Culture, Religion, Sex & Gender

Haviva Ner-David granted smicha

I’ve had to keep my mouth shut about this for weeks, now, but the interview she did with the Jerusaelm Post is finally out, so I can kvell a little. (For some reason I can’t find the story on the Post online–maybe it’s not up yet–but it is in today, Friday’s, print edition).
Noted rabbi Aryeh Strikovsky signed her certificate right before Pesach, after 12 years of study in various locations. (She also is in the very last stages of dissertaton revisions for her PhD in halakha from Bar Ilan).
There are a couple of other women with Orthodox smicha out there–Mimi Feigelson studied under Shlomo Carlebach and received smicha from a beit din of 3 shortly after his death, and Eveline Goodman-Thau was ordained in 2000 by R. Jonathan Chapman. But Haviva’s the first to have been public about it all from the beginning–she applied to YU a whole lot of years back, has been in the press, etc., so this is a really big deal, dang good for the Jews if you ask me.
If you haven’t read her book, Life on the Fringes, you should. It’s religious feminism at its yummiest.
ETA: The Post story is up now, here.

15 thoughts on “Haviva Ner-David granted smicha

  1. In general, I prefer my rabbis to be male. It’s what I’m used to. But if Modern Ortho moves towards ordaining female rabbis…c’est la vie. However you shouldn’t be surprised when:
    becomes a normative occurence in America and Israel. In other words, in a very short time, Modern Orthodox will be relegated to the shelves of non-traditional Judaisms’. And it’s happening quicker than we’d like to believe.

  2. Two questions:
    1. What is the actual “status” of her smicha, as the Jerusalem Post says that it is not the same as given to men and questions the title of “rabbi”, which even Dr. (Rabbi?) Ner-David acknowledges.
    2. Should the O community be concerned that she does not identify as Orthodox but has more Conservative tendencies in terms of ideology (not that that’s a bad thing, so do I). Personally, I’m more concerned about her husband’s financial support to Mordechai Gafni.
    Nevertheless, I do wish her a Mazel Tov on this smicha from Rav Strikovsky and, according to the Post, receiving her Ph.D.

  3. Shtreimel,
    I don’t think this is really representative of the direction of normative Modern Orthodoxy.
    But if it is, and I don’t think it is….you definitely have a point. If so, perhaps those of us who reject both Social Action Judaism and Fundamentalism should do the Jewish people a favor and bow out. There is increasingly less and less place for us. We are fast becoming a burden on on a religion that wants either (very selective) “egalitarianism” or to become as frum as The Taliban.
    Who needs this shit.

  4. DK-
    I understand your disgust, but you’re overestimating the power of both the fundamentalists and the Left, and underestimating the sane traditionalists (let’s see if we can make that name stick!). It’s true that the loudest people in the Chareidi/ Yeshiva world are the crazies, but there are a great many people who are (quietly) rejecting the insanity (I think the Slifkin ban in particular has brought this out). The Orthodox Left is not at all the norm for Modern Orthodoxy; they’re just very loud. The problem is that the non-Left non-Chareidi crowd 1) is fractured (between Modern Orthodox and more reasonable yeshivish; 2) is quiet (a general weakness moderates tend to have against revolutionaries across the board in politics and religion); and 3) lacks confidence against the more extreme people on the far Right and Left. The last item, I admit, is inexcusable: when a side has the advantage in both textual support and common sense, it shouldn’t hesitate to fight and win. But there’s no reason to quit. Stay and fight.

  5. Clarification on item 1 above: When I say “1) is fractured (between Modern Orthodox and more reasonable yeshivish)”, by “more reasonable” I mean more reasonable than non-reasonable Chareidim, not more reasonable than Modern Orthodox.

  6. J and Lisa,
    Thanks for the words of encouragement. Don’t worry, I’m not that demoralized, it’s just this has been a pretty bad week for the Traditionalists. And I’m personally not that religious, but I do have ties to traditional Judaism (falsely called “Modern Orthodox”) and wish they were fighting the hippies and the radicals more than they usually do. If they were willing to seriously look (and not just in a cursury way, which they presently prefer to do) at the world outside their community more, they would have the strength to do so. They shouldn’t be afraid, and should believe in themselves more, in a deeper way, and with a greater sense of responsiblility for Judaism as a whole, not just their specific community. They should remember that they are frequently the target of the Haredim because of the legitimacy and perceived threat of their more classic Jewish lifestyle by the Fundamentalists, just as fundamentalists attack all the traditionalists in every religion.

  7. DK-
    “it’s just this has been a pretty bad week for the Traditionalists.”
    What’s a week? We measure things in centuries.
    I don’t agree that the Chareidim attack out of legitimacy fears (they don’t seem lacking in self-confidence at all). I think it’s fear of the modern world and anyone involved in it, as well as fear of modern knowledge (the former fear is legitimate, but not to the degree they’ve taken it; as for the latter, it’s just classic burying heads in the sand).
    I also don’t agree that only the Modern Orthodox are the traditionalists. Both Modern Orthodoxy and the non-Chareidi Right (a sadly shrinking group) can find support in our classic texts (you can actually point to passages in the Gemara which support each). And its these people the Modern O will have to ally with in order to win.

  8. You have point, which is that there has always been a range, normative traditional Judaism has never been monolithic, that is certainly true. But I think you are wrong about the lack of fear on the part of fundamentalists…all fundamentalists, towards traditional people who are believers in a non-fundamentalist way in their respective faiths. They are considered a serious competitor.

