Does the recent forbidding of Orthodox women rabbis carry the weight of a halachic decision or not?
But the Forward finds two liberal advocates who claim it doesn’t. First, there’s Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, and more noticeably there’s a rabbi who was at the convention, R’ Asher Lopatin, and chose not to oppose the resolution on the basis that it wasn’t halachic, according to the Forward.
Advocates for female Orthodox clergy, however, pointed out that the resolution did not invoke Halacha, or Judaic law, but instead referred to a more nebulous principle of “sacred continuity” as the basis for the prohibition.
“Everybody’s waiting for fire and brimstone, and what we got was a little burning ash,” said Carol Kaufman Newman, president of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance. “And that’s good.”
Asher Lopatin, a center-left Modern Orthodox rabbi from Chicago who attended the convention, said that the purposefully vague language barring female rabbis didn’t go nearly as far as it could have in excluding women from spiritual leadership roles.
Lopatin pointed out that the resolution does not say that women serving as rabbis is a violation of Halacha, or that it is outside of Orthodoxy. Further, he said that the document does not ban women from the Jewish “clergy,” as distinct from the rabbinate. Asked the difference between the two, he replied, “I don’t know.”
Lopatin said that he would have preferred if the document said that the RCA cannot “currently” accept women into the Orthodox rabbinate. But he said he was not willing to oppose the resolution on that point.
So, someone here is wrong about what the resolution represents: it could be Lopatin/JOFA, it could be the RCA, or it could be the Forward, which unfortunately paraphrases instead of quoting on this very important point.
I’ve got inquiries in to both JOFA and Lopatin on this issue.