Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Flash In The Pan

Sometimes people can make ideas sound great.  Rabbi Avi Weiss seems especially gifted at that, especially given his recent success in creating a furor in the Torah-observant world over what title to give his pet project, Sarah Hurwitz.  At first she was a Maharat, then she was going to be a Rabbah but when told by the RCA that he couldn't do that and call himself Orthodox, he slowly backed away and instead announced that Maharat means female Rabbi instead.
His next idea was to give Hurwitz her own Yeshiva where she could train like-minded women in the rabbinic arts.  Again, an all-woman yeshiva for training women rabbis.  Sounds amazingly ground-breaking.
And then there's the facts on the ground. The funding is limited (apparently the Jewish Meditation Center is using some of the money), the yeshiva occupies a single classroom and there's a total of four students. 
Not exactly the Mir Yeshivah.
After all the kerfuffle, one must remember to keep this whole controversy in perspective.  Within the world of Modern Orthodoxy, Rabbi Weiss occupies a very small place.  Outside of Riverdale, his YCT and now Yeshivat Maharat, his presence is pretty much minimal with a lack of influence to match.  Ultimately his dream of creating an egalitarian Orthodoxy will send him spinning into the arms of the Union of Traditional Judiasm that he now has far more in common with than his fellow Modern Orthodox.  Sara Hurwitz and her students will no doubt follow while insisting that they are truly Orthodox.
It is simply not worth losing sleep over.


LazerA said...

The Union of Traditional Judaism does not permit the ordination of women (this was one of the main issues that led to their break with Conservative Judaism). So, Weiss is probably already too "egalitarian" for them.

chaim b. said...

>>>Ultimately his dream of creating an egalitarian Orthodoxy will send him spinning into the arms of the Union of Traditional Judiasm that he now has far more in common with than his fellow Modern Orthodox.

Why should we care or Rabbi Weiss care what umbrella group you choose to identify him with?

Bartley Kulp said...

This might sound chauvinistic but i think that having a female in charge of a shul is a horrible idea.

It has been noted for example that with the high participation of women in conservative shul events male participation has dwindled.

Imagine your average married male who manages to escape his house for a few hours solace from his wife is suddenly confronted with another broad. Daf yomi would lose its time with the guys appeal if a woman was teaching it.

I know that it sounds crude but there is a bit of truth to it.

Garnel Ironheart said...

Chaim B., the problem is one of truth in advertising. Ask Rabbi Weiss or Maharat Hurwitz what kind of Jew they are and they will proudly announce "Orthodox"! But if they are developing a Judaism that goes against what the broad consensus considers as Orthodox, how can they do that? If they truly want to be Orthodox, they might have to abandon some of their egalitarian initiatives. On the other hand, if the initiatives are what they feel define them, then they might have to stop calling themselves Orthodox.

Bartley, your observation is borne out by studies that the Reformatives have done which show that the more egalitarian a synagogue becomes, the more male attendance drops off. But they suggest it's not for the reason you mentioned but because there is no real egalitarian synagogue. Those that claim to be really are women-first places where men are relegated to the back to make up for "historial inequity" and how many men would like to be in that kind of environment?