Ohr Torah Stone Colleges and Graduate Programs (OTS), an educational organization founded and headed by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin of Efrat, announced last month the graduation of the two newest graduates of its Susi Bradfield Women’s Institute of Halachic Leadership (WIHL) at Midreshet Lindenbaum, Rabbanit Dr. Jennie Rosenfeld and Rabbanit Shira Zimmerman.
At the third of such graduation ceremonies, the two women received certification as Spiritual Leaders and Arbiters of Jewish Law (Morot Horoah) after completing five years of intense study and passing exams equivalent to those taken by semicha students in the halachos of kashrus, Shabbos, purity, mourning, marriage and divorce, and conversion.
Present at the ceremony was Rabbanit Meira Welt-Maarek, who was certified by WIHL in 2015 together with Rabbanit Chana Klein-Ravhon. The former is currently interning alongside the rabbi of a major Israeli hospital.
“Certifying women to serve as spiritual leaders and arbiters of Jewish law is important, even revolutionary,” said Rabbi Riskin, “but it’s something that should have happened already a long time ago. To our great satisfaction, today’s girls and women have a new type of role model to look up to and emulate. I sincerely hope that the integration of female spiritual leaders will grow, so that greater numbers of women will be given positions in synagogues, communities, and other institutions, both in Israel and in the Diaspora. And it will happen.”
A written message from Rabbi David Stav, head of the Tzohar organization and co-Chancellor of OTS, expressed satisfaction that “We have merited to live in an era in which women are learning intently and achieving status of talmidot chachomot and morot halacha.”
Rabbanit Dr. Rosenfeld noted that she spent the past two years working in Efrat as a spiritual leader under the guidance of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin as part of a pilot project in four major areas: teaching Torah in shuls, visiting houses of mourning, answering halachic questions and managing the Religious Council’s Financial Claims Court.
The first woman to publicly receive semicha was United States born Chaviva Ner-David. After her 2006 ordination she began questioning Torah fundamentals and she now refers to herself as “trans-denominational.”