Yeshivat Maharat: Facts on the Ground

Rabba Sara Hurwitz

Yeshivat Maharat is a pioneering venture, founded in 2009 to be the first institution in Jewish history to produce Orthodox women rabbinic authorities.

Although there are currently many valuable institutions that provide a place for women to engage in serious study, our institution has gone one step further.  Yeshivat Maharat has a formal curriculum to train women to be rabbinic leaders, bestowing upon women the authority to be poskot (legal arbiters).  Yeshivat Maharat will advocate for women’s full participation in the community as spiritual leaders.

Yeshivat Maharat is dedicated to giving Orthodox women proficiency in learning and teaching Talmud, understanding Jewish law and its application to everyday life as well as the other tools necessary to be Jewish communal leaders.  “Mahara”t” is a Hebrew acronym for manhiga hilchatit ruchanit toranit, one who is a teacher of Jewish law and spirituality.  YM’s students and graduates will inspire the community to realize the benefit of having women in these roles, using their talents and skills which up until now have been excluded.

Yeshivat Maharat accepts women as students who self-identify as Orthodox and want to serve the Jewish community in a leadership position, specifically that of rabbinic leader. YM has an Open Orthodox philosophy. This includes a religious worldview rejecting the approach of daat torah which relies on a small group of Torah scholars to decide all religious, social and political matters; a belief that all knowledge is part of a sacred world so secular culture and knowledge should be embraced; open support for the modern State of Israel; expanded roles for women; pluralism and the importance of political activism.

Yeshivat Maharat was founded this past summer by myself and Rabbi Avi Weiss, after Rabbi Avi Weiss ordained me, following seven years of study under his auspices and working as part of his rabbinic staff at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale. YM’s entering class consists of four women studying full time and two studying for their pre-requisites at Drisha Institute. Two of the full time students follow an independent course of study and work with rabbinic staffs in congregations in Chicago and Montreal. They “skype” in for classes. YM is training its students using the best of traditional and innovative methods- a true combination of the ancient and the new!

The Yeshivat Maharat program is a four-year full-time course of training.

Coursework: The YM curriculum is modeled after other Orthodox ordination programs, with the goal of providing all the necessary skills to be spiritual leaders in the Jewish community. Each graduate must be expert in Jewish law, Talmud, Bible and Jewish Thought and have rhetorical facility and counseling proficiency.

Internship: In addition to study, the students will be placed in an internship in a synagogue, school or communal organization. This practical, hands-on experience will benefit the student and the community while also helping community members become accustomed to the idea of women in rabbinic leadership positions.

Job placement: The Yeshiva staff will advocate on behalf of its graduates to place them in positions of leadership in synagogues, schools, campus organizations and community centers.

For the immediate future, the Yeshiva will remain a small program, limited to six women in each one of the classes, who are committed to Orthodox Judaism, have a strong background in Jewish studies, are already proficient in Talmudic text and who want to serve the community in a rabbinic capacity.

If you would like to apply for Yeshivat Maharat, please let me know.

15 Responses to Yeshivat Maharat: Facts on the Ground

  1. Igor says:

    Kol hakavod!

  2. Anonymous says:

    I notice that your title has changed. When did you decide to start calling yourself “Rabbah”? Isn’t the name of the yeshiva “Yeshivat Maharat”? Are you going to change the name to “Yeshivat Rabbah”? Seems somewhat strange to a casual observer…

  3. I’ve been wondering why Yeshivat Maharat isn’t institutionally affiliated with YCT. If nothing else, I’d expect that sharing infrastructure and faculty, etc., would be more economically feasible.

    But moreover, having Yeshivat Maharat and YCT separate somehow conjures images of Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board.

    So I’m curious, just honestly curious, why YCT and Yeshivat Maharat seem to have no affiliation whatsoever.

  4. yehupitz says:

    Wow, Rabba indeed. That slippery slope sure is steep. Most movements take years or decades to organically develop. That way, nobody can accuse the people involved of explicit intent. How long did Maharat satisfy the yearning? Nine months? Ms. Hurvitz, you and Rabbi Weiss accept a philosophical premise that men and women should have identical spiritual and halachic personas. This is in direct opposition to any and every sex-based premise or meta-halachic worldview of any Torah-Navi-Talmud-Rishonim-Acharonim-based system. As such, nothing short of complete overturning of Seder Nashim will satisfy this group’s desire to reconcile Orthodoxy with Feminist Theory. At this rate, the “a” will morph into an “i” by Tu Bishvat. Hatzlacha. Let everyone be clear about where s/he stands.

