. If you felt that something was being left out that would imply support of Yoatzot Halacha or GPATS, then you shouldn’t have voted for it. To after the fact attempt to amend and clarify the resolution according to your own understanding is amateur at best.

  13. DF says:

    I’m glad the RCA gave a straightforward, unapologetic statement rejecting the concept of “women rabbis”, under any form of thinly disguised name. Really, the very notion is absurd. It is merely the ascendancy of orthodoxy and its newfound (among the lesser-educated) cachet of prestige that even gives rise to such silliness. Educated people clearly understand, as the Agudah wrote in its corollary statement, that none of these movements are orthodox at all. Perhaps the non-Jewish or the non-educated can be fooled by the title into thinking there is a new “development” here. But anyone who takes these things seriously realizes this is just the Conservative movement 2.0.

    In any event, its good to set the halachic record straight, but it bears repeating – over and over – that feminism should be rejected not merely for halachic reasons, but for social reasons also. (I realize organizational niceties might make it impolitic to make such a statement publicly.) Feminism has been a disaster for this country. Secular society has become completely unmoored from its social underpinnings, and is flailing badly. No one has any clue, or if they do, are afraid to say, of what’s expected of boys and of girls, of men and of women. The evidence and the consequences of it are everywhere. Orthodoxy, for all its ills, is a blessed little island of tranquility in this sea of confusion. An attempt to import this failed ideology into our society would be incredibly foolish. No thank you. Traditional orthodox Judaism has outlasted countless other fads and philosophies (many within the past century alone) and will outlast the current one also. The (relatively few) people supportive of “open orthodoxy” are on the wrong side of history and will look very short-sighted in posterity.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      DF hits the nail on the mark:

      “n any event, its good to set the halachic record straight, but it bears repeating – over and over – that feminism should be rejected not merely for halachic reasons, but for social reasons also. (I realize organizational niceties might make it impolitic to make such a statement publicly.) Feminism has been a disaster for this country. Secular society has become completely unmoored from its social underpinnings, and is flailing badly. No one has any clue, or if they do, are afraid to say, of what’s expected of boys and of girls, of men and of women. The evidence and the consequences of it are everywhere. Orthodoxy, for all its ills, is a blessed little island of tranquility in this sea of confusion.”

      The supporters and apologists for feminism simply fail to understand that radical egalitarian feminism in its most fundamental form has always viewed the family as a concentration camp-to quote the words of Betty Friedan

      • David Ohsie says:

        Right on! YCT is obviously out to destroy not only the family, but the very fabric of the universe itself. When they gave the title Maharat to Ms. Friedan, who besides being dead was an agnostic, it was the last straw. Dead agnostics will never be allowed to teach in my children’s schools, especially if they have been given a quasi-rabbinic title.

        And clearly anyone who agrees with Friedan that women should consider working outside the home or (shudder) go to college should be put into Cherem! No orthodox Jew would even consider such a thing. What is this world coming to?

  14. dskchrdr says:

    “Some of us in the RCA were quite disappointed that mainstream institutional Orthodoxy had largely done nothing to address the growing trend of women rabbis…”

    C’mon, Rabbi Gordimer. We’re not stupid. I agree with much of what you wrote but if you’re not going to be forthcoming when you publish in public then you begin losing the trust of your regular readers. “Mainstream institutional Orthodoxy” refers largely (perhaps exclusively) your own employer, the Orthodox Union. The fact that you gloss over this gives the impression that you’re not willing to pursue this issue completely. You work for one branch of the same organization that funds directly the other branch which you are disappointed with. Why not make a principled stand and quit your job in protest?

    How about some intellectual honesty? Is that too much to ask for?

    • Ben Isaacs says:

      I don’t agree with this personal attack on R’ Gordimer. There are various institutions of MO that have disappointed us in this regard, not just the OU.

      If you have any idea of how Jewish organizations work you know the courage needed to do what RAG is doing while working for a major Kashrus organization.

      At the same time it also indicates that OU Kashrus is not afraid of opinionated Rabbi’s who call is as they see it….a very good quality indeed for a Kashrus organization, VDA”L.

