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June 21, 2013

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JUNE 21, 2013 ...... PAGE 17A Orthodox Jewish women ordained as first class of a 'different kind of leader' By Michele Alperin On the surface, last Sun- day's ordination ceremony for the first three graduates of Bronx, N.Y.-based Yeshi- vat Maharat--the first in- stitution to train Orthodox women as spiritual leaders and halakhic authorities-- marked a historic moment for the Jewish community. But Rabbi Jeffrey S. Fox, rosh yeshiva (academic dean) of Yeshivat Maharat, does not view the insti- tution as trailblazing or revolutionary. "On the ground, on a day-to-day basis, what we are doing is very normal, especially for these women who grew up in the modern Orthodox world, where they had access to the same level of Jewish education as their male friends," Fox told Ruth Balinsky Friedman, Rachel Kohl Finegbld, and Abby Brown Scheier--who completed a four-year pro- gram modeled off a tradi- tional semikha (ordination) program and earned the title "Maharat," an acro- nym for legal, spiritual, and Talmudic leader--at Sunday's ceremony in New York City were "found worthy of being granted the autho(ity to teach and determine halakhic rulings to the Jewish people and... ordained as spiritual leaders and decisors of Jewish law." Rabbi' Avi Weiss, founder of Yeshiva Maharat, stated that there are no halakhic barriers to women's ordi- nation. What is new about Yeshi- vat Maharat, according to Fox, is that the graduates have secured jobs within the Orthodox community in accordance with their training. "You can give them the best education and the community can choose to call them whatever they want, but if we don't give them jobs, it is not worth anybody's time and money," Fox told Yeshiva Maharat is shap- ing .a role for women in clergy that does not involve serving as a prayer leader, which women are not al- Maxine Dovere From left to right, at the June 16 Yeshivat Maharat ordination ceremony in New York: Rabba Sara Hurwitz (dean of Yeshivat Malrat), Maharat Ruth Balinsky Friedman, Maharat Rachel Kohl Finegold, and Maharat Abby Brown Scheier. lowed to do under Jewish law. "In a certain sense we are looking to create a dif- ferent kind of leader,', Fox Said. "There is a certain type of leader who leads from a place of davening (prayer) and another who leads from place of learning, and that type of leadership has a certain power to it." For Yeshivat. Maharat board member Rabbi Dan Smokier--whose wife Erin Leib Smokler teaches students at the yeshiva to integrate Jewish texts into services and pastoral work--the yeshiva is an answer to his dream of being able to tell the passionate, brilliant Orthodox Jewish women he sees as a Hillel rabbi at New York University that they can become lead- ers in the Orthodox Jewish community. "I think the inclusion of women, who are more than half the population, in the spiritual, legal, and scholarly leadership of Or- thodox faiths is of-central importance to the era we are living in," Smokier told Rabba Sara Hurwitz, dean and cofounder of Yeshivat Maharat, is a nuts- and-bolts fundraiser (of $4 million thus far), board developer, and infrastruc- ture creator for the growing yeshiva, which began in September 2009 and now has 14 students. Hurwitz maintains that - offered was different from none of the halakhic limita- tions on women will affect the graduates' clerical du- ties. "Women don't count in a minyan, can't serve on a bet din, and don't lead certain parts of services, but they can create a presence on Shabbat morning, and can speak from the bima, can give a dvar halakhah," she told Rachel Kohl Fiegold, who came to the ordina- tion ceremony with a two- week-old infant in tow, has been working for six years with Rabbi Asher Lopatin,. rabbi ofAnshe Sholom B'nai Israel Congregation in Chi- cago and the next president of the Yeshivat Chovevei Torah rabbinical institute for men, which was started by Rabbi Weiss. In 2009, she went to Hurwitz's con- ferral ceremony and heard her speak about opening Yeshivat Maharat. "I realized this was train- ing I had never had for this role I was in," Finegold told "The kind of learning Yeshivat Maharat anything I had done before, and it would allow me a certain clarity around my role vis-h-vis" relating to congregants and people really seeing me as. clergy." Finegold does not view herself as a rebel, but sees her ordination as the next step in the process of the Orthodox community taking women's learning seriously. "We're standing on the shoulders of all the women who came years and years before," she said. "The fact that I was given a Talmud to open and study was because women in the '70s and '80s pushed for it." "The fact that everybody has a job means that the community is ready for