Above: Dr. Jennie Rosenfeld
Game Change: First Orthodox Female Halakhic Decisor Appointed In Israel
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
The moderate West Bank settlement of Efrat has appointed a woman to serve as a religious leader, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Efrat’s Chief Rabbi Shlomo Riskin appointed Dr. Jennie Rosenfeld to the position, which includes the responsibility to answer questions on halakha (Jewish law).
Rosenfeld is a student in the Susi Bradfield Women's Institute of Halakhic Leadership (WIHL ), which is part of Midreshet Lindenbaum, a liberal Modern Orthodox women’s seminary. The five-year program ordains women, allowing them to issue halakhic rulings and give spiritual advice. The ordination is similar to what Orthodox rabbis have, but the graduates are not called rabbi.
Rosenfeld’s appointment is the first time a woman has been appointed to an official position of Orthodox communal leadership in Israel, Rabbi Shmuel Klitsner, director of the WIHL, told the Post.
Even so, Efrat’s state religious council, which would normally pay the salary of a community’s religious leader, is not paying Rosenfeld. Instead, Riskin is paying her salary privately through charitable donations.
Rosenfeld’s will reportedly give an inaugural lecture next month. Its topic? How to speak with and educate children about physical intimacy.
“Women are fifty percent of the community and there are questions which women are less comfortable asking men, not just in the field of family purity but relating to children’s education, marriage, divorce and other issues,” Rosenfeld reportedly said. While it is expected that most of the people coming to her for rulings or advice will be women, she will also issue rulings and give advice to men, if they ask.
Riskin reportedly said that he “strongly encourages” other rabbis to appoint women as spiritual leaders, in part because having female spiritual leaders serving alongside every chief rabbi of a city, town or rural area in the country will make Israelis trust the religion more and make it more open to them. And that will “ultimately hasten the redemption,” Riskin said.