Intellectual Dishonesty in Women's Ordination




“The [Jewish Theological] Seminary – in deciding to ordain women as rabbis – broke dramatically with whatever remnant remained of its Orthodox roots.”

Several Open Orthodox leaders and organizations have penned articles and statements defending women's ordination.  In the examples listed below, they selectively quote sections of Rav Moshe Feinstein’s responsa as a justification.  However, it is more than disingenuous to imply that Rav Moshe would approve of women’s ordination.  Rabbi Moshe Feinstein felt that a woman should not even serve as a synagogue president. (Iggros Moshe YD 2:45.) Also Rav Moshe was once told about a synagogue where a woman would descend into the men’s section and lead the congregation in an English prayer. Rabbi Feinstein said of the practice, “…it is obvious that it is prohibited and it is astonishing that an Orthodox rabbi would allow something like this.” (Iggros Moshe OH 4:70) In fact, Rabbi Feinstein even prohibits women from delivering shiurim to mixed groups in the synagogue. (Iggros Moshe OH 5:12) All of the above was not mentioned by any of the following:

-Rabbi Avi Weiss cites a statement from PORAT: People for Orthodox Renaissance of Torah (Founders of PORAT include leaders of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and Yeshivat Maharat)

-Rabbi Jeffrey Fox (Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Maharat) 

 -Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky (Past president of the International Rabbinic Fellowship, student of Rabbi Avi Weiss, member of YCT and Yeshivat Maharat’s advisory boards.  He is praised by Weiss as “one of the most articulate spokespersons of Modern Orthodoxy” and “one of the great rabbis in America.”  Regarding his approach to Halacha he says, “In the end though, the halakhic scholarship simply paints a bull’s eye around the target that I — and many others before me — had already identified.”  (Kanefsky, Yosef. “Follow-Up to the Blog Post: Adieu to “Thou Hast Not Made Me a Woman” Keren Volume 2. (2014). p. 6.))

-Rabbi Daniel Landes (member of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah's Jewish Leadership Advisory Board.)

-Also, in defending women's ordination, Rabbi Avi Weiss mentions how Rav Soloveitchik permitted teaching Talmud to women, yet omits any discussion of Rav Soloveitchik's opposition to women's ordination. (See here  and here).

In addition, the PORAT statement declares that “the women who are serving as Orthodox clergy are paragons of tzniut.”  However, as mentioned above, while citing portions of Rav Moshe's responsum, they omit where he forbade women to lead certain English prayers or deliver shiurim to mixed groups in the synagogue. (Iggros Moshe OH 4:70) (Iggros Moshe OH 5:12)

Also, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, Yeshivat Maharat, and the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance sponsored a four day long co-ed course on sexual education.  Besides speaking about the act of intimacy in great detail, participants were shown graphic photographs and models.  

In another example of “tzniut” one Rabba wrote about sitting on a panel about Judaism and Sexuality.  In an article she describes her personal sexual experiences.  

In yet another example a Maharat speaks about feeling empowered wearing sexually provocative lipstick. 

The above examples can hardly be described as “pargons of tzniut”.

*For more examples of the levels of "tzniut" in Open Orthodoxy see Chapter 7 of Why Open Orthodoxy Is Not Orthodox.