  15. lawrence kaplan says:

    The RCA resolution of 2010, to which R. Gordimer appeals, was much more nuanced than the present one. Almost all of it speaks in very positive terms about the greater opportunities for Torah learning and communal service for women. There is exactly one sentence that refers to ordaining women. It reads: “Due to our aforesaid commitment to sacred continuity, however, we cannot accept either the ordination of women or the recognition of women as members of the Orthodox rabbinate, regardless of the title.” It is a far cry from this carefully and moderately worded statement to the blanket prohibition imposed by the present resolution. In light of Rav Lichtenstein’s nuanced ad non-dogmatic statements on this issue found in his interviews with Rav Sabbato, to claim he would have approved of the present resolution is dubious.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      Hindsight is always 20-20 and I had wings, I could fly. Proof please?

    • Lawrence Kaplan says:

      Proof for my contention that it is a far cry from the carefully and moderately worded statement of the 2010 resolution to the blanket prohibition imposed by the present resolution now comes from an unexpected source. Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, one of the most ardent supporters of the present resolution, in his recent post denounced the previous resolutions as “bland and toothless.” QED

  16. Chaim says:

    For point #3, should this be explicit that an actual rabbi teaching in this capacity is still permitted to be called rabbi or rebbe?

  17. Shmuel W says:

    Proudjew is funny. First of all he notes har sinai. Many OO/NC dont believe they or anyone was even there. Second, the language is not vague. As someone with a law degree, I can tell you, Judaism is not to be judged in an arka’us shel akum environment and the resolution clearly said what it is dealing with and what it isnt dealing with. Finally, please have the courage of your convictions and sign with your actual name, at least stadlan does.

    Speaking of Stadlan, his “petiiton” reminds me of Korach V’adaso. So i guess he does have a mesorah for his actions 🙂

    • proudjew says:

      Shmuel- I guess your law school taught you to just talk about random things to try and confuse those listening, as opposed to addressing the arguments. I made 3 very cogent arguments:
      1. You cant argue your point based on information that isnt publicly available, which Avrohom has done. Why not publish the audio or transcripts of the presentations by these Gedolim?
      2. You ignored my har sinai argument by saying that certain other people dont believe in it. I do believe we were all there and it wasnt a select few members of our people. Now when in Jewish history (post-sanhedrin) did rabbinic groups issue religious proclamations that are binding for generations?
      3. The whole point of Avrohom’s post is to clarify the resolution. Why would you need to clarify something if it was clear? I believe that this resolution affirms the need for yoatzot halacha and GPATS students to take on positions in shuls, as long as they aren’t given a title. Avrohom is saying that is not the point of the resolution. Both are legitimate readings because the resolution is vague.
      I figured since we are a Talmudicly educated group we can use an alias as seen in the Talmud. If it is was good enough for them, its good enough for me.

  18. David Ohsie says:

    DF: “Feminism has been a disaster for this country. Secular society has become completely unmoored from its social underpinnings, and is flailing badly. No one has any clue, or if they do, are afraid to say, of what’s expected of boys and of girls, of men and of women. The evidence and the consequences of it are everywhere. Orthodoxy, for all its ills, is a blessed little island of tranquility in this sea of confusion. An attempt to import this failed ideology into our society would be incredibly foolish.”

    Right on the mark! Orthodox society hasn’t budged an inch when it comes to the role of women over thousands of years. We all know that it was always the role of the woman to attain a secular education so that she could provide sustenance for the family while the husband engaged in non-remunerative spiritual matters. Furthermore, women always delved deeply into Torah studies. What women throughout the ages did not study Ramban on the Torah as our daughters do today?

    Furthermore, the role of the women is completely clear and unified in Orthodoxy. Well, I guess there is the pesky issue of whether they should be allowed to drive a car that does split us up a little bit. And maybe college attendance. But the exceptions prove the rule!

    • Reb Yid says:

      And of course the Orthodox establishment has always encouraged females over the centuries to commemorate becoming a Bat Mitzvah. Or holding a Torah. Or reading from a Torah. Or becoming an officer of a synagogue. Our children and grandchildren will laugh at the RCA and the embarrassment of a political document that this is, and wonder what century we were living in.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        I would rather be excoriated . laughed at and embarrassed by a feminist or anyone who supports the radical egalitarian feminist agenda which has as its aim the elimination of all gender based differences in Judaism as opposed to walking through hot coals and a pillar of fire and being proud of the fact that there are gender based differences that are one of the hallmarks of a commitment to Torah Judaism.

