Second female “rabba” to be ordained

A second woman will be ordained under the title rabba.

The Academy of Jewish Religion in Riverdale is set to ordain Kaya Stern-Kaufman, 47, of Great Barrington, Mass., at a ceremony on May 12, the New York Jewish Week reported Wednesday.

Her ordination comes a year after Rabbi Avi Weiss, who heads the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, a modern Orthodox synagogue in the Bronx, conferred the title rabba on Sara Hurwitz, who serves the congregation, causing controversy throughout the Orthodox world.

A month after ordaining Hurwitz, Weiss said that he would no longer ordain women with the title rabba. Weiss is not affiliated with the Academy of Jewish Religion.

Stern-Kaufman, who previously worked as a clinical social worker and as a Feng Shui consultant in architecture, and as a part-time Jewish educator, is following seven generations of Orthodox rabbis in her family, the Jewish Week reports. 

The Academy of the Hebrew Language in Israel officially entered the word “rabba” into the Hebrew language last year, according to the newspaper.

Some of the previous year’s female graduates had asked to graduate with the title rabba, but “we needed time to study it and consider the ramifications,” Ora Horn Prouser, executive vice president and dean of the academy, told the Jewish Week.

Stern-Kaufman is one of seven females to be graduating from the academy this year, and the only one who will be receiving the title rabba.

The academy was founded in 1956 as a pluralistic rabbinical school. Graduating rabbinical and cantorial students receive a Masters degree from Gratz College, a general college of Jewish studies, in Philadelphia.