N.Y. Yeshiva Graduates Its First Class of Female Religious Leaders

Three Orthodox women graduate from Yeshivat Maharat, not as rabbis but as 'maharot.'

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Yeshivat Maharat, which trains Orthodox Jewish women to be religious leaders, held its first graduation ceremony on Sunday.

The ceremony, in which Ruth Balinsky Friedman, Rachel Kohl Feingold and Abby Brown Schier graduated, was attended by some 500 people.

The graduates are set to work for Orthodox synagogues and institutions.

Maharat is a Hebrew acronym for Manhiga Hilkhatit Rukhanit Toranit, or leader in legal, spiritual and Torah matters.

Each graduate of the New York yeshiva will use the title of maharat rather than rabbi or rabba - the title given to Sarah Hurwitz, the dean of Yeshivat Maharat, when she was ordained by Rabbi Avi Weiss.

The movement to confer religious authority on women in the Orthodox community, which began in 2009, remains controversial in the Orthodox community.

Last month, the Rabbinical Council of America reissued a 2010 statement that said, We cannot accept either the ordination of women or the recognition of women as members of the Orthodox rabbinate, regardless of the title.

Yeshivat Maharat graduates, June 16, 2013.Credit: Joe Winkler / JTA Photo Service

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