Thursday, August 24, 2006

Right-Wing Conservative Synagogue Hires Woman Non-Rabbi II

A letter in this week's The Jewish Week which, I believe, justifies the title of this post (link). Note that I know Rabbi Price personally (from about 15 years ago) and do not consider this post to be an insult to him:

Halachic Woman

While Kehillat Orach Eliezer (KOE) on the Upper West Side is an independent entity, its halachic decisor, Rabbi David Halivni, was also, until his move to Israel, the spiritual head of the Union for Traditional Judaism. (“Woman To Lead Halachic New York Shul,” Aug. 18)

Click here to read moreYour article states erroneously that Rabbi Halivni left the Jewish Theological Seminary more than 25 years ago over “the Conservative Movement’s decision to ordain women.” While that statement is part of the common wisdom today, if it were truly that simple it would make KOE’s decision shockingly dissonant with Rav Halivni’s approach. Since he was asked about this by KOE prior to his departure for Israel and he approved their potential choice of a halachic woman as congregational leader, either he has changed his mind over the years, or The Jewish Week had it wrong, as have others for more than two decades. The latter is the truth.

Rav Halivni did not leave JTS over women’s ordination. He and other UTJ founders’ concern was that, given the way the issue was being handled in the Conservative movement, with lack of both process and substance, it would lead to more wide-ranging breaches of halacha having nothing to do with gender issues.

In the case of KOE, Rav Halivni and the UTJ can comfortably support their decision. They are doing it right. They have brought on board a woman who does not claim to be a rabbi, although her work as teacher and preacher is rabbinic.

If a qualified woman becomes the leader of the community without breaching halacha and if her goal is to teach Torah rather than simply further the role of women (i.e. a political agenda), it is, in our opinion, a real kiddush HaShem (sanctification of God’s name).

Rabbi Ronald D. Price
Executive Vice President Union for Traditional Judaism
Teaneck, N.J.

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