Jessica Cavanagh-Melhado completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She recently completed a Masters in Non-Profit Management from the NYU Wagner School of Public Service, and is currently pursuing a Masters in Jewish Studies from NYU’s department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies part-time. She writes at Redefining Rebbetzin and is pursuing a career in Jewish communal service.
This was the first time that Orthodox women were ordained in an institutional setting. There was a profound sense that not only was this a big moment for the three women getting ordained, but also for the men who trained them. I could hear the pride in Rabbi Jeffrey Fox, the Rosh HaYeshiva’s voice, and how much this meant to Rabbi Avi Weiss. In particular, Rabbi Weiss emphasized the desire to give a professionally recognized title to these women (even if it is Maharat, rather than Rabba), and the absolute necessity of the support of the male rabbis who have welcomed these women into their congregations. For Rabba Sara, I had the profound sense that she was creating an exciting new cohort of colleagues for herself. It’s one thing to be a groundbreaker, but totally another to bring others along with you, to create a system and a path for future generations.