TORA, the umbrella organization of traditional Orthodox rabbis of the United States and Canada, finds the purported ordination of women at Midreshet Lindenbaum deeply disappointing and unnecessarily divisive. There is a consensus among the worldwide Orthodox rabbinate that granting semichah to women – in name or in practice – lies outside the contours of our mesorah. We, together with our dynamic Rebbetzins, are committed to inspiring all Jewish men and women to actualize their potentials and contribute to Torah Life in accordance with halacha, our tradition, and the guidance of the genuine Torah leaders of our generation. Changes in community practice within halacha are possible, but only when guided by the leading halachic decisors of our nation, none of whom stand behind this move.
It is deceptive to argue that the recent ceremony at Midreshet Lindenbaum conferred nothing more than recognition of academic success. The graduates were given the titles of moros hora’ah – the traditional title for ordination – and press accounts both called the ceremony semicha and noted that the recipients had studied the classic areas in halacha concerning which ordination candidates are tested. This ceremony is part of an emerging and disturbing trend. It comes at a time when others are trying to place women rabbis in Orthodox synagogues in America, in an attempt to circumvent the traditional halachic process.
TORA asserts that actions such as these are void and not only painfully divide Orthodoxy at a time when the community desperately needs unity, but also diminish the already powerful role played by Orthodox women in education and community service. From time immemorial, women have served in pivotal roles in the Jewish community. The implication that a lack of rabbinic ordination diminishes their contributions insults the many great women leaders of the past and the present.