And just in time for Passover.
Ten young children sit around a table as Lila Kagedan walks into their synagogue’s after-school program. Paper plates filled with art supplies are waiting for them to tear into. Kagedan introduces herself as the new rabbi at their synagogue. Not one of the elementary-school-aged children seems surprised. But her announcement is surprising — historic, even: Kagedan, of Mount Freedom Jewish Center, is the first woman to have the title of rabbi serving an Orthodox congregation. It is a job she has dreamed of holding since she was a little girl, but rabbinical school did not exist for women in the Orthodox movement for most of her life. “Growing up the only model of rabbi in the Orthodox world were men,” Kagedan says. “So in some ways this really didn’t feel like an option.” Rabbi Lila Kagedan says she “wanted my title to be the most accurate description of my training.” …There have been Orthodox Jewish women before her who took the title “rabba,” but Kagedan was firm in wanting to be called Rabbi Kagedan. “I knew that I wanted my title to be the most accurate description of my training,” Kagedan says. “I didn’t want to walk into a room or a space and have there be any ambiguity of what it is that I was there to do. What my training was. What my skill set was.” The idea of a female rabbi is not accepted by everyone in Orthodox Judaism. The Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), an organization made up of Orthodox rabbis, passed a resolution in October 2015 in response to Kagedan’s school, Yeshivat Maharat, ordaining women as rabbis, calling it “a violation of our mesorah [tradition]” and saying the school’s decision to do so was “a path that contradicts the norms of our community.” When asked about Kagedan’s new position, Rabbi Mark Dratch, the RCA’s executive vice president, said the organization “encourages a diversity of [sanctioned] and communally appropriate opportunities for learned, committed women,” but it does not accept the ordination or recognition of women as Orthodox rabbis.
Photo: Times of Israel