1st ever woman spiritual leader of Orthodox synagogue appointed in Israel
Until now, Orthodox synagogues in Israel have only appointed women to serve in positions of spiritual leadership alongside male rabbis, never by themselves.
Jeremy Sharon | April 28, 2021
The Shirat Tamar Synagogue in Efrat has appointed Rabbanit Shira Marili Mirvis as its sole spiritual leader and halachic [Jewish law] authority, the first woman ever to serve in such a role in Israel.
Until this week, Orthodox women have been appointed as spiritual leaders in Orthodox synagogues and in other communal positions of spiritual leadership, but always alongside a male rabbi.
The appointment of Mirvis therefore represents a significant landmark for Orthodoxy in Israel. The role of women in positions of spiritual and halachic leadership has been advancing for many years but has stopped short of full communal leadership until now.
Mirvis will be graduating from a five-year course at the Susi Bradfield Women’s Institute of Halakhic Leadership (WIHL) at Ohr Torah Stone’s Midreshet Lindenbaum in June which covers Jewish law pertaining to Shabbat, kashrut, family purity, mourning, marriage and divorce and certifies graduates as “spiritual leaders” and “morot hora’ah,” women authorized to provide direction in matters of Jewish law.
“I am deeply grateful to the Shirat Tamar community for giving me this opportunity which I see as a natural continuation of my role as a teacher and communal leader,” said Mirvis in a statement to the press.
“My sincere prayer is that Hashem [God] will guide and strengthen me in this important role, enabling me to spread the word of Torah.”
The Shirat Tamar Synagogue’s board of management announced the appointment, calling it “a clear recognition of her remarkable accomplishments as a teacher and communal leader…. We are confident that she will continue to serve as a true role model.”
In recent years, Mirvis has become a sought-after teacher both within her community in Efrat and on the Internet, where she teaches a popular weekly Talmud vlog and also serves as a trusted adjudicator of halachic issues for people around the world.
“The chance to witness Rabbanit Shira Mirvis take on this role represents an important moment as we recognize that the place of women in Jewish leadership can go fully hand in hand with Halacha and our mesorah [tradition],” said Rabbi Kenneth Brander, president and yeshiva head of Ohr Torah Stone.
“I am deeply hopeful and confident that we will look back on this moment as one which paved a new halachic direction for the rightful place of women spiritual leaders within the Orthodox community.”
WIHL director Rabbanit Devorah Evron said Mirvis is “well positioned to lead this community with both knowledge and a wide-open heart,” adding: “There is no doubt that this is a large step both for her, personally, but also for the place of female Torah leadership in Jewish communities in Israel and worldwide.”