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An open letter about RCA members violating female clergy policy

We are speaking out against those who contravene this policy, for the sake of our conscience and to prevent the weakening of Torah standards
Yeshivat Maharat graduates at their ordination ceremony at Ramaz High School in New York City, June 16, 2013. (Joe Winkler/JTA)
Yeshivat Maharat graduates at their ordination ceremony at Ramaz High School in New York City, June 16, 2013. (Joe Winkler/JTA)

We are members of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), and some of us are former RCA officers and executive committee members. Although we do not speak on behalf of the RCA, we must raise our voices, because a small number of fellow RCA members are violating the well-established RCA resolution that bars members from ordaining, training or hiring female clergy. In the past, individual RCA members violated RCA policy by, for example, officiating at synagogues without mechitza partitions. Such violations, outliers and few though they may be, cannot be ignored, for they misrepresent Orthodox Judaism that the RCA upholds and they dilute the halachic standards of RCA membership.

The few RCA members who retain female rabbis (“rabbas” or “maharats”) as clergy, assistant clergy, adjunct clergy, or clergy interns at their congregations, as well as those who are involved with or promote semicha programs for women, act in outright defiance of halachic norms, the explicit stance of our poskim (rabbinic authorities), RCA policy, and the standards mutually held and adhered to by our association of over 1,000 rabbis.

It must be noted that in some cases, the female rabbis are cleverly given non-clergy job descriptions, in order to evade outside criticism. Nonetheless, these female rabbis, who have Open Orthodox ordination and use rabbinic titles (including “Rabbanit” when their husbands are not rabbis), often perform full-blown rabbinic functions in the congregations of the offending RCA members, including the rabbinic functions described on pages 12-13 of the Orthodox Union rabbinic panel’s decision, which clearly proscribes such practices and bars Orthodox congregations from involvement therewith.

The actions of the offending RCA members contravene both the word and the spirit of a series of RCA resolutions against female clergy — resolutions that were reviewed and supported by the RCA’s poskim, who served as teachers of those members who are in knowing and public violation. These resolutions are based on Halacha and Mesorah, as further demonstrated at length by the rabbinic panel convened by the Orthodox Union.

It pains us to publish this letter, but we feel a responsibility to speak out, for the sake of our conscience and to prevent further breach and weakening of Torah standards. It is the duty and responsibility of those RCA members who continue to publicly and intentionally violate the organization’s resolution to cease and desist, or to take leave of the RCA in favor of alternative organizations which do not respect these principles and such need to preserve our Mesorah.

Rabbi Dr. Elie Abadie
Rabbi Ilan Acoca
Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein
Rabbi Eitan Allen
Rabbi Heshy Blumstein
Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky
Rabbi Kenneth Brodkin
Rabbi David Cadoch
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Chitrik
Rabbi Mordechai Cohen
Rabbi Chaim Crupar
Rabbi Ari Enkin
Rabbi Ephraim Epstein
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman
Rabbi Ilan Feldman
Rabbi Dov Fischer
Rabbi Arie Folger
Rabbi David Foster
Rabbi Ari Galandauer
Rabbi Benjamin Geiger
Rabbi Shaul Gold
Rabbi Yosef Goldberg
Rabbi Chaim Goldberger
Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer
Rabbi Lazer Gurkow
Rabbi Yitzchok Gutterman
Rabbi Avrohom Horovitz
Rabbi Howard Katzenstein
Rabbi Avraham Kelman
Rabbi Benjamin Kelsen
Rabbi Yehuda Kovacs
Rabbi Ira Kronenberg
Rabbi Pinchas Landis
Rabbi Eliezer Langer
Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz
Rabbi Mordechai Levin
Rabbi Reuven Mann
Rabbi Yaakov Mendelson
Rabbi Yerachmiel Morrison
Rabbi Yehuda Leonard Oppenheimer
Rabbi Steven Pruzansky
Rabbi Nosson Rich
Rabbi Yitzchak Rosenbaum
Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld
Rabbi Dov Schreier
Rabbi Elchanan Schulgasser
Rabbi Hayim Schwartz
Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz
Rabbi Jay Shoulson
Rabbi Yaakov Shulman
Rabbi Yehoshua Singer
Rabbi Zecharia Sionit
Rabbi Ze’ev Smason
Rabbi Nahum Spirn
Rabbi Leonard Steinberg
Rabbi Gil Student
Rabbi Zev Tendler
Rabbi Avrohom Union
Rabbi Yaakov Wasser
Rabbi Elisha (Rodney) Weiss
Rabbi Richard Wolpoe
Rabbi Yitzchok Isaac Yagod

About the Author
Rabbi Gordimer is a kashruth professional, Chairman of the Rabbinic Circle at Coalition for Jewish Values, a member of the Rabbinical Council of America, and a member of the New York Bar. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.
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