us and interested in us," Finegold added. Starting in August, Fi- negold will be joining the clergy of Congrega- tion Shaar Hashomayim in Westmount, Quebec, Canada--which has 1,500 families, compared to her current synagogue's 375-- as director of education and spiritual enrichment. Abby Brown Scheier, whose father is an ordained Conservative rabbi and a professor at York University in Toronto, and her mother a Jewish educator, said of her career choice, "Despite convincing myself that I would not be a Jewish edu- cator because both of my parents were, I ended up doing it somehow--it's in my blood." It never dawned on Schei- er that she "would ever be able to go to a program that would be the equivalent to a traditional rabbinical school." "When YehivatMaharat opened, it seemed like the obvious thing to do," she told Scheier, who has four children under 7, is not interested in pulpit work, but will continue teaching Border From page 1A 1973 Yom Kippur War, and Netanyahu said June 9 that Israel won't enter the war "as long as fire is not being directed at ." That attitude plays well with ordinary Israelis, who clearly don't want their country dragged into a neighboring conflict. An Israel Democracy Institute poll released June 9 showed that 86 percent of Israeli respondents want to stay out of Syria. "Israel has an interest that the two sides will keep fight- ing, and notgo in and decide who's better for Israel," said Syria expert Ely Karmon of the Interdisciplinary Center. "We need to wait and see who will control Syria." The questionremains far from answered. Recent Assad victories have raised the prospect that he could survive the war to control a northern enclave where his minority Alawite sect is concentrated. Should he survive, he could continue to funnel arms from Iran to Hezbollah. No one expects Assad will ever fully regain control of the "whole country. Assad's survival might not be anen.tirely bad thing, ac- cording to Shlomo Brom, a senior research associate at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies. Even a limited Assad re- gime, he said, would help prevent Syria from becoming a power vacuum in which jihadists could attack Israel. And it would give Israel "an address on the oth'e'r side" with which to negotiate. Assad's survival also would be a victory for Hezbollah, which openly committed itself last month to fighting for Assad and drove his victory last week in Qusair, a key city between the Lebanese border and the rebel stronghold of Homs. "It will be a victory for Iran, Hezbollah, the enemies of the West," said Ephraim Inbar, di- rector of Bar-llan University's Begin-Sadat Center. "He helps Hezbollah to hurt Israel." But Hezbollah also could find itself hurt by Assad's sur- vival. The organization, which has long commanded respect in the region for fighting.Is- rael, may find its reputation damaged by turning its guns against fellow Muslims. Hezbollah, Brom said, has shown itself as "a foreign body in Lebanon that serves foreign interests." in the community aswell as tutoring privately for the National Bible Contest, bar mitzvahs, and conver- sions. Scheier's husband is the rabbi of the synagogue where her classmate, Fine- gold, has been hired. Ruth Balinsky Friedman, after earning a bachelor's degree from Barnard Col- lege in psychology and Jewish studies, opted to spend an intensive year studying Jewish texts at the Drisha Institute to broaden her Jewish education. "I was thinking about grad school in psychology but something in me knew that wasn't what I totally wanted to do," she told Having spent so much time with people studying to be Jewish spiritual leaders while she was at Drisha, she thought, "Hey, this is some- thing I want to do also." Aware that some Orthodox women were working in synagogues, she said, ""I knew this was a glove that fit and this was a path that right for me even though I didn't know where it would lead me." Friedman will be work- ing at Ohev Sholom, the National Synagogue, as Maharat, alongside head rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, in all areas of synagogue life. Beyond being able to do the work she loves, Fried- man sees herself paving the way for other Jewish women to do the same. "A second layer is to [set a] model for girls in the future to feel this is something they can be, too--they can be leaders in the Jewish community if that is something they want to do," she said. HELP 'WANTED00 Part-time assistant -editor Approximately 22 hours per week, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, from I - 5 p.m. Wednesday 11 - 5 p.m. Responsibilities will include editing, writing, page layout, photography and some misc. clerical. Knowledge of the Jewish community and computer experience helpful. Please sendresume to : jeff@orlandoheritage.c0m or call Jeff at 407-834-8787.