  5. ADDeRabbi says:

    So the title is Rabba now? I had just gotten used to being a Mahatetzin; now I’m a Rabbatzin?

  6. Anon says:

    This is a huge mistake. If you wanted to have a lasting impact of any sort and actually make a difference, you know, actually make it possible for women to become Orthodox poskim, you’ve squandered that opportunity. The most this will accomplish is create a war between the Yeshivish crowd (that includes many to the left of the Haredim) and those edging towards “Open Orthodoxy.” While I 100% believe that women should be allowed to pasken, I will not support yet another war within the Jewish community.

    • Make a difference for who?

      For ourselves, we know we’re right, so let’s make women posqim already!

      As for the Haredim, they’ve already disconnected themselves from the Jewish people and Orthodox Judaism, and formed their own new religion, so who cares what they think? If they want to hear the truth, great, but if not, let them rot in their ignorance.

      • Anon says:

        If by “ourselves” you mean “the small portion of Left Wing Something Orthodoxy that likes egalitarianism,” then I guess you’re right. Me, I include a lot more people in “ourselves,” and I’d rather recognize and leave un-alienated the many shades of gray that exist between the Haredim (not really even applicable in America to a large extent) and the Something Orthodox. In fact, I’d rather get them to go along with things and recognize the Women’s decisions. But that will NEVER happen like this.

      • Anon,

        As far as I’m concerned, the Haredim have split themselves off from the Jewish people and formed a new religion.

        Rabbi Ben Zion Meir Hai Uziel long ago, during the British Mandate period, ruled that women may be rabbis, based on Tosafot, Sefer ha-Hinukh, Ritva, and the Hida. Pretty solid basis, don’t you think? But the Orthodox today are still debating the issue!

        So I’m not talking about the “the small portion of Left Wing Something Orthodoxy that likes egalitarianism”. I’m talking about Jews who still keep traditional Judaism, be it Sephardic or German Neo-Orthodox. (Breuer’s today is not German Neo-Orthodox in weltanschauung, and the Haredi Sephardim are not Sephardi in hashqafa. I’m talking about people who still keep authentic Sephardic and German traditions.) Look at the writings of Rabbi Haim David Halevy, one the greatest rabbis of recent years, and perhaps THE preeminent Sephardi rabbi of the whole world. Read his writings, and tell me whether you think he’s more similar to Modern Orthodoxy or the Haredism. Let me give you one example of one of his rulings: he said it is permissible to study secular studies on Shabbat in preparation for an exam, because the secular studies are intrinsically beneficial in and of themselves, and so studying them for an exam is NOT hakhana. Remember, Rabbi Halevy was a traditional Judeo-Spanish Sephardi who learned in Porat Yosef and never went to university.

  7. Anonymous says:

    “Rabba Sara Hurwitz”

    Why the change in title?

  8. Jewish News says:

    […] No more Marahat: A new title for Post-Orthodox female clergy – “Rabba”: link […]

  9. Roalnd T says:

    It is funny how you use the word orthodox in this article seven times. Despite what Goebbels said, lehavdil, saying it over and over doesn’t make it so.
    Orthodox women rabbi is an oxymoron. It doesn’t go together. Rabbi Kanefsky has an article on the web page about bar mitzvah kids in his community. He decided that certain things that are not orthodox are. Then he taught them for 14 years in his shul and school and now says “golly, see that, centrist orthodox youth believe such and such. That is what modern orthodoxy is” Just because you said it and tricked these innocent youth into believing it does not make it so.

  10. Rabbah…

    I stumbled upon the “Morethodoxy” site run by a couple of my good friends, Rabbi Barry Gelman and Rabbi Asher Lopatin, and noticed that a co-writer of theirs, Sarah Hurwitz, had given herself the……

  11. Chana says:

    Do you know how I can apply for this program?

  12. […] No more Marahat: A new title for Post-Orthodox female clergy – “Rabba”: link […]

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