Historical Moment for Women’s Torah Scholarship

Historical Moment for Women’s Torah Scholarship

In a great moment for Jewish history in general and the history of Jewish women in particular, 13 women from the Susi Bradfield Women’s Institute of Halakhic Leadership (WIHL) — OTS’s unparalleled, full-time learning initiative for the most outstanding and committed female scholars — are currently preparing to take a government-administered exam on the halakhot of Shabbat shortly after Sukkot.

The exam, which will be equivalent to the one given by the Israeli Rabbinate to men studying for ordination, will be administered by the Ministry of Religious Services in response to a petition filed by the Jewish life-advocacy organization ITIM on behalf of female halakha scholars.

The petition argued that the Chief Rabbinate was discriminating against religious women scholars by not allowing them to sit for the exams, since the exams can be a threshold requirement for certain civil service positions. By denying women the right to take the tests, the State is harming their ability to find employment.

The Israeli High Court of Justice agreed, demanding that the State find a solution; hence the Ministry of Religious Services’ parallel track was established.

“My WIHL colleagues and I have already passed tests equivalent to those of the Rabbinate in Family Purity, Kashrut, Marriage, Tefilla and Brachot. But when people hear that I am taking the upcoming State-administered exam in Shabbat, they suddenly perceive my achievements as more noteworthy,” says fifth-year WIHL Fellow Rabbanit Moriah Taasan Michaeli (pictured, on left). “Even before relevant public tenders are opened to us and even before we attain official titles, the very recognition we will receive by passing the official tests makes everything more real.”

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