The Non-Rabbinic Rabbinic Training Program for Women

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57 Responses

  1. david z says:

    I have never been able to understand why a woman would be so attracted to studying for years material written by scholars who believed her goal to be contrary to God’s will. Why would she trust then in other areas of halakha? I guess wet all have our things where we think they got it wrong but this is pretty big…

    • dr.bill says:

      i do not believe i have seen the question you raised addressed as formulated.  but i can discern very coherent answers from the books/lectures of any number of scholars who happen to be women;  shanks-alexander, fonrobert, hayes and ross  to name just four come to mind.  there also exist both men and women who you probably would consider radical feminists who are world class talmudic scholars.



















      • Steve Brizel says:

        a radical feminist should never be confused with anyone who is properly defined as being part of the community of  “world class talmudic scholars” precisely because he or she simply lacks the commitment to the underlying tradition that constitutes the white letters between the text itself. Such a person may have unusual dexterity in understanding the texts, but without a sense of understanding of the Neshama of the Torah and TSBP and a rebbe, as opposed to a graduate school professor, their works are interesting reading for those interested in their POV, as opposed to being considered Torah Lishmah under the classical definition of the same.

      • dr.bill says:

        i am reminded of what RYYW ztl said about one academic scholar in comparison to certain “gedolim” in letters prof. shapiro published.  one can easily argue that study ruled by overarching devotion to specific assumptions/axioms/traditions/beliefs is by definition subject to strong questions.  a “world class talmudic scholar” need not even be jewish, though the vast majority are.  btw i think there are many, many fewer “world class talmudic scholars” than the number of people to whose names honorific titles are attached.  most professors of talmud are rather mediocre.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        IIic RAL Zl was very critical of Dr t Ross’s view of TSBP and Chazal.

      • dr.bill says:

        he was (as am I btw).  and therefore??  his view of rabbi sherman and his (in)famous psak on geirus and the late rabbi schach’s views on science were not all that positive.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        So why cite Ross as a scholar ?

      • dr.bill says:

        read shanks alexander’s book; her (re) formulation of ross’s views was interesting.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Ain Haci Nami- RAL ZL dissagreed not just with the views of Dr Ross, R Sherman’s psak and R Shach ZL on science but also with RZ views as well. Those facts are irrelevant to RAL’s specific critique of Dr Ross and her gender theory influenced POV on TSBP and Chazal.

      • dr.bill says:

        i agree that her views are impacted by her feminist biases; as i said, i find much to criticize.  but all major figures in our history reflected to some degree or other biases that came from their environment and weltanschauung.  those that deny this are often the most egregious examples.  as i have argued, modernity even invades the inner cloisters of bnai brak.

      • DF says:

        “there also exist…. women who you probably would consider radical feminists who are world class talmudic scholars.”

        I cannot think of one, let alone the plural. [I speak only of fact. As to the why this is, and/or whether or not things are as they should be – that’s opinion.] Writing books on Talmud and world class Talmudic scholars are quite different.

      • dr.bill says:

        with your …. you left out the critical word “men.”  the most obvious is Daniel Boyarin, a radical feminist, neturai karta like, who in the spirit of rabbi adlerstein’s recent blog-piece is considered by some/many the “Gadol Hador.” (among academics!!)  among women, there is no one as radical as him, as far as I know.  but i wrote “who you probably would consider radical feminists” to emphasize that they need not be “radical” to others.  in that category, i think there are a number of candidates and i don’t want to let my biases insult anyone i would leave out.  go to a tier 1 academic conference and the names are obvious.  but as i said most academic talmudists are rather mediocre.

  2. mycroft says:

    “Rabbi Riskin’s words directly violate the ruling of Rav Soloveitchik zt”l,”

    Please enlighten me as to the ruling that R Riskin is violating. R Riskins advocacy of there being female Rabbis goes back at least about 45 years. I spent a Shabbos in the UWS at LSS and R Riskin preached advocating women Rabbis. IIRC correctly he referred to someone similar to Necham Leibowitz as a teacher and Rabbi means teacher. For what its worth afterwards I spoke to R Riskin and had an interesting discussion why I disagreed with him. My point is that his advocacy is not new on the issue. Can anyone show who objected to his position then.


