Having read both the OU statement and the rabbinic responses regarding women in leadership roles in the Orthodox community, I was disappointed but not surprised by the conclusions that were reached (“OU Nixes Women Rabbis: What Else Is New?” Feb. 10).
The rabbinic decision was based on three main factors: halakha (Jewish law), mesorah (precedent) and halachic ethos. The halachic determination was based primarily on a statement in Sifri that women should not be appointed kings. Ignoring the questionable comparison of rabbi to king, what are we to make of figures such as Devorah the Judge and Shlomtzion the Queen of Judea? These women were leaders of the entