From Maharat to Rabbah

Rabbah Sara Hurwitz.
Courtesy of The Forward

A year ago we congratulated Sara Hurwitz on becoming a Maharat.  Today we rejoice in her new title: Rabbah.

The subject of ordaining Orthodox women rabbis is highly controversial. Last year Sara Hurwitz completed the required course of study in Yoreh Deah to become a spiritual leader, but instead of receiving the title of rabbi, a new title was created for her.  "Maharat" was created from an acronym that loosely translates to mean a leader in religious law and spirtual matters.

But "Maharat" never really caught on, and according to her mentor Rabbi Avi Weiss, it was somteimes used disrespectfully.  Sara Hurwitz told The Jewish Week that the confusion caused by her unfamiliar title made it difficult to do her rabbinic duties. 

Wednesday, Sara Hurwitz and Rabbi Weiss announced that she would be adopting the title of Rabbah, a term chosen by participants at Kolech Religious Women’s Forum Conference in Jerusalem last summer. "Rabbah" they decided, was the best term to describe Orthodox clergywomen.

This is exciting news only weeks away from the 13th anniversary of the first conference on feminism and Orthodoxy, which prompted the growing Orthodox feminist community to found the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA).

We send a hearty mazel tov to Sara Hurwitz, and are excited to add her story to This Week in History, JWA's calendar of events and milestones in Jewish women's history.

Topics: Feminism, Rabbis
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Disgusting. How can you call her "orthodox" and a female Rabbi, or Rabbah- however you want to call her- in the same sentence. I can accept it if you call her a conservative Rabbi- that would be a more appropriate and truthful statement. One of the basic tenents of Orthodoxy is not to change anything from the Torah to fit with the times- so- Congratulations to Sara on becoming a conservative Rabbi.

As King Solomon said, there is nothing new under the sun.

Onkelos, in his Torah translation done about the year 100, translated the term "(idolatrous) Priest of Midian" as "Rabbah d'Midian"!

Poor choice of titles, rabbis!

How to cite this page

Berkenwald, Leah. "From Maharat to Rabbah." 28 January 2010. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on September 29, 2023) <>.

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