  3. Steve Brizel says:

    Anyone who remembers the R Shlomo Riskin who a pioneering rav on the UWS with adult education programs of a wide variety and a wonderful rebbe in YU’s JSS program from the mid 1960s to the early mid 1970s will tell you that they do not recognize the R Riskin of 2017 who has segued to the far left and essentially identified himself JOFA and its supporters and backers and adopted the feminist line . it is tragic that theiR Riskin who used to consult with RYBS RMF the lubavitcher Rebbe Zicronam Livrachs never established a relationship with a Gadol BaTorah such as RSZA nd now has supporters who invoke the support of RAL ZL when the same never existed in the first instance. I think that R Riskin may not have realized that the leaders of the Charedi world in Israel were far less tolerant of his pushing the halachic envelope than RMF and RYK and that R Riskin reacted by moving sharply to the left which further rendered his perspective marginal because it was quite close in perspective to RDH and RYG.

    As far as the specific statement of RYBS one need only listen to or read the drasha on Korach and a a hour on gerus to understand that RYBS rejected the feminist critique of halacha despite his views on the possibility of women studying Talmud.I think that many of us who have memories of R Riskin from the 1960s and 1970s are deeply disturbed and even pained over R Riskins abdication to and adoption if the feminist critique.

    • dr.bill says:

      to compare rabbi riskin to either the late Rabbi David Hartman or yibadail le’chaim rabbi yitz greenberg, exhibits a depth of understanding i have come to equate with your black/white, no shades of grey perspective.

      • Reb Yid says:

        Riskin in some ways has become quite reactionary and very different from his days on the Upper West Side.   I had the misfortune of hearing a Dvar Torah he gave in Israel (in Hebrew)  the Shabbat right after the US elections.  A very bitter man.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        R Riskin has always attempted to be both a strong RZ but willing to work with friendly Arab neighbors.OTOH R Riskin made some very strong anti Obama statements which he subsequently backed off when they created a storm in LW circles.

      • Reb Yid says:

        Believe me, since then he has come out even stronger against Obama (and against most American Jews–the stuff I heard him say in Hebrew to Israelis was very sad–little did he know there was an American Jew in the room who could understand him) and for Trump.

        Thankfully, the bitterness does not extend to his continued work to promote greater possibilities for Jewish women in the synagogue, beit midrash and greater Jewish world.


      • Steve Brizel says:

        I stand by my assessment which is not mine alone but which is shared by many who also do not recognize the R Riskin of the 1960s and 1970s in his pronouncements over the last ten years. That is the tragedy.

    • mycroft says:


      I quote the speech that I heard R Riskin speak in the early 70s advocating women Rabbis to show that his beliefs go way back. Why I don’t recall any public controversy about his advocacy back then  is interesting.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        My point exactly-MO thought it could coopt the feminist critique of halacha.there was no real public response until the mid 1980s.

      • mycroft says:

        Just as likely possibility, the Rav did not wish to make this an important issue. Not every issue that one disagrees with someone should be made into a yahareg val yaavor. It was only in 1984 while the Rav was still giving shiur that the then younger Roshei Yeshiva made their call to arms without the Rav signing the statement against actions which they believed were done for feminist reasons.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        That is exactly what I meant by co-opting the feminist critique of halacha. Obviously, the inroads of the same were far greater and have continued since the 1970s. Take a look at the essay by the RIETS RY which describes the same.

  4. leah yordis says:

    Instead of criticizing the left-wing modern Orthodox, perhaps the yeshivish Orthodox need to take a long, hard look at….ourselves.

    Why is it that in our community, despite numerous scandals involving male rabbis/teachers, we still do not have women available to counsel women? to teach Torah to adult women? Why are men teaching in seminaries (would we allow a woman to teach in a boys’ high school yeshiva? Well, it’s just as inappropriate the other way).

    Women can’t be rabbis, fine. But what positions of leadership are available to them? Being seminary heads, high school principals etc. – and at the very least, ALL of those jobs should be reserved for women.


    • Steve Brizel says:

      Wake up and smell the coffee many high schools and seminaries are headed and run by women even in the Charedi world

    • Alexandra Fleksher says:

      Leah yordis, no Torah teachers for women? Many communities have women’s learning institutions for women, such as Baltimore’s WIT, Atlanta’s Bina, where both hashkafic and textural classes are offered by women teachers and/or rebbetzins. I have found in my city in the midwest that a lot of the best “female leaders” are in kiruv, and I have observed that in other cities where the most dynamic and articulate frum women devote themselves to that field. I think frum women need to find other frum women to consult with, whether it is a rebbetzin or local teacher, or even a very insightful friend. You’re right, they don’t have a rabbinic or even a communally recognized role (and maybe shuls should consider this for non-paskening matters…ideally the rabbis wife would be fit for the role, but they aren’t always), but I take consolation in the fact that there are amazing frum women who are teachers, community leaders, parent coaches, etc who serve a very important function in the orthodox world. Also wanted to add that in more yeshivish communities, the shiurim offered are normally all hashkafa. Would be nice to see some more in-depth text based shiurim, besides the ones offered at our MO shuls. (maybe yeshivish ladies don’t want to feel like they’re back in hs or sem, or in general, intellectual pursuits are less emphasized as valuable in and of themselves.) It’s certainly a stereotype worth exploring the origins of and reasons for.

