Women’s Leadership – Correction

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In a summary of a recent issue of Tradition, I incorrectly described Dr. Joel Wolowelsky’s article. In the latest issue, he responds and clarifies his view.

He explains that he believes semikhah is certification of knowledge and therefore would be appropriate for religious learned women, too.  But, he said, it is distracting for them to use the title “rabbi” because some object to women serving as a mara d’asra, and “rabbi” can indicate an ability to serve in that role. (He does not take a position on whether a woman can serve as a mara d’asra in a community that does not object to women serving in that role.)  He notes that learned women are currently called “rebbetzin” or “rabbanit” whether  or not their husbands are rabbis. He sees that title as a wiser choice.

I apologize for the mistake. At the end of his letter, Dr. Wolowelsky discusses whether a man with semikhah should use the title “rabbi” if he is not a pulpit rabbi or a full-time communal worker. He notes an OU resolution to that effect from 40 years ago. Tonight I will repost an article I wrote that addresses this issue. I believe that there are two views on this subject but, according to common custom, it is forbidden to fail to use a respectful title for a talmid chakham even if he is not your teacher.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and as Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

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