Maharat Omission


Indeed the inaugural graduation ceremony at Yeshivat Maharat is a great
moment for the Jewish people. However the two articles you ran (“Maharats March Into Jewish World” and “History, Yes. Respect, Well…”), while almost comprehensive in their coverage of the
subject, did not give enough attention to the most important impact of the graduation of maharats.

This detail is eventually acknowledged halfway through Lilit Marcus’ (“History, Yes.”) article
and three-quarters of the way through Susan Reimer-Torn’s (“Maharats March”) article.
Rather than address this issue, both articles seemed obsessed with the popular feminist question of
whether these women now have equal status with the men.

Unfortunately, the articles failed to acknowledge the work of the almost 10-year-old
women’s yeshiva Nishmat in Jerusalem, under Dean Rabbanit Chana Henkin.
Nishmat grants certificates of Yoetzet Halacha (halachic adviser) to women who successfully
complete the course of study. The graduates go on to be professional religious
advisers for women. Henkin has pointed out that the number of women
seeking counseling grew more than tenfold in the first year that a Yoetzet Halacha was
available. Thus we have some facts about the likely impact that maharats
will have.

This is the real cause for celebration. Finally, traditional Jewish women can get guidance, answers and leadership from Jewish
clerical professionals who get it — i.e., get it about a woman’s unique
needs. Yeshivat Maharat is to be praised for delivering this gift to our
wives, mothers, daughters and sisters. We look forward to the Yoetzot
Halachah in Israel and Maharats in North America expanding their services
and increasingly becoming a voice in the continuing evolution of traditional
Jewish thought and action.