Audio: ‘Rabba’ Sara Hurwitz Speaks Out


riverdale-temple[Audio below.] Sara Hurwitz is best known for being a Maharat or Rabba. Hurwitz’s mentor, Rabbi Avi Weiss of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, has given her the title of “rabba,” or female rabbi, to allow heto join Orthodox clergy.

In February, Agudath Israel of America Rabba Hurwitz’s title as a “radical and dangerous departure from Jewish tradition” that “must be condemned in the strongest terms.” Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz warned, “We cannot allow someone whose guide is 20th century feminism . . . to hijack and attempt to redefine Orthodoxy.”

Rabbi Moshe Kletenik, president of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), said , “A woman cannot be ordained as a rabbi or serve in the role of a rabbi based on our tradition.”

Rabba Hurwitz’s example challenges Orthodox tradition and she spoke about it this week on the Zev Brenner show. Click below to listen:

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{Noam NEwscenter}


  1. is she looking for the chareidi world’s haskama?
    why? only if our gedolim tell us to, should we even be goires her and rabbi weiss. it sounds exciting to make a huge machaah to preserve our mesora, but unless the gedolim say its neccesary, the only thing it does is feeed their need for publicity.

  2. The picture you put is of the Riverdale Temple, a Reform Temple. It is not a picture of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, where Sara Hurwitz serves. If you want to editorialize about whether the Hebrew Institute is an Orthodox shul, it’s your right, but at least get your pictures right.

  3. #4 — That’s the point of the picture. There isn’t a lot of difference between the Temple pictured above and the HIR Temple.

  4. #5 – that is a very stupid comment to make. The only difference between HIR and your own shul is that one has a woman giving a speech before Musaf and the other does not. So I guess you’re saying the shul you go to is very similar to the temple pictured above?

  5. I would still like to see a real textual analysis of the issue, which not many have provided convincingly. We see many times in the Gemara discussion of talmedei chochomah (female Torah scholars). What if giving the title of “Rabba” significantly incentivized more women to learn and keep halachah at a higher level? What if the women became better leaders of other women, and were able to keep women from going off the derech? What about Balei Teshvah women who are not able to go to seminary — how much connection do these women have with the Shul Rabbi? They are often abandoned to be ignorant in halacha or to embarrassed to ask, because there is no connection for them, besides maybe a half-learned female neighbor or friend, who may not give the proper guidance.

  6. response to #9.
    You are absolutely right that there is a need for women to be available to answer questions. My father is a mainstream Rav and has for a long time held that there is a tremendous need for Rebbentzens to be available to answer shailos for women. However, woman do not gain Chashivus and Da’as through Limud Hatorah, rather they gain this through being oved hashem and putting all their effort into bringing up their children Al Pi Derech Hatorah, AND through the Da’as Torah of their husbands. Rebbentzen Twersky is a prime example of this. She is sought after for advice on many issues, however her knowledge was not gained through learning Shulchan Aruch and Poskim.
    Even Devorah Haneviah was praised in the Pesukim as being an ‘Aim Beyisroel’.

    As for the issue of the women in our past that have had great Torah knowledge.
    My grandmother who was a pioneer in women’s education gave the following answer.
    If you count throughout our 3322 year history we have about 10 of these women. The famous names are Devorah, Bruriah and Rashi’s daughters.
    If it is true that these are the ‘ideal jewish woman’, isn’t it a little bit pathetic that in over three thousand years, we have only 10!!!
    Obviously that is NOT the ideal jewish woman and we need to look elsewhere for what a jewish woman is supposed to be.
    These women were the exception and while they were holy, it was not this aspect of their behaviour that our woman should feel they must emulate.

  7. I happen to live in Riverdale. Rabbi Weiss is the main reason why the Riverdale Temple, a Reform Synagogue, has been depopulated — many people who would otherwise be going there are now shomer Shabat, have kosher homes, send their children to Jewish Day Schools, and attend the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, which is in fact an Orthodox synagogue, with Orthodox services, and maintains a membership in the Orthodox Union. Rabbi Weiss himself remains a member in good standing of the Rabbinical Council of America and the Riverdale Vaad. And Rov Soloveitchik z’tz’l, from whom Rabbi Weiss received semichah over 40 years ago, held that it was a chiyuv for communities to teach women Torah She Baal Peh and *personally* taught gemara to women. Furthermore, there were well-sourced essays by Rabbis Sperber, Bin-Nun, and Maroof that supported semichah for women and there has been no reasoned essay that has refuted their points. Rabbi Weiss is fully entitled to follow those opinions.

    I know this probably won’t get selected for publication by the moderators, but they should know the truth about what is going on in Riverdale and why he has real support for what he is doing.

  8. Charlie — First of all, Rabbi Soloveitchik was opposed by the Gedolim zt”l. Second of all, Rabbi Soloveitchik did not teach girls gemara personally.

  9. Yaakov,

    Rabbi Soloveitchik z’tz’l WAS one of the gedolim; he was a member of the Moetzet Gedolei HaTorah of Agudath Israel of America in his 30s. And he personally taught the very first gemara class at Stern College for Women in the 1970s; there is a famous photograph of him in front of that class.

  10. Thank you for the interview – very well conducted and informative.

    There are Jewish communities (typically modern orthodox) where there is no traditional role of “Rebbentzen”. Women of that community may want a woman in the Rabbinic staff to provide them Rabbinic guidance.

    None of the organizations that criticized Rabbi Avi Weiss bothered to pick up the phone to discuss the matter. Since when as Jews we started issuing public statements before discussing the matter among ourselves.

    The response of the observant Jewish community to this matter has been very inappropriate. If we disagree then the other is no longer orthodox, “frum enough” or too far to the right or left.