At least once a day, I get an email from someone advertising something in a particular, but unnamed, liberal part of the Jewish community that mentions a woman and gives her the title “Reb.”
Can someone please explain to these folks that the word “reb” means “Mr”? “Reb” does NOT mean “Rabbi.” Reb, when a rabbi uses it in front of his name, is a sign of modesty on his part (or alternatively a claim to it that’s akin to the old joke which ends “look who thinks he’s nothing!”).
“Reb,” when a woman uses it in front of her name, is demonstrating that contrary to being knowledgeable, she (or whoever put the title there) is actually ignorant about the Yiddish culture she is attempting to co-opt. Granted there is at least one woman rabbi I know of who uses this term knowingly, and I acknowledge that there is a need for terms that parallel respectful terms for men, but if you’re a rabbi, can you please just call yourself either “Rabbi” or “Rabbah?” Or coin a new term, I don’t care. “Reb” just makes you ridiculous. Seriously, I can’t help but wonder if Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, who seems to have some connection with this usage and certainly knows better, is having a private laugh at you behind your back.
Rant off. Thanks for listening.