Feminist group founder is training to be a 'rabbi'


The founder of the UK branch of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, Dina Brawer, has enrolled at the first yeshivah to ordain women as spiritual leaders for modern Orthodox communities.

Graduates of the four-year programme at New York's Yeshivat Maharat are called "maharat", considered by many as rabbis in all but name.

Mrs Brawer wrote in a Times of Israel blog on Monday that the yeshivah had "opened a space, in which able women can truly be heard as leaders within the Jewish community. Crucially, it grants institutional semichah ordination, conferring on women the authority to make halachic decisions for their congregations."

The first British-based recruit to the course, she enrolled in September as a long-distance student.

Yeshivat Maharat was opened five years ago by Rabbi Avi Weiss and Rabba Sara Hurwitz, who was ordained by him that year. But Rabbi Weiss agreed not to award its graduates the title "rabba" in order to appease the American Orthodox establishment.

For 15 years, Italian-born Mrs Brawer served as a United Synagogue rebbetzin with her husband Rabbi Naftali Brawer. But, as she wrote in her blog, "the title of rebbetzin evidently did not mark me out as a leader, it merely indicated that I had married a rabbi".

She has a BA in Hebrew and Jewish studies from the University of London and a master’s in education and was one of the first graduates of the Susi Bradfield programme to train female educators at the London School of Jewish Studies.

So far the institution has produced five maharats – which stands for manhigah hilchatit ruchanit toranit, a leader in halachic, spiritual and Torah matters.

No equivalent of a maharat exists in a United Synagogue community, although Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, while at Finchley Synagogue, appointed its first yoetzet halachah, adviser in Jewish law, who is qualified to give guidance on issues such as family purity.

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