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Female Orthodox Rabbis
A Few Thoughts
By Shlomo Phillips © November 04, 2014

It seems to me that when it comes to ordaining female rabbis there are three main views:

Why or Why not?

Judaism is a religion/people that is based on 5000 years of experience and history. As such we have a LOT of tradition to honor and protect. Change comes very gradually to such a system. This is a great protection as it assures that fads and assimilation do not abruptly alter the strengths that have enabled us to survive the worse persecutions ever experienced by any other group in history.
Also, because our beliefs are firmly rooted not only in Rabbinic Tradition, but also in Torah, we have a further built-in safeguard against assimilation. This is where the demand for female rabbis is coming from. There are plenty of highly trained male rabbis to meet the needs of the Jewish community. Yet SOME Jewish women (and some men) are demanding to be like the nations and have female religious leaders (consider I Samuel 8:5 in this regard). Whether this is a positive change depends on who one asks. Which brings us to position two.
Birth Pangs:
Female Orthodox rabbis are inevitable. The world and our people are very different than we were even a 100 years ago. Whether anyone approves or not, women are now completely integrated into all aspects of public life throughout the civilized countries. Religious leadership is one of the very few hold outs, although female clergy persons are becoming ever more common. Women, who are currently the majority, are going to be Orthodox Rabbis one way or another. Either local congregations or overseeing organizations like the RCA will accept them, or new congregations and overseeing bodies will be created. Halacha is made by what the Jews do, not only by what the rabbis decree. This change is inevitable.
The Non-Orthodox began ordaining women many years ago. The Orthodox will as well, one way or the other. The current debates are but the birth pangs of this inevitable change.
Not Now. Not EVER!:
This is inevitable. Judaism has never been a static religion. It is always changing and developing as exampled by Rabbi Hillel changing the calendar and by modern rabbis ruling that local Orthodox rabbis no longer have the authority to make converts without the approval by groups like the RCA. Some congregations will doubtless resist this change for many years, but it will happen. Some women are already serving as defacto Orthodox rabbis.
What Orthodox women need to do to be accepted as rabbis -- which the vast majority of non-Orthodox female rabbis have failed to do -- is to resist the urge to make their gender a cause cé·lè·bre. In other words, they should NOT be "FEMALE rabbis." They should just be rabbis only. My limited experience with female rabbis is that they seek to be FEMALE rabbis. They talk about it endlessly. They focus on supporting POLITICAL groups like Women of the Wall that blaspheme the sacredness of the Holy Kotel for political purposes. They fail to assist male members the same way they assist female members. They ostracize males who hold to more traditional values and practices.
My point: If Orthodox rabbis who happen to be women do as their non-Orthodox counterparts, Orthodoxy is going to resist, pushing their inevitable inclusion farther into future. Personally I don't really care that much about the gender of the rabbi. What I care about is the Jewishness, the Torah observance, the wisdom, the compassion, the teachings, the inclusion of both genders, the example set forth, by the rabbi. Is the rabbi a good example and resource to ALL members of the congregation of traditional Judaism and its practice? Does the rabbi encourage the Jewish community to become ever more observant and zealous of tikun olam? Does the rabbi lead the congregation and greater community in standing up for Israel? Is the rabbi a committed Zionist? That's what I want to see. Considering that it is becoming ever more difficult to find these traits in any rabbis, male or female, Orthodox or non-Orthodox, gender needs to take a back seat now.

Just my two cents worth.

Be the Blessing you were created to be
Don't let the perfect defeat the good

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