  5. Adina R says:

    When it comes to discussing very personal questions about marriage, fertility, intimacy, etc. we need to be realistic. Many women are simply not comfortable discussing those issues with men – and many rabbis I have turned to fail to ask the right questions or understand the need to listen, not just issue a ruling. In our efforts to insist upon male rabbinic authority, we are failing women (and by extension, their husbands). Where is the post about the need to address this problem?

  6. Steve Brizel says:

    Talk to your local Yoetzet. A yoetzet halacha is perceived as enabling women to properly observe taharas hamishpacha .the notion that Rabbanim because of gender cannot relate to issues as fertility and intimacy should not be accepted without proof of such a claim as opposed to feminist rooted perception of an inherent inability solely because of gender.

  7. Yossi says:

    I think a lot of the posts here do make a good point about the need for women who can deal with women’s issues instead of having to ask a Rov. It just gets really weird for a woman to be asking her intimate questions to a Rov, and while many yeshivish men may not accept the final authority of a woman, they would at least be able to take the information back to their own Rov and ask it.

    And while I am very aware of many Rebbetzins who are good people to talk to, many are more of hashkafic influencers than people who can talk about intimate issues that a woman may be going through including nidah, sexuality, infertility etc.

    And I do think the whole male rabbis teaching in the girls’ seminaries makes NO sense, scandals or not. There’s many an inappropriate relationship where nothing happens but the whole thing is off.

    As a seminary Rebbi once told me, “Look, if I didn’t like girls I wouldn’t be teaching them but I just make sure to channel it.” Maybe, I’d be happier with a  female teacher for my daughters.

    And as an aside, my daughters are in an elementary school charedi Bais Yaakov and I’m actually consistently impressed and often blown away by the level of learning, the ahavas Hatorah, and the creativity.



  8. Acco1 says:

    just to clarify, the note from RHS does not appear to have been written by Rav Aviner.

  9. motti says:

    Rabbi Amnon Bazak’s words were very assertive but short on substance.

  10. dr.bill says:

    I can find thousands of teshuvot from the past that NO ONE (outside some far-right charedim) would have the guts to follow  today leHalakha.   Halakha evolves; unless one reads the works of the late jacob katz and his students and grand-students, hashkafic rationales for change are likely to be asserted as THE truth.

    Actually, i am almost through a number of books of a virtual grand-student i became acquainted with on this blog.  Elisheva Baumgarten is a obvious feminist with the ability to read rishonim in context.  here books are brilliantly written and highly recommended.

  11. Bob Miller says:

    Hey, what’s a little phony baloney to someone blowing in the wind of the zeitgeist?

  12. Steve Brizel says:

    Take a a recent survey about who Jewish college students turn to in momenrs of stress in their undergraduate lives-the local Chabad shliach and his wife.

  13. Marty says:

    I quickly glanced through the article, and I think I am not repeating what the author wrote:

    Another big problem with having women Rabbis is the issue of Tznius and keeping the genders separate.  Rabbis need to interact with Rabbis, and having a system where a male Rabbi needs to interact with female ones will reduce the level of Kedusha in the Rabbinate, and may even cause other more serious Michsholim.  Just like with davening it is important to keep the genders separate, so too with learning and paskening.  Also, there are many Gedolim and Rabbonim who make serious efforts to not interact with women that are not their immediate family, and it would be harmful to do anything to change that.

    • Reb Yid says:

      I really hope the author does not believe this.  Our (Orthodox) rabbi regularly studies Torah with the other rabbis in our community.  They are from all denominations and include females.  It has raised the level of respect, knowledge, insight, community awareness and achdut not just among these rabbis but among the congregations represented as well.

    • A.S. says:

      So Marty, it’s OK for rabbis to be uncomfortable with interacting with women, but are you not concerned about those women who are uncomfortable discussing personal, female issues with rabbis?