      • David Ohsie says:

        @Steve Brizel. Setting aside the humor, could you answer the question? You and DF assert that any changes in the role of women in Judaism is tantamount to “the radical egalitarian feminist agenda”. Yet we know that the role of women has already changed in ways that violate previously established halacha and also is not uniform across Orthodoxy.

        How do you resolve this contradiction?

      • Dov says:

        I think the answer is simple. There are very few in orthodox society who view the OO Rabbis behind this as people who have the sholders to change Mesorah. Its pretty simple Avi Weiss does not equal the Chofetz Chaim or RYBS. Even those opposed to the changes implimented by the Rav believed him to be a huge lamdan and a Talmud of his father. They argued his change not him.

      • David Ohsie says:

        Dov, this was not Steve Brizel’s and DF’s argument. Their argument was that changes to women’s roles in modern time were A) manifestations of “radical feminism” B) never accepted among the Orthodox. Both are false.

        Your argument is that of course things change, and in fact even women studying Gemara is acceptable, but that these changes are not endorsed by people who are great enough and might be going to far. To that I would say, maybe you are right. That doesn’t require claiming that OO is not Orthodox. It might also be right for some people who have a more left-wing PoV but not good for others.

        In fact you seem to agree. While you claim that the Rav was considered acceptable in some way, I think that this a very optimistic outlook. In more right wing circles, he is often considered Treif and his innovations horrible. The right response is IMO “to each his own”.

        I would also carefully consider the case of the education of Women and the Chofetz Chaim. He did not innovate this; others did and then had to get certain greats to accept to avoid rejection and pushback. The Orthodox attracted to OO simply don’t consider the “Gedolim” to have authority over them; they know that their worldview, regardless of OO is considered Treif by such Gedolim.

        To summarize, we already have enough divisions (right/left, sefardi/ashkenazi, zionist/anti-zionist, charedi/dati-leumi, hasidic/litvish). We don’t need to add left wing vs. even more left wing.

      • dov says:

        A fair reply with regards to your point off my comment being off topic.
        I would certainly argue with most of your other points though. I would say that once major change is implemented with out appropriate backers it does veer from Orthodoxy. If we are subscribing to terms (which I do not really enjoy using) we have to understand the major difference between MO and old religious conservative is simply how psak works. If YCT is mangling psak and having unfit arbitrators of mesorah they are blurring a line that needs to be strong (especially being that the MO community if the line is not toed loses itself. ) I work on a college campus with many students from LWMO schools (SAR, Ramaz, Northshore, ETC), these students go to camp Ramah and go on conservative year course. I don’t think most of these students can tell the ideological difference between a partnership minyan and a Egalitarian one . Often in term of religious practice a Solomon Shechter kid is much closer to Torah observance than a LWMO one. There needs to be a clear understanding of what these values are . Writing off statements as the RCA’s as creating divisions is doing the Jewish people an injustice. Additionally, what the RCA’s statement now is that there is no “even more LWMO” , its just simply LW you have now crossed the line.

        The fact that the subscribers to OO don’t care about the gedolim is troubling, but as with any crime or wrongdoing , the leaders of the time must speak out when they feel injustices are happening.

      • David Ohsie says:

        So you then you reject the Rav and YU, since in the opinion of the Gedolim, he deviated from the proper path and was not worthy to do so? Even Rabbi Gordimer seems to reject the Rav’s penchant for including women in Talmud study (and I don’t deny him a right to this opinion).

        Or do you decide for yourself that change A is good and supported and change B is bad and unsupported. If so, then OO can do the same.

      • Dov says:

        I would answer that the Rav was an transmitor of mesorah. My intial point was that eventhough people highly disagreed they found him to be a tremendous person the Talmud of a tremendous person. Yes they disagreed and felt he was making a radical change but the cry was not “you have no right to make this change”. The real arguement in this case is the great Rabbis of our day do not view Rabbi Weiss as that same tremendous person . In short Rabbi Weiss is not the same talmud of his Rebbe as the Rav was the Talmud of his father. That is the break and that is the essence of the arguement.
        And I don’t decide I don’t have big enough shoes to have a real opinion on Rabbi Weiss, but I do feel that the there are big shoulders out there that can have an opinion.

