Cohen Cites Torah As ‘authority’ for Ordination of Women Rabbis
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Cohen Cites Torah As ‘authority’ for Ordination of Women Rabbis

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Dr. Gerson Cohen, Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, cited the Torah as his “authority” for ordaining women as Conservative rabbis.

Addressing 2,000 delegates at the biennial national convention of the Women’s League for Conservative Judaism here last week, Cohen cited the scholar Saadia, who taught that in every age, the Sanhedrin or its equivalent assumes the role of Moses and Aaron, and keeps the Torah alive with blessings and rituals.

While the Torah did not specifically discuss rabbis, “male, female, or neuter, it recognized the role of teacher,” Cohen said.

“The Torah knew only such titles as priests, prophets, kings, judges,” Cohen said. “The very term ‘rabbi’ as a teacher of scripture is post-biblical and grows out of the experience of the Diaspora after the destruction of the Temple. Thus I get the authority to ordain women from the same place I get the authority to ordain men.”

Cohen made his remarks during his teaching session to the convention on the theme, “History as the source of observance.” Cohen said, “History is not only a catalogue of events. It is the reasoned explanation of why we are a people and why we behave the way we do.”


Dr. Simon Greenberg, octogenarian scholar and Seminary Vice Chancellor, was presented with the Mathilde Schecter award from Selma Weintraub of Hartsdale, N.Y., who was installed here for her second two year term as president of the Women’s League.

Weintraub, in her address to the delegates, pledged to seek “innovative responses to the pressing problems of our era.” She said the plight of battered women, the terminally ill, alcoholism, Jewish singles and day care centers, were issues that will be high on the agenda for the Women’s League for the next two years.

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