The Controversy over Women’s
Religious Leadership in the U.S.
By Catherine A. Brekus
In March 2009, Rabbi Avi Weiss, head of an Orthodox synagogue of 850 families in Riverdale, Bronx, N. Y., stood before his congregation to confer the authority
of the clergy on Sara Hurwitz, who had been studying
with him for five years. Weiss identified her as a “
maharat,” a Hebrew acronym of his invention for Manhiga
Hilkhatit Rukhanit Toranit, meaning “leader.” But in January 2010, in response to questions about the title, he announced that she was a “rabba.” Weiss wanted to make
his intent absolutely clear: that he had ordained the first
Orthodox female rabbi in the United States.