Rabbi Avi Weiss wrote the following statement this week:
It is almost a year since Sara Hurwitz was given the title Mahara”t at a conferral ceremony. I indicated at that time that Sara Hurwitz is a full member of our clergy staff.
Over this past year, I have, on numerous occasions, in talks and symposia around the country, said as clearly as I could that Mahara”t means rabbi, and that Sara Hurwitz has received semikha. Having studied the same curriculum as any man would study for ordination, she has achieved this goal.
We decided when Sara Hurwitz was conferred that we would be assessing whether the title Mahara”t has taken hold in the community. After a year, what we have seen is that it has gained traction within our own community, at the Bayit. But outside our community, when Sara Hurwitz has officiated at funerals or visited hospitals or when the title Mahara”t appears in newspapers, it has not resonated. Moreover, at times the term Mahara”t has been used inappropriately in a disrespectful way.
And so, after consultation with Rabbi Daniel Sperber, who is signing the klaf with me, we have decided that Sara Hurwitz’s title will now be Rabba. This will make it clear to everyone that Sara Hurwitz is a full member of our rabbinic staff, a rabbi with the additional quality of a distinct woman’s voice.
The klaf will now read,
Sara bat Mordechai HaLevi U’Batsheva
has studied and toiled in our holy Torah for many years. She has studied Torah and many halakhot from important rabbis and halakhic decisors, and has been tested in the laws of Shabbat, the laws of kashrut, the laws of niddah and the laws of mourning.
She has been found well versed in these laws, in the rulings of the rishonim and the achronim, and is qualified to respond in these areas of halakha with good judgment and clear reasoning.
It is thus, that we declare to the public, that she is worthy
לענות לכל שואל ושואלת בדבר הלכה
TO ANSWER ANY PERSON IN MATTERS OF HALAKHA
Behold, Ms. Hurwitz has been serving for many years as a Madricha Ruchanit to an important congregation, is skilled and experienced in communal leadership, in officiating at lifecycle events, and in spiritual and pastoral counseling. She is well qualified to teach Torah to the larger community and to lead the congregations of Jacob, and we are certain that her awe of Heaven precedes her wisdom.
We therefore find her worthy to serve as a Halakhic, Spiritual, and Torah Leader (MaHaRa”T)
and she shall receive the title of
Fortunate is the holy community that will choose Rabba Sara Hurwitz in honor, to bask in the glow of her wisdom. The authority of the Torah will rest upon her shoulders, to spread the knowledge of God throughout the land.
In testimony of which, we affix our signatures below,
On this day, 26 Adar, 5769,
which corresponds to March 22, 2009
Rabbi Daniel Sperber Rabbi Avraham Weiss