      • Reb Yid says:

        This sadly ignorant comment is sadly all the too typical response. If all they are looking for is a more egalitarian version of Judaism, there are numerous other movements within Jewish life where they could choose to take on rabbinic roles.

        Frankly, the RCA has admitted and is admitting in this statement that women, in fact, can take on these kinds of rules that used to be verboten not so long ago. The hang up at this point is simply on the sociopolitical level….Heaven forbid women should actually use comparable titles to males, have similar prestige, etc for performing, at minimum, “comparable worth” jobs to that of rabbis and having just as much background and training and males in these tasks.

        Male led religious institutions in Jewish life have not exactly been a shining force in recent years, least of all in the Orthodox community

  19. Joseph says:

    This, like the Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah statement is a terrible mistake. It will simply solidify OO and give them more attention and, paradoxically, legitimacy. Haven’t we learned anything from the Nosson (now Natan) Slifkin affair?

  20. Joseph says:

    Incidentally, I’m a member of a modern orthodox synagogue and can give you a report “from the ground” on the reaction to this and the Agudah statement.

    1. A few people are outraged.
    2. A few more shrug their shoulders and laugh about it.
    3. Most are either unaware or don’t care.

    • Reb Yid says:

      The dynamics are very similar to what happened in the C movement when some tried to prevent female rabbinic ordination. Many C congregants in the pews were clueless and/or didn’t care, but those who did were vocal and definitely on the side of female ordination. It was a rather narrowly based group of rabbis who led the opposition, but those who advocated for change were a broad based group of males, females, rabbis and laypersons.

      These are exciting times and ones that scholars of Jewish life will have a lot of fun poring over after the dust has settled.

      • Joseph says:

        Just to clarify when I said that a “few are outraged” I meant outraged at the RCA and the Agudah. I don’t see much, if any, support for these resolutions out there.

      • Joseph says:

        Also, comparing the contemporary situation with CJ is very misleading. The reason most were indifferent to the opposition to women rabbis is because most CJs were extremely disconnected from synagogue life. By contrast those who are indifferent in modern orthodox synagogues today are very committed but see the RCA and the Agudah as completely irrelevant to their lives.

      • Reb Yid says:

        As one who has studied this issue and lived through it, I can tell you that this issue completely missed me in my very active C community. And ditto for many others I know who were very committed, observant C Jews. I only really learned about it in later years when studying it academically.

  21. Steve Brizel says:

    For those interested in Friedan’s comparison, see the annexed link

  22. Steve Brizel says:

    Anyone interested in the comments of Betty Friedan and her views on the conventional family as a “comfortable concentration camp” can easily find such sources on line. What is tragic is that the LW of MO and OO never have confronted the utter falseness of such a comment.

    • David Ohsie says:

      @Steve Brizel: Once again, Betty Friedan was not OO and was not a Maharat. And the “conventional” single-earner family that you describe is not even typical for Orthodox families in America today.

      So what does this have to do with the price of tea in China?

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Feminism is rooted in ar radical ideology that despises the conventional family

      • Reb Yid says:

        Feminism, like any “ism” (including Judaism), has a great variety of forms. A more radical version of it does indeed wish to eradicate marriage and family as social structures. Wahabism within Islam has extremist elements and there’s no shortage of examples within the history of Judaism as well.

        But that’s not to say that feminism qua feminism wishes to uproot all.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        The advocates of feminism are attempting to import the views of radical egalitarian feminism and especially its extraordinarily negative views about the conventional family into a mainstream posture within the MO world. Such views are the ideological basis of all demands by OO for the abolition of all differences between the genders in Halacha and Minhag as well as the demands that the LGTG agenda be accepted, not just tolerated within the normative MO world.

      • David Ohsie says:

        Your argument consists mostly of scare words like “radical”, but leaving that aside: if what you say is true, then why do you keep quoting people outside of OO?

        That would be like me saying “SB, despite his great athletic skill, has abused animals, as you can see clearly from the actions of Michael Vick”.

  23. Steve Brizel says: Dr Stadlan-would not a sense of intellectual honesty dictate full disclosure of your role as a JOFA board member?

    • David Ohsie says:

      @Steve Brizel: You want him to “disclose” that he is being sincere and really believes in what he posts? JOFA is a non-profit organization, so its board members are not paid. There is no conflict of interest in posting beliefs consistent with your volunteer activities.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        I think that full disclosure of his prominent role in JOFA would confirm that Dr Stadlan is not just a prominent advocate of the goals of radical eglalitarianism but that he also is a prominent leader for the cause as well, and that he fully supports the actions of his wife, as opposed to posing a persecuted martyr for the cause.