      • Reb Yid says:

        Just as I’m sure every male on this list would have no problems with their personal physician being a female (note–I am personally quite comfortable with this arrangement although I respect those who prefer to only have male ones)

  14. pinchas says:

    The bottom line is those Rabbis that support the idea of women Rabbis are themselves lightweights in the world of Torah, while those who oppose it are the more learned and more respected Rabbis.  In such a case there is no argument.  Amnon Bazak is neither a posek nor a known Halachist.  He is simply a lecturer on Tanach and often purports questionable ideas.  Rabbi Riskin, although he has done much good, he is not recognized as any Halachik authority and certainly not as a Talmudist. Is there any real contest here?  Does it really matter what they think?  They may cause a lot of harm to the traditional way of Jewish life by carrying out their beliefs, but their opinion does not matter.

    • dr.bill says:

      if change (even in halakhic practice) was always the result of gedolai horaah, you would have a coherent argument; it doesn’t and you do not.  as i noted above read the works of the late jacob katz and the two generations of scholars who learned so much from him.

      for those who do not know Prof. jacob katz, one anecdote will suffice.  In his first Littman volume, Dr. Chaim Soloveitchik translated and greatly expanded one of his earlier hebrew articles.  he apologized for the difficulty of the original article, admitting it was primarily written for his father, Prof. Saul Lieberman, and Prof. Jacob Katz (zichronom lebracha) and they did not need citations and references to talmudic texts and the works of rishonim.

      • Bob Miller says:

        By what objective criteria would you allow some changes in halachic practice and prohibit others?  Do authority and precedent, or your personal likes and dislikes, play any role?

      • dr.bill says:

        often change was driven by behavior of a religiously aware populace.  rabbis would then proscribe those activities they felt are clearly outside halakhic boundaries.  this sounds somewhat incredulous given recent history – the last 150 years.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        How do you and the historians you mentioned account for the strongly antinomian tendency within classical RJ and its equally strongly negative view of Halacha? You seem to be willing all too easily to avoid mentioning this factor which was and remains a cardinal element of RJ theology and practice? Like it or not ideology does matter


      • dr.bill says:

        pardon my ignorance, but what is RJ??  In any case, most of the great historians of halakha – before and after prof. katz were observant, traditional Jews.

      • Reb Yid says:

        To answer Dr. Bill’s question:

        RJ stands for Reform Judaism.  But there is no pat answer here.  Yes, Reform particularly in Europe evolved with an ideological bent.  In America, there were several streams at work–some like IM Wise were much more practical and simply wanted to unify American Jews while others (say Einhorn for example) were much more doctrinaire in orientation.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Why compare the traditional pre enlightenment Jewish world with the decidedly secular portions and the sector of MO where modernity is the determinating element in ones commitment to observance?once again you downplAy the role of ideology

  15. DF says:

    To understand R. Riskin you must realize he is a product of the 1960s. For he and so many of his generation, “success” is tantamount to “change.” Their entire generation is one big Movement, even if, at times, many of them cannot even articulate what is so terrible that needs changing. They all just want to be crusaders and pioneers.

    That’s the motivation for R. Riskin.  What he doesn’t  realize –  and at his age, it is asking too much to expect it – is that the zeitgeist of 2017 is not the same as the 1960s. The winds are blowing in exactly the opposite direction, as the destruction caused by his generation has become apparent. [And nowhere more so that in feminism and the erosion of the family unit.] Unfortunately, no force on this Earth will make him realize how foolish is this last grand adventure of his. It will never succeed, that’s for sure. Sadly, he is hurting his legacy even among those, like me, who have great admiration for his many accomplishments.  At best it will be seen as a late-life quixotic obsession. At worst, it will be seen as much worse. There have been Others in this situation as well.




  16. Steve Brizel says:

    Excellent point when R Riskin is applauded by Blu Greenberg for obtaining women as rabbis and seeking ordination of women as dayanim at a venue that exudes apikorsus kefirah pritzus and the legitimacy of illegitimate life styles it is obvious that the R Riskin of 2017 is not the R Riskin of the 1960s and 2970s who decried tefulon dates and worse from his pulpit. I think that is fair comment that R Riskin has aided and abetted the always present and never renounced goal of the destruction of the family and in particular the model of a bayis neeman BYisrael uvToraso regardless if his stances of trotting out radical ideas and then walking back in a way that he doesn’t seem radical.this has been R Riskin modus operandi for decades .what R Riskin should have realized was that his increasingly radical and halachically unacceptable stances (see RR D Bergers critique) have moved him by choice and design into the territory occupied by RYG and RDH.

