April 2, 2005

by Reb Yudel
The Jerusalem Post on Orthodox Women Rabbis

Jerusalem Post reports:

In 1994, Prof. Mimi Feigelson, a Torah scholar, expert in hassidic thought, and student of the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, was the first woman ever known to receive an Orthodox ordination in Israel. A dual-citizen of Israel and the US, and currently teaching in the US, she told a Jewish newspaper in San Francisco in 2002 that for many years she had kept her ordination a secret, for fear of alienating her Orthodox peers.

"I live within the Orthodox world; that is my spiritual community. I did not want to be marginalized for something that is halachically permissible. So in order to honor the community I live within, this is the choice I made," she said.

There are rumors that over 30 years ago, Carlebach may have ordained an Israeli woman, who died very young, and whose ordination never became public knowledge.

Goodman-Thau, the only other woman besides Feigelson known to have received an Orthodox ordination in Israel, also works primarily abroad as an academic and with Jewish communities of many streams (see box). In 2000, Jerusalem Rabbi Yonatan Chipman, a Torah scholar, translator and essayist, decided to ordain Goodman-Thau, explaining: "I was convinced of her knowledge and mastery of practical Halacha. I researched it, and as strange as it seems, there is not really a halachic obstacle. Strictly speaking, in our day, the title of rabbi is a person proven to have mastery of Jewish sources, Jewish law and method of ruling."

Chipman, who studied with Soloveitchik and at the Har Etzion Yeshiva, in addition to 15-plus years of private studies, received his ordination from the late Rabbi Yehuda Gershuni. The modern tradition of individual rabbis and institutions conferring ordination dates to the 13th century, he says.


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