Rabbi resigns removal of rabba

Rabbi Michael Harris announced his resignation as senior research fellow on Tuesday evening


Rabbi Michael Harris resigned from his role at the London School of Jewish Studies this week over the college’s decision to drop longstanding teacher Lindsey Taylor-Guthartz following her ordination in New York as a rabba.

Rabba Taylor-Guthartz graduated from Yeshiva Maharat, an Orthodox school that ordains women but is not recognised by United Synagogue.

Rabbi Harris, an Orthodox rabbi at Hampstead Synagogue — a United Synagogue shul which falls under the aegis of the Chief Rabbi — announced his resignation as senior research fellow on Tuesday evening.

“The removal of Lindsey Taylor-Guthartz from her Research Fellowship seriously undermines LSJS’s credentials as an academic institution and I therefore have no alternative but to resign,” he said.

Eve Sacks, a trustee of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance UK, said: “In 2021, we encourage our daughters to aspire to learn to the highest levels in the secular world. It is stifling that this same encouragement cannot be applied to their learning in the Jewish world.”

LSJS chief executive Joanne Greenaway praised Rabba Dr Taylor-Guthartz on Wednesday as a “valued member of the LSJS community” and said the school had found itself “in the significantly uncomfortable position of being caught in the middle of an issue that the Orthodox Jewish community throughout the world has yet to resolve — and, in many cases, yet to discuss.”

Meanwhile, a number of Orthodox leaders voiced support for the Chief Rabbi.

The Executive of the Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue said: “The Chief Rabbi has made the advancement of spiritually and educationally enriching programmes for women a priority of his Chief Rabbinate. Indeed, one of his early decisions was to create a new portfolio in his office to do just that.

“It has been heartbreaking for us, as rabbis of United Synagogue communities which benefit from the extraordinary contribution made by our Rebbetzens, women members and women lay leaders, to see division be stoked on social media pages and in the press.

“This is an important and complex subject that has been distilled down – wrongly – into a debate about whether women can take part in high level Jewish learning or attain additional qualifications. Our view is unequivocal: of course they can.”

The Rabbinical Alliance of America, which represents more than 950 American rabbis, commended Rabbi Mirvis for his decision “to maintain Jewish tradition at the school on a key issue”.

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