WOW! Very cool indeed!!
According to the Jerusalem Post Rabbi David Hartman of the Shalom Hartman Institute is set to begin training women for Rabbinic Ordination.
I’m a huge fan of Rabbi Hartman as well as the Shalom Hartman Institute and to be honest I’m not all that surprised he has started training women for the Rabbinate. I kind of saw this coming last summer, based on a few things he said in a video lecture of his that I watched.
Anyhow this is IMO great news and (at least in theory) is an important step towards removing one of the main barriers, that has kept people like myself from actually pursuing an Orthodox Conversion. Not that I’m planning to pursue anything at this point in time, but who knows down the road?
Also I have to admit that this news is a little ironic in light of my last post and it certainly provides a little balance in terms of my recent perceptions of Orthodoxy.
Here is a chunk of the J-Post article:
In a step that marks a major change in gender roles within modern Orthodoxy, women will be ordained as Orthodox rabbis.
Jerusalem’s Shalom Hartman Institute, founded by Rabbi David Hartman, himself a modern Orthodox rabbi, will open a four-year program next year to prepare women and men of all denominations – Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and also Orthodox – for rabbinic ordination.
Ordination will be provided within the framework of a teacher-training program that prepares graduates to serve in Jewish high schools in North America.
“For too long now we have been robbing ourselves of 50 percent of our potential leaders; people who can shape and inspire others,” said Rabbi Donniel Hartman, co-director of the institute and son of David Hartman.
“The classic distinctions between men and women are no longer relevant. People who come to the Hartman Institute to study are committed to making gender equality in Judaism a reality.”
Hartman said the institute was not trying to make a political statement by ordaining women as Orthodox rabbis, but rather was fulfilling a real need for “master educators” who could take on leadership roles in education in North American high schools.
Why would an institute that runs an Orthodox middle school and high school for boys, and that will open an Orthodox girls’ school next year, decide to provide rabbinic ordination to women despite the controversy it will arouse in Orthodox circles?
“Hartman has been multi-denominational for the last 12 years. We make no distinctions between men and women here. Our latest decision is a natural evolution of our existing policy,” David Hartman said.
“We think the title ‘rabbi’ is important because in the Jewish tradition, the highest level of educator was given the title rabbi, which literally means teacher. Today, the top-tier educators seek the title of rabbi to reflect their status as well,” he said.
During the four-year course, participants will receive a master’s degree in Jewish Philosophy from Tel Aviv University and intensive training in teaching techniques and theory.
“This is a smicha [ordination] program that is not built around the classic learning of Jewish law, rather on the ability to communicate the central ideas of Judaism in an inspiring and meaningful way for the next generation of youth,” Hartman continued.
Traditional Orthodox rabbinic training programs focus exclusively on text learning and the acquisition of legal knowledge. They do not devote time to teaching skills that Hartman believes are desperately needed.
Hartman will be the first institute to offer Orthodox rabbinic ordination to women.
In all non-Orthodox streams, being female is not an obstacle to becoming a rabbi. The Reform Movement began ordaining women in 1972, Reconstructionists began in 1977 and the Conservative Movement began in 1983.
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, a leading modern Orthodox rabbi and head of the Ateret Yerushalayim Yeshiva, said in response to the Hartman Institute’s announcement that he opposed giving women the title “rabbi.”
“I think it is degrading to tell a woman that she won’t be respected and appreciated unless she adopts a man’s title,” Aviner said. “Throughout the generations there were always scholarly women who were highly respected. Jewish law dictates that a man must stand before a learned woman just as he must stand out of respect for a learned man.”
Aviner said he was more concerned with the idea that Orthodox Jews would study together with their Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist brothers and sisters.
“Learning Torah is like getting married,” he said. “It is not just an intellectual exercise, it is a Jew’s life. To learn with a totally secular Jew is permitted, but learning with Reform and Conservative Jews is problematic because they do not believe as I do, they do not have a fear of God.”
You can read the rest of the J-Post article here.
I think it’s impressive that all of this is happening within a trans-denominational learning environment. One which will be not only ordaining Orthodox Rabbis, but Rabbis in to all the major streams of Judaism, including Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist. However, what I’m curious about now is, as a non-orthodox Jew By Choice would I be allowed to enroll (in this trans-denominational rabbinic program) and if I successfully completed all the requirements would I receive simcha?
I’m not trying to take away from this great news, but the question did pop into my mind as I read the article and I think it’s a fair question. I mean surely the “who is a Jew” question is something that’s going to come up in an institution run by an Orthodox Rabbi who is training Rabbinic students from and (presumably) on behalf of the non-Orthodox streams of Judaism. Could such an institution in good conscience really participate in allowing a non-orthodox convert (like me) in to the rabbinate? Even a non-orthodox rabbinate?
I guess we will just have to wait and see.