(Miami, April 2, 2015) – This June, Yeshivat Maharat will graduate its third and largest class of Orthodox women religious leaders to date—six women are graduating from the rigorous four-year course of study and joining the five women graduates from previous years. As the only institution that provides Orthodox women with a path to the clergy, preparing women for positions as spiritual and halakhic leaders, Yeshivat Maharat is also at the vanguard of helping its graduates find employment in communities that welcome them. Targum Shlishi is supporting the institution’s work placement efforts for this year’s graduates by providing a grant for each graduating student, to be used toward enhancing job search efforts as well as publicity around the topic of female leadership in the Orthodox community.
Yeshivat Maharat, established in 2009 by Rabbi Avi Weiss, finds that while many communities and organizations are open to female leadership, there are many others that are resistant. As a result, the institution works diligently to introduce various communities to its students through initiatives such as its Promoting Orthodox Women Spiritual Leaders: Visiting Scholars Program, which Targum Shlishi supported in 2012. To date, all graduates are employed and all members of the class of 2013 successfully negotiated a contract extension after their first year of work.
“Yeshivat Maharat is a long overdue and very welcome addition to the Jewish community. It provides a credentialed pathway for women to serve as spiritual leaders, recognizing the valuable contributions women can make in this capacity. I for one believe that the women in the community are the ones who will be able to fix the religious structure. Given women’s natural talent as superior communicators, their empathetic nature, their inherent spirituality, and their comfort dealing with issues of a transcendent nature, I personally think that they will make better religious leaders. It’s long overdue,” says Aryeh Rubin, director of Targum Shlishi. “Our support is intended to help ensure that more graduates are established in prominent positions in synagogues, university campuses, and Jewish organizations. As the Jewish community at large becomes more accustomed to women in these positions, the opportunities will only grow.”
Aryeh Rubin has a long history of supporting women’s evolving roles in the Jewish world (see the end of this e-mail for links to several pieces he has written in support of encouraging women’s voices and contributions).
The five students who have graduated from Yeshivat Maharat to date hold the following positions:
- Maharat Rachel Kohl Finegold (’13), director of education & spiritual enrichment at Congregation Shaar Hashomayim in Montreal
- Maharat Ruth Balinsky Friedman (’13), maharat at Ohev Sholom: The National Synagogue, Washington, D.C.
- Maharat Rori Picker Neiss (’14), director of programming, education and engagement at Bais Abraham Congregation in St. Louis, MO
- Maharat Abby Brown Scheier (’13), educator, school administrator, and Jewish community volunteer in Montreal
- Maharat Victoria Sutton (’14), director of education and community engagement at Congregation Beth Israel in Berkeley, CA
“I am looking forward to the day when our graduates will be accepted not only as superb female spiritual leaders, but sought after as superb clergy, regardless of gender,” says Rabba Sara Hurwitz, dean of Yeshivat Maharat. “I am confident that this year’s graduates will go on to inspire congregants and community members with their talent and passion for Jewish spiritual leadership.”
Links to a Selection of Aryeh Rubin’s Writing on Women’s Issues and Modern Orthodoxy
- Article, “Toward a Meaningful Bat Mitzvah: A Father Reflects,” JOFA Journal (2010)
- Article, “Toward a Kinder, Gentler, More Tolerant and Flexible Orthodoxy,” Conversations (Spring 2008)
- Book, Toward a Meaningful Bat Mitzvah (2002)
- Book Preface, Toward a Meaningful Bat Mitzvah (2002)
- Book Excerpt, “Evolution of Revolution,” Introduction to Chapter Three, “Legal Considerations,” in Toward a Meaningful Bat Mitzvah (2002)
- Simchat Bat brochure produced by the Rubin Family on the occasion of the birth of their youngest daughter, Maya (1996)
About Yeshivat Maharat
Yeshivat Maharat is the first institution to train Orthodox women as spiritual leaders and halakhic authorities. Located in the Bronx, the institution was founded in 2009 by Rabbi Avi Weiss, senior rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale and founder and president of Yeshivah Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School. Yeshivat Maharat’s dean is Rabba Sara Hurwitz, who was ordained by Rabbi Weiss and Rabbi Daniel Sperber. Although there are many institutions that provide a place for women to engage in serious Torah study, Yeshivat Maharat has taken an important step further. Through a rigorous curriculum of Talmud, halakhic decision-making, pastoral counseling, and leadership development, the institution’s graduates will assume the responsibility and authority to be poskot (legal arbiters) for the community. Maharat is a Hebrew acronym for Manhiga Hilkhatit Rukhanit Toranit, one who is teacher of Jewish law and spirituality. Upon completion of Yeshivat Maharat’s four-year program, having served as interns and visiting scholars, each graduate is qualified and equipped as a new kind of leader in the Orthodox community and beyond. For more information about Yeshivat Maharat, visit its website at http://yeshivatmaharat.org/.
About Targum Shlishi
Targum Shlishi is dedicated to providing a range of creative solutions to problems facing Jewry today. Premised on the conviction that dynamic change and adaptation have historically been crucial to a vibrant and relevant Judaism and to the survival of its people, Targum Shlishi’s initiatives are designed to stimulate the development of new ideas and innovative strategies that will enable Jewish life, its culture, and its traditions to continue to flourish. For more information on the foundation, visit its website at www.targumshlishi.org.