  17. Steve Brizel says:

    Dr bill RJ has been used as an abbreviation for classical Reform Judaism here and all over the net for years .my question still stands as to the antinomian and hostile to Halacha ideology of RJ. That has nothing yo do with the mimetic view of observance which you are so fond of quoting.

    • Reb Yid says:

      You are too hung up on ideology, doctrine and theology.  To the extent that it existed at all in Reform, it was because of its European origins and rebellion against the existing order.  But in America, those who were ideological “purists” (of any kind) were often disappointed–the emphasis was much more on the practical.

      FWIW, “traditional” Judaism as practiced in America from 1654 through the mid 19th century was precisely the mimetic tradition you refer to.  Changes in America that evolved from this mimetic tradition spoke to the existing conditions of contemporary Jews which often bore little to no resemblance to certain aspects of that tradition.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        The separation of ideology doctrine and theology cannot be divorced from this discussion. Like it or not, RJ has a strong legacy of antinomianism that was rooted in a POV that post Emancipation Jews should behave in all respects like their German Protestant neighbors ( but which could not account for why the most cultured nation in Europe perpetrated the Holocaust) and which until  the Holocaust and  1948 was marked by a notably anti Zionist streak as well. That was replaced in the US by adopting the prevailing views among the Democratic Party as what it means to be Jewish in America, which has an equally antinomian streak but which uses buzzwords like Tikun Olam , and reproductive rights and assumes that the contemporary liberal and progressive agenda  together with right to critique Israel,  whenever it exercises its self defense somehow in 2017 , as well as either a studied ignorance and or hostility to Torah observance whether MO or Charedi, constitute authentic Jewish values.

        Like it or not,  what the practitioners of the mimetic tradition actually practiced or left behind for the benefit of the academics and historians really has very little relevance for today, and as you have drawn the historical boundary, and such a POV as utilized by you,  has no appreciation for what the Eastern European immigrants, both before and after the Holocaust viewed as authentic Jewish practice observance and piety. Dr Judith Bleich in one of the Orthodox Forum volumes offered a critique of the mimetic tradition that would be well worth reading before invoking the purported superiority of the same,

      • Steve Brizel says:

        The dismissal of ideology as an important if not a paramount reason on understanding all social movements is characteristic of all who assured us that Mussolloni made the trains run on time Hitler merely sought the revision of the treaty of Versailles and that Lenin Stalin. Mao and Castro merely were implementing socialism in practice by crushing dissent and any vestiges of free exercise of religion and capitalism.feminism as an ideology which never stopped viewing the conventional family as a comfortable concentration camp was responsible for the anti inauguration spectacle of irresponsible rhetoric led by the high culture that populates the media culture and academia today and similarly deserves close scrutiny when it adopts Jewish sounding slogans with no comprehension of what Torah and Mitzvos mean and attempts to effect hate hashkafic and radical halachic changes

  18. Steve Brizel says:

    On January 15, 2017, at least 1, 500 men and women attended the OU’s Torah in the City all day program with shiurim on Halacha, Tanach and Machshavah by a wide range of speakers. On the same day, the JOFA conference was held.  The following two links are a sample of the contents of the JOFA program. I leave it to the reader to determine which of the two programs was a great example of Harbatzas Torah and which failed to meet the criteria of the Mishnah in Avos 2:6. I think that a fair comment can be made with respect to the first link that I posted that the speakers at the first linked program are intellectually honest in admitting that the feminist agenda drives their view of marriage which has always been that of rejecting marriage as the “comfortable concentration camp.”

    I find it particularly disturbing that the program that took place at the JOFA conference which readers can read about  therein  but which I won’t describe was based on a similar program that took place at SCW and that at least one speaker at the JOFA conference was a faculty member at YUHS for Girls. I fail to see how such a program and faculty member reflects positively on the mission of SCW and the education of high school students as Bnos Torah.

    One can only read the coverage of the events from JOFA and realize that the speakers and attendees, regardless of their numbers, represent a subset of LW MO who are still letting gender issues and feminist theory and the contemporary zeitgeist on a wide range of related issues  dictate how to respond to gender related issues, while far more of their contemporaries have built and are building a Bayis Neeman BYisrael UvToraso.  What a tragedy that so many people who have such pride in their commitment to modernity have allowed the AZ of our times-feminism-to dictate and direct their view of Torah and Mitzvos. 

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