OU Member Orthodox Shul in Baltimore to Host “Rabba” Hurwitz Tonight


sara-hurwitz-baltimoreMatzav.com Exclusive: Beth Tfiloh Congregation in Baltimore Maryland, led by Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg, will be hosting the controversial Rabba – formerly Maharat – Sara Hurwitz for its Stanley Z. Penn Memorial Lecture this evening. The Modern Orthodox synagogue, in its newsletter, touts Hurwitz as an “internationally renowned educator, speaker, author and Jewish Activist.” She will be speaking on the topic of “Women Transcending Boundaries” at 7:30 pm at the Rosen Performing Arts Center-Mintzes Theatre.

Beth Tefiloh is a member of the Orthodox Union Synagogue Network.

“Rabba Hurwitz is the first woman ever to be ordained and appointed as a full member of the clergy of a mainstream Orthodox synagogue,” boasts the synagogue’s newsletter. “Born in South Africa, Rabba Hurwitz later moved with her family to Boca Raton, Florida. She is a graduate of Barnard College and has studied at Midreshet Lindenbaum in Jerusalem, Israel and the Drisha Institute in New York. After seven years of personal study under the direction of Rabbi Avi Weiss, Rabba Hurwitz mastered the texts in which all Orthodox spiritual leaders are trained as well as the skills needed to actively serve as a spiritual and halachic communal figure. Rabba Hurwitz presently serves as Dean of Yeshivat Maharat in Riverdale, NY and is a member of the rabbinic staff at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale.”

Beth Tfiloh Congregation claims to be the largest Modern Orthodox Synagogue in America, with over 1,300 members “representing a wide range of religious observance.”

Beth Tfiloh also operates the Dahan Community School and a camping program.

Beth Tfiloh Congregation was founded in 1921 in the Forest Park neighborhood of Baltimore City. Past rabbis of the shul have included Rabbi Samuel Rosenblatt and Rabbi David Novak. Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg was appointed rabbi in 1978, and has continued in that capacity for the past 33 years.

While Avi Weiss has said that it is not the intention of his institution, Yeshivat Maharat, to confer the title of “Rabba” upon its graduates, his protégé, Ms. Hurwitz continually uses the title on herself.

The gedolim have in the past made clear that conferring “semichah” upon a woman and giving the title of “Rabbah” represent a radical and dangerous departure from Jewish tradition and the mesoras haTorah and must be condemned in the strongest terms.

{Shmiel Gellman-Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. Enough of the witchhunt matzav!

    This woman (misguided as she may be) knows more Torah than a lot of mainstream Charedi people

    Anyways, there is nothing wrong with a shul inviting her to speak.

    Leave it alone.

  2. let us hope this is denounced loudly and clearly by the organizations of which this synagogue is a member
    send them emails

  3. Whether the shul is really Orthodox or not is irrelevant because it CALLS itself Orthodox and it is a synagogue recognized as Orthodox by the OU and the RCA. END OF STORY. This raises serious problems when such a person who defies Jewish tradition will be speaking there as if our gedolim’s views are worthless chas veshalom.

  4. You have no clue.

    Beth Tefiloh is less than 50% frum (by your standards). Most of the people who go there for Shabbos drive to shul,

    Most of the people in the school would be in Public School or a conservative school.

    This has nothing to do with you

  5. Emes is emes, regardless of the times. Why does Matzav feel compelled to give this “movement” any more press? The point was made and the macha has been done. Why report this story?

  6. This is a radical and dangerous departure from Jewish tradition and the mesoras haTorah and it must be condemned in the strongest terms.

    I want responses here on this site from the OU AND THE RCA. NOW.

  7. Why are you still on to this? there are so many critically important issues and concerns that plague us daily… Who cares where she is speaking? Why is this newsworthy?

  8. “Beth Tefiloh is not orthodox its consurvodox some show up with cars on shobbos. nice people tho”

    I don’t care if Beth Tefiloh is Ashkefardic Orthoconservreform; there is no place in Judaism for a “rabbah”.

