RCA Issues Consensus On Women’s Ordination, Avoids Condemning Avi Weiss By Name


rcaThe Rabbinical Council of America’s three-day conference that began this past Sunday in Scarsdale, N.Y., came just months after the near ordination of a ‘female rabbi’ by one of the RCA’s highest-profile¬†members drew a sharp rebuke from chareidi leadership.

With a high-profile discussion scheduled on women’s leadership, the RCA conference was highly anticipated, with the RCA taking a stand following the controversy sparked by Rabbi Avi Weiss’ decision in January to confer the title “rabba” ¬†on Sara Hurwitz, a member of the clerical staff of his New York synagogue, the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale.

Following condemnation from the Yated Ne’eman newspaper and from the Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah of Agudath Israel, and discussions with RCA officials, Weiss stated that he did not intend to confer the rabba title on anyone else.

The question was whether the RCA would strongly condemn Weiss’s actions and clearly come out against granting semichah to women.

The RCA remained vague on certain specifics and continued to follow a policy of calculated ambiguity necessary to maintain unity across a broad range of opinion amongst RCA rabbis. But the RCA did state its general opposition to the ordination of women rabbis

The following is the press release from the RCA:

Members of the Rabbinical Council of America from all over North America gathered this week in Scarsdale NY for the 51st annual convention of the world’s largest organization of Orthodox rabbis. As always, the gathering was an opportunity for rabbis in pulpits, education, academia, Jewish organizational life, and the health care/military chaplaincies to strengthen their personal and professional skills and connections, via major plenary presentations, workshop sessions, and multiple networking settings.This year’s convention deliberations were informed by a number of high profile issues confronting the Jewish people at large, and the religious community in particular. While numerous sessions were devoted to Israel, Iran, US-Israel relations, conversion issues, rabbinic boundaries, Orthodox teens, counseling, dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease, death and burial, family conflict, and others, a central topic generating sustained discussion by convention delegates involved rabbinic views on the parameters of appropriate women’s communal roles.

Having heard from a broad spectrum of members, leading congregational rabbis, and a number of respected halachic authorities, a committee headed by Rabbi Leonard Matanky of Chicago, IL, submitted a resolution on appropriate communal roles for women. Rather than delineating a specific menu or roadmap of appropriate or inappropriate roles and positions, the resolution sought to articulate the broad dimensions and values that, from an Orthodox perspective, should inform and shape the discussion and implementation of this defining issue in months and years to come. These include the importance of appropriate sensitivity to tradition, communal sensitivities, as well as the desire of both men and women to enhance Torah and mitzvoth, personally and communally. So too, is the need for a thorough foundation in appropriate halachic and communal precedent and process.

With these considerations framing the convention discussion, the convention resolution as adopted, stated as follows:

Resolution on Women’s Communal Roles in Orthodox Jewish Life Presented to the 51st Convention of The Rabbinical Council of America, April 26, 2010:

1) The flowering of Torah study and teaching by God-fearing Orthodox women in recent decades stands as a significant achievement. The Rabbinical Council of America is gratified that our chaverim[1] have played a prominent role in facilitating these accomplishments.

2) We members of the Rabbinical Council of America see as our sacred and joyful duty the practice and transmission of Judaism in all of its extraordinary, multifaceted depth and richness – halakhah,[2] hashkafah,[3] tradition and historical memory.

3) In light of the opportunity created by advanced women’s learning, the Rabbinical Council of America encourages a diversity of halakhically and communally appropriate professional opportunities for learned, committed women, in the service of our collective mission to preserve and transmit our heritage. Due to our aforesaid commitment to sacred continuity, however, we cannot accept either the ordination of women or the recognition of women as members of the Orthodox rabbinate, regardless of the title.

4) Young Orthodox women are now being reared, educated, and inspired by mothers, teachers and mentors who are themselves beneficiaries of advanced women’s Torah education. As members of the new generation rise to positions of influence and stature, we pray that they will contribute to an ever-broadening and ever-deepening wellspring of talmud Torah,[4] yir’at Shamayim,[5] and dikduk be-mitzvot.[6]

[1] members
[2] Jewish Law
[3] Jewish thought
[4] Torah study
[5] fear of Heaven
[6] scrupulous observance of commandments

{Noam Amdurski-Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. #3…”however, we cannot accept either the ordination of women or the recognition of women as members of the Orthodox rabbinate, regardless of the title.”

    That sounds pretty straight forward to me. Woman will not be recognized as members of the rabbinate regardless of title. What more could you ask for?

  2. Oh I understand – it is written in a proper and formal English. They said “this is nisht our mesoyrah and we are making a mechaah”

  3. I would have mentioned Avi Weiss. He violated Jewish law and really needs to be held up to the standard expected of Orthodox rabbis. Or, he can leave the movement. The RCA has to self police or it will lose its respect in the Orthodox community. If Avi goes away with no penalty, will he do it again? Will others do it again?

  4. Did the RCA mention the travesty of justice happening to Reb Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin. They have not released a statement nor signed the Kol Koreh why is this?

  5. I just spoke with a rav who attended the conference. He told me that the first thing on the RCA agenda was a resolution proposing that anyone who ordains a woman would be kicked out of the RCA. The resolution was defeated- 43 to 42!