  9. Fear and antagonism against competitors, yes. Fears about their own legitimacy, no. In fact, their overconfidence in their own legitimacy is a great deal of what makes them problematic. If they understood that they are required to justify their beliefs in light of the texts and the history, rather than reliance on near-infallible leaders who don’t feel a need to explain themselves, we probably wouldn’t have the problems we do.

  10. It’s a great day for the real Orthodox Jews!
    And a bad day for the MOs (Meshuggenah Orthodox). Hirhurim is doing a Brooklyn dance, with his snide posting regarding the “So-Called-Orthodox Woman Rabbi”.
    But again it’s a great day for us real Torah True Jews.

  11. This is another in a series of articles that does little to shed light on what smicha is,
    I don’t even know what Mrs. Ner-David has been given. Yadid Yadin? Yoreh Yoreh?
    Ordained As Rabbis, Women Tell Secret
    By Laurie Goodstein
    December 21, 2000
    New York Times
    Mrs. Ner-David, 31, who grew up in suburban New Rochelle, N.Y., said the barriers to women’s ordination were in Orthodox culture, not in Jewish law.
    She is studying in Israel at the Pardes Institute with Rabbi Aryeh Strikovsky, who said in an interview that there were precedents in Jewish history for Orthodox women as rabbis. He said he intended to give Mrs. Ner-David smicha, or ordination, when she finished her studies.
    But Rabbi Strikovsky said he would probably consult with his colleagues to find a respectful title for her other than rabbi.
    ”The word ‘rabbi’ in Hebrew is for a man only,” he said, ”unless there will be some revolution in the Hebrew language.”

    And Further:
    Haviva and Jacob Ner-David are key followers (Jacob is International Chair of Gafni’s Bayit Chadash) of alleged child molester Mordecai/Mordechai/Marc Gafni/Winiarz/Winyarz or whatever his name is this week. What as a result are they or any title they hold worth? Nothing. Same goes for everyone else (particularly the American rabbonim on their board):
    There is no question in my mind that women should have a greater role in the leadership of Orthodox Judaism and that they have in the past and will in the future. BUT advocates for change are once again backing the wrong person, to their own detriment.
    When will women’s groups start standing publicly for women and children who are abused and exploited instead of protecting and promoting the abusers and exploiters AND their enablers.
    We need a regime change.
    Bayit Chadash has emerged from twelve years of teaching and Jewish Renaissance work carried out in Israel by three individuals: Reb Mordechai Gafni, through his teaching, public lectures, private shiurim, seminars and television programs; Reb Avaraham Leader, founder and main spiritual force behind the well known “Leader Minyan, through his teaching and counseling; and Jacob Ner-David, through his social and communal activism.
    The shows were conceived and created by Reb Gafni in conjunction with Ofer Wiezman and Zivit Davidovitch, two of Israel’s leading television directors. The show features Reb Gafni’s teaching discussions with leading figures in Israeli society – somewhat of a cross between Bill Moyers and Oprah!! The lay chairs for this project were Jacob and Haviva Ner-David, Rabbi Joe and Rolinda Schonwald and Jonathan and Jane Medved.

    Jacob Ner David is a social activist in all areas concerning Jewish leadership, Jewish education and environmental issues. He has been particularly involved in efforts to support programs promoting pluralistic and non-denominational Jewish education and enhancement and training of Jewish leaders. Jacob is also a serial entrepreneur in the hi-tech arena. He was a co-founder and Chairman of from 1996 – 2000. He co-founded Ambient Corporation, a data communications company, where he served as Chairman and CEO until 1999. Jacob also founded NomadIQ which was acquired by Omnisky in January 2001. Jacob is a principal of 2bVentures, a venture management firm specializing in communications, information technology and start-up management. He earned his law degree from Georgetown University Law Center, where he specialized in International Financial Transactions. He has a BA and BS degree from City College of New York. In 1989, he was an Isaacs scholar at Oxford University (Mansfield College).
    Bayit Chadash
    Jacob Ner-David
    Board Chairperson. Social activist and entrepreneur.
    Avraham Leader
    Melamed-in-Residence. One of the founders of “Amiqa d’Bira” (also known as “The Leader Minyan”). Currently studies, teaches, and translates.
    Haviva Ner-David
    Educational Director. Author, feminist activist, teacher, and scholar.
    R. Mordechai Gafni
    Rosh Bayit. Student, Rebbe, author, and scholar.

  12. I say halleluyah. Its about time!!!
    Good for aryeh. But call her a rabbi. too bad its only taken about 4000 years for this to happen. God is cheering!! this is god speaking.
    “What a bunch of meshugenehs. Ya think I made up all this narishkeit about women being subservient to men?? And can you imagine the lunacy of saying women are more spiritual, and thats why we exclude them from public religious life.
    The torah is holy and and therefore women shouldnt be touching it or carrying it? That tells you how they think of women.
    The toyreh is the chochmah, wisdom, the feminine part of god. We’ve had about 4000 years of learning from the men. don’t you think we ought to hear from the women?
    Sure let women speak in the home and in the synogogue. LOUD and PRoud and clear. Women need to sing in PuBLIC.
    Men need to relax a little. Relax!!! they are so scared of women, its not even funny.
    so here I am MS. God saying its about Time.

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