  9. Why is this newsworthy? Beacuse the most modern orthodox shul in baltimore with a microphone and an open parking lot on shabbos brings the Rabba? Or because the assistant Rabbi is a graduate of YCT? If the Agudah in Baltimore brought her that would be newsworthy.

  10. Shame, shame, and more shame. The temple in Baltimore is not an orthodox shul. Such claims are outside the pale (or inside the waste pale). For those that question the beracha we say everyday “shelo osani isha” thsi is precisely the “isha” that intended. Thank you.

  11. Afra l’pumai that Rav Ruderman ever would have “permitted” a microphone! He only ruled that the shul be kept nominally Orthodox despite the microphone and [then]lack of mechitza.

  12. Sheldon- no. The microphone was brought in by Rabbi Poliakof, who is a big talmid chacham, but marches to his own drummer. NOT RAV RUDDERMAN. Rav Rudderman was not mattir a microphone on Shabbos.

  13. I am not supporting the Rabbah, because it is obviously against Halachah, but what is the need to publicize this story and specifically tag the OU and the RCA as the culprits for this situation? Just because you have a couple bad apples, doesn’t mean that you throw out the entire tree. Also, while everyone may have there unique differences, some of which we may be opposed to, that doesn’t justify the lashon hara that this topic generates. In this day and age, especially as hate crimes are increasing in Flatbush and the world is going crazy, as Yidden we need ACHDUS, not divisions. Please be more careful before you publish such worthless articles. No good can come out of your publicizing of this speech.

  14. Naar – nice message on achdus, however you are mistaken to say “its obviously against halacha” – referring to Rabba. While I believe her to be misguided, there is absolutely NOTHING against halacha with anything she has done at least publicly.

    What she is represents a major hashkafic difference of opinion. I defy anyone (with a brain) to come up with any source that being a “rabba” is against anything in Halacha. You can’t.

    The personal attacks on her – now those are more likely to be against halacha.


  16. it is important to report this to let the olam know that these people thumb their noses at mesorah and hashakafa not giving a hoot about what it will do to Yiddishkeit

  17. This is no surprise at all for this shul. It is about ZERO % Shomer Shabbos. BUT they have the wealthiest congregants in all of Baltimore, so nu whats the chidush?
    Also, Rabbi Wohlberg said on TV, and I heard this myself, that when asked why he allows his parking lot to remain open on Shabbos, he said his members DO walk to shul—they walk from their cars to the shul! NOT funny at all.

  18. Rabba Hurwitz is not the first Orthodox ordained Rabba/Rabbi.
    This distinction beongs to Frau Rabnbinerin JONAS of Germany, who was ordained by a truly Orthodox Seminary.
    During the Naqzi years, she refused to leav4 her congregants and died in Ausschwitz AL KIDDUSH HASHEM. Her Neshomo went directly up to the Kaseh Hakowod through the chimneys of Ausschwitz.
    Please, pay her the due respect! SB

  19. Im from baltimore. BT is not an orthodox place, so I dont know why its a big deal. These people are not frum and dont care about the Torah or Judaism anyway

  20. The microphone at Beth Tfiloh doesn’t use electricity. It was installed by Machon Tzomet. The OU has checked it out and approved it. They have recently installed a mechitza, The synagogue and its school (pre K-12) are Orthodox, even if many of the families aren’t fully observant.

    Rav Ruderman ZTZ’L wisely realized that it was better for the Orthodox community to work with Beth Tfiloh and gradually help them become more observant than to let them go Conservative.

  21. ??? ???? ?? ????? ???? ?? ???? ??? ????? ???? ???? ???? ?? ????? ?????? ????? ??? ??????? ???? ????? ?? ??? ??? ????? ????? ?????!!!

    ????? ???? ?? ??? ???? ??? ???? ?????? ??? ????? ??????? ???? ??? ?? ????? ????? ???? ???? ????? ???????? ????? ????? ????? ?????? ?????? ????? ???? ??????? ???? ?????? ??? ?’ ?????” ???’ .. ??? ??”?.

