Thursday, January 28, 2010

How the 'Maharat' became a 'Rabba'

Re: the decision to change the title of the NY Orthodox clergywoman from 'Maharat' to 'Rabba', which I discussed here, I now see Rabbi Weiss's full statement:

Over this past year, I have, on numerous occasions, in talks and
symposia around the country, said as clearly as I could that Mahara”t means rabbi, and that Sara Hurwitz has received semikha. Having studied the same curriculum as any man would study for ordination, she has achieved this goal.

We decided when Sara Hurwitz was conferred that we would be assessing whether the title Mahara”t has taken hold in the community.
After a year, what we have seen is that it has gained traction within our own community, at the Bayit. But outside our community, when Sara Hurwitz has officiated at funerals or visited hospitals or when the title Mahara”t appears in newspapers, it has not resonated. Moreover, at times the term Mahara”t has been used inappropriately in a disrespectful way.

And so, after consultation with Rabbi Daniel Sperber, who is signing the klaf with me, we have decided that Sara Hurwitz’s title will now be

In other words, the change to her title did indeed come from a point of weakness - because she was not being accepted as an Orthodox clergywoman, rather than because she was accepted so naturally they could 'afford' to give her the more controversial, rabbinic title (as I think most people have assumed). But according to Rabbi Weiss, the problems were all outside of her own shul (which makes sense).

Will the title make the difference? I hope so but I guess it remains to be seen.

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