      • David Ohsie says:

        Your explanation is incomprehensible. Can you identify the statement that results from a conflict of interest as a JOFA board member?

      • Steve Brizel says:

        I didn’t say conflict of interest-I used the term “intellectually honest”-intead of having any pretenses of being within the Mesorah of TSBP, Dr Stadlan clearly should set forth that he is a JOFA board member and that his wife is studying to be a maharat-That would at least enable us to realize how far beyond any normal definition of MO, JOFA, its board members, polices and ideology has collectively posited itself instead of arguing that his POV is within mainstream MO.

      • David Ohsie says:

        But if there is no conflict of interest, there where does the “intellectual dishonesty” come from? You have not given a source.

        Essentially, your reasoning is circular: OO is not orthodox, therefore anyone who is OO is not orthodox and therefore cannot defend OO.

        FWIW, I’m not OO, but I am against adding yet one more level of Sinas Chinam to the already bewildering number of schisms in Orthodoxy. My prediction is that we will not be answering to God how we allowed women’s ordination, but rather how we permitted ourselves to splinter into “n” groups, each of whom are Motzi Shem Ra on one another at best and actually physically violent to each other at worst. “I was just following pashkevils/policy statements/orders” doesn’t sound like a good answer.

  24. SS says:

    R. Gordimer – what is your personal and/or the RCA (more generally) position on the use of the title “Rebbetzin” in light of the recent Oregon state court case allowing a “Rebbetzin” to invoke a clergy confidentiality privilege. I note that this case was reported favorably in the Yated; the argument made to the court was that a woman is a “Rebbetzin” by virtue of training as opposed to marriage; and the argument apparently was supported or cleared by a psak from a well-known NY posek. Moreover, the lawyer who helped develop the argument is a very frum attorney who is well-known for his pro bono work on behalf of Agudas Yisroel. Thanks in advance for a response.

  25. Avrohom Gordimer says:

    SS: I personally think that the court’s recognition of the title Rebbetzin was wonderful. It affirmed the critical import of this traditional and central role of Jewish women – a role that some in the Maharat/Rabba movement have derided, yet a role that has always meant an awful lot and whose depth, breadth and necessity infinitely surpass anything that the Maharat/Rabba movement can offer.

    • PL says:

      So you are saying women can be considered clergy as was in this case. Isn’t that against the wording in the new RCA resolution with concern of “ordination as clergy” Please clarify.

    • Mycroft says:

      I disagree. A Rebbetzin simply means she is married to a Rabbi. It is the Rabbi who I ask guidance from on the basis of his training. I certainly when confiding with a Rav would not expect my secrets to be shared with anyone including the Rav.s spouse.

  26. Avrohom Gordimer says:

    PL: That is not a case of ordination. No one bears a rabbinic title there. It is a case of recognition of an important religious role and function of women.

    • PL says:

      The rebbetzin is a recognition as clergy? And to be clergy would imply ordination ofsome religious leadership role? I guess my concern here is with the ending point in the resolution ” and so long as there is no implication of ordination or a rabbinic status, this resolution is inapplicable.” In the example rebbetzin is an ordination of a clergy, but I guess just not a clergy as rabbi? But Maharat as claims to be a clergy, but does it claim to be clergy as a rabbi? Is there an actual written publication of maharat as a ordination of clergy as a rabbi?

  27. Avrohom Gordimer says:

    PL: Secular law may view a rebbetzin as clergy, but that is not a halachic definition. As to your question about Maharat (and Rabba) clergy status: Yes, Yeshivat Maharat ordains its graduates with a Yoreh Yoreh semicha and uses the word “ordination”. In fact, one recent graduate opted to be ordained as “Rabbi”, and Yeshivat Maharat complied with the request.

  28. PL says:

    What would be helpful is a clarification from RCA on what it actually does encourage and support of opportunities for women. RCA resolutions mention that it does encourage opportunities for women. But what are those opportunities? RCA tells us only what it does not support such as Maharat, Yoetzet Halacha, …. So then what does it really officially support when it states encouraging opportunities for women?

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