  22. This is very distressing. This is really a conservative shul and not an orthodox one. This ‘female rabbi chilul’ brings one to believe that they’re part of an agenda that is being promoted. She is part of Rabbi Weiss’ shul, who call themselves orthodox; but are really conservative. The frum community is really not that aware of what is now being promoted. The world women’s agenda is very strong today. This is a way of desecrating Torah through a very well thought-out agenda.

  23. I grew up in an “out of town” city. What this shul is doing is no different than what hundreds of other shuls are doing in out of town communities. They affiliate themselves with the orthodox movement, but the members themselves are still in the process of growing. Many frum poeple of today came out of such a shul.

  24. The whole thing is mamash a bizayon but we have only ourselves to blame. If we would have more tznius the sitra achra would never have a koach to do this.

  25. I was at the speech tonight as an onlooker and it was a bizayon! It was the first time I was in the shul. I went because I had seen the post here on this Matzav site. I cannot believe that this synagogue is called Orthodox. To allow this Rabba to speak was a disgrace, no matter how eloquent or kind she seemed to be. What she represents is a violation of Torah haskafah.

  26. I am not frum but I have to comment on Dave’s post. To say “These people are not frum and do not care about the Torah or Judaism anyway” is truly disgusting. And for those that question why people have weddings there, maybe before I give money to a frum institution again I should ask how they feel about me as a Jew.
    The sad truth is that non of the this gets the Jewish people anywhere. I do not think Rabbba Hurwitz is a problem but if you do, it has to be way down on the list of problems facing the Jewish people.

  27. (to #35)OK, The reson these women cause divorces are since they try to take over being the “male” in the home and in the work place this clearly causes sholom bias problems. If you need me to expain part b as well please advise.

  28. I wonder why Matzav is so obsessed with this Raba! Every few months another issue about her. Ignore her, if your so concerned about her position. And she’s not speaking at any really frum establishment anytime soon. So leave her alone and ignore her.

  29. I just returned from her talk, and it was halachically sound, inspiring, and free of the venom that characterizes so much of the verbiage on this website.

  30. So people who come to shul every shabbat, daven, don’t talk, go to Torah classes are not observing at all? Maybe they drive to shul but they are frummer than many people who sit through shul talking and going to kiddish clubs. If being frum is posting a bunch of things about people and places you don’t know anything about firsthand then I think I need to change my religious status.

  31. I am a past president of Beth Tfiloh Congregation. I had the honor of hearing Rabba Hurwitz this evening. I am proud of Rabbi Wohlberg and Beth Tfiloh for having the courage to invite this remarkable, intelligent, humble, knowledgeable, strong, Jewish woman to teach us. When I compare the quality of her presentation to the ignorance and vitriol of so many of the prior comments here on Matzav, I know we made the right decision!!

  32. Would people have been happier if she didn’t speak at this shul, as. Rabba, at all, unless she does Teshuva, or for the rest of her life?

  33. Simcha, seriously? You can’t possibly say that someone who does something so controversial and perpetuates it personally

    “…it is not the intention of his institution, …, to confer the title of “Rabba” … Ms. Hurwitz continually uses the title on herself”

    could be called humble!?
    Some people revel in being at the center of controversy or center of attention. These people are never truly humble.

  34. Anav, instead of judging a person based on the views of others, I like to decide for myself. I listened to Rabba Hurwitz and paid close attention to how she conducted herself. I stand 100% on my description of her as humble.

    Perhaps we need a scapegoat to throw all our sins upon.
    However, the Torah requires the scapegoat to be a male.

  36. So, Basar V’chaluv? Taruvos? Melicha? The whole Yoreh Deyah? What did she learn to become a rabba? Mila? Some Mominis? Can she get an aliah? If she starts a Yeshiva does she become Morenu rabba? HaGoana Kedosha rabba rabba?

