Maharat is a Yeshiva located in Bronx, NY, which is the first Orthodox institution in North America to ordain Orthodox women. The word maharat (מהרת) is a Hebrew acronym for words manhiga hilkhatit rukhanit Toranit (Hebrew: מנהיגה הלכתית רוחנית תורנית) denoting a female "leader of Jewish law spirituality and Torah". Maharat, as a clergy title, is awarded with semikha to the graduates of a 4-year-long program composed of profound studies of Jewish law, Talmud, Torah, Jewish thought, leadership training, and pastoral counseling.
In 2009, Rabbi Avi Weiss and Rabbi Daniel Sperber ordained Sara Hurwitz. She was the first woman to receive Orthodox semikha. That same year Hurwitz and Weiss founded an Orthodox yeshiva (religious school) for women: Yeshivat Maharat in New York, where Hurwitz serves as President. In 2018-2019, its 10th year, Maharat has graduated 26 women who are serving in clergy roles in synagogues, schools, hospitals, universities and Jewish communal institutions. There are 31 more students in the pipeline, preparing to change the landscape of Orthodox Judaism and the community at large. Maharat has impacted over 50 communities worldwide.
Graduates of Maharat utilize titles such as Maharat, Rabba (רבה, a neologism), Rabbanit (רבנית, traditionally denoting a rabbi's wife) and Rabbi (רבי). In 2015, Lila Kagedan was ordained as Rabbi by that same organization, making her their first graduate to take the title rabbi.
In 2015, the Rabbinical Council of America passed a resolution which states, "RCA members with positions in Orthodox institutions may not ordain women into the Orthodox rabbinate, regardless of the title used; or hire or ratify the hiring of a woman into a rabbinic position at an Orthodox institution; or allow a title implying rabbinic ordination to be used by a teacher of Limudei Kodesh in an Orthodox institution." Also in 2015, Agudath Israel of America denounced moves to ordain women, and went even further, declaring Yeshivat Maharat, Open Orthodoxy, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, and other affiliated entities to be similar to other dissident movements throughout Jewish history in having rejected basic tenets of Judaism.
Avi Weiss has continuously tried to advocate for the right for female clergy to use the rabbi title. In protest of those denying this right to women, Weiss resigned from the Rabbinical Council of America.
- Breger, Sarah (November–December 2010). "Do 1 Rabba, 2 Rabbis and 1 Yeshiva = a New Denomination?". Moment Magazine. Retrieved July 31, 2013.
- "The Maharat Movement - Editorial –". Forward.com. 2013-06-13. Retrieved 2015-06-18.
- "We want to place these women in synagogues". New Jersey Jewish News. 2012-02-24. Retrieved 2015-06-30.
- Rabbi Lila Kagedan (25 November 2015). "Why Orthodox Judaism needs female rabbis". The Canadian Jewish News.
- "First female graduate of Orthodox seminary hired by synagogue". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved 2016-01-17.
- "First female rabbi to lead Orthodox synagogue". Jewish Standard. Retrieved 2016-01-17.
- "New Jersey Orthodox Synagogue Hires Woman Who Uses 'Rabbi' Title". Haaretz. 2016-01-12. Retrieved 2016-01-17.
- "Rabbinical Council of America officially bans ordination and hiring of women rabbis | Jewish Telegraphic Agency". Jta.org. 2015. Retrieved 2015-11-01.
- "Moetzes: 'Open Orthodoxy' Not a Form of Torah Judaism". Hamodia.
- "Breach in US Orthodox Judaism grows as haredi body rejects 'Open Orthodoxy' institutions". The Jerusalem Post - JPost.com.
- Josh Nathan-Kazis (3 November 2015). "Avi Weiss Defends 'Open Orthodoxy' as Agudah Rabbis Declare War". The Forward.
- JTA. "Rabbi Avi Weiss quits Rabbinical Council of America in protest - Jewish World News". Retrieved 2015-06-30.
- "Newly minted female Orthodox rabbis to be called 'rabba' - Jewish World News".
- "In protest, Avi Weiss quits Rabbinical Council of America". Retrieved 2015-06-30.
- "Avi Weiss Quits Rabbinic Group in Flap Over School - Breaking News". Retrieved 2015-06-30.