  37. This has nothing to do with scapegoat or loshon harah. This is something that is completely wrong. A female cannot be a rabbi. She cannot lead a minyan or hold many of the duties of a rav. Why in the world would she want this and push for it and promote it? Those are the questions that should be asked. If she (& Rabbi Weiss, etc.) considers herself, reform or reconstructionist, conservative, then we can understand because they are a non-Torah mock Judaism. But, she calls herself orthodox, which is an oxymoron for she is going blatantly against our mesorah and Torah. Why isn’t she a teacher in Torah or an advisor for women’s shailos, but being a ‘rabbi’ is absolutely, definitely wrong. Guess, being a rebbitzen for her is not good enough. There is an agenda behind this to water down ‘orthodox’ Judaism. This is the way the reform movement was started and the other movements and eventually they gained respect and became accepted by those Jews ignorant of Yahadut, r’l, (first in Germany and then in the US). Who would dare change the laws of Torah and be so arrogant to think they have that right? These are the questions that need to be answered. One can observe or not observe, but not ever think they can change an iota in Torah.

  38. Another rabbi in town claims a heter from Rav Ruderman, although Rav Ruderman is known to have held that microphones are assur. Nobody in that shul (besides some teachers) is really frum.

  39. Simcha, in following your philosophy, I will not base my opinion of Ms. Hurwitz on your view. I will base it on her actions.

    I have a pretty good imagination, but I cannot come up with a scenario in which she is a *truly* humble person or that such an opinion would be anything other than being taken in by good presentation skills. I won’t go into extrapolations of what else this might mean about her, since those would indeed be speculation.

  40. Sounds like alot of you are truly afraid that she knows Torah. Otherwise, why is it so upsetting? If she’s not a threat, then why the outcry? Thou protesteth too much.

  41. #72
    The CI said protests like this will rebuild it.

    “Sounds like alot of you are truly afraid that she knows Torah”
    How do you Know?Do you study together?


  42. I was there – Candidly it was underwhelming to say the least – she is a mediocre speaker who stayed in shallow waters halachically and hashkafically. Some of what she said was contradictory as she tries to grapple with toeing the line halachaically but not really seeing why she can’t be counted for a minyan. I found it curious that in a nearly 40 minute speech she didn’t mention one posuk or give over some Torah or a story which might have either legitimized her role in the Rabbahnate or to give legitimate Torah based chizuk and hisor’rus – the only Rabbi she brought up other than Avi Weiss and her male counterpart at HIR was Rav Kook – her comment about him was that when he was asked as to whether or not women can vote he said no and he ended up on the wrong side of history as progress always wins.
    My daughter who was with me pointed out that at no point did she ever bring up the Jewish family or being a mother – she felt the rabba really wanted to be a man more than a rabbi.
    Rabbi Wohlberg had a line I appreciated – he was asked whether BT would hire her – he replied that he would not just because she was a woman but if her being there would help promote and encourage his congregants to embrace Taharas Hamishpacha he would unhesitatingly – (he said at the outset that he had no reservations whatsoever to considering her a colleague.
    She seemed like a pleasant Stern girl – a bit ditzy, valley girl like and it is apparent that she’s not entirely confortable being Avi Weiss’s golem.
    Another thing she said which got my goat – she mentioned that she tols Avi Weiss that she had “learned everything” and was ready for the next step – She doesn’t realize that Torah is not a subject in which you get a certificate after 1,5 or even 10 or 20 years – it is our lifeblood – it is your skin – not a garrment to put on and take off – that subtlety was not in evidence.

  43. I have one comment-as a former student and congregant (who “left the fold” and went to yeshiva-Shout out to Rabbi Wohlberg) that the clientele there look for these kinds of things. The shul and school both b’etzem have the Hashkofos of the OU and RCA, however they do not encroach on the congregants and students to follow said hashkofos. The Majority of students and “young members” follow the path of the conservative movement-either they, like myself, become more religious, or they stary from the straight and narrow, as many of my classmates have done in the interim. However I believe that this event was crossing the line. Neither the ou or the rca condones said “rabba”, for whatever the reasoning may be, but aren’t willing to shove it down BT’s throat. They are a very left wing shul and have little regard to what the modern world calls “normative” Halochoh. Therefore it is neither a surprise nor such a shonda for them to have such an event.

    -Ah Freilichen CHanuka!

  44. I have fun with, lead to I found exactly what I was taking a look for. You’ve ended my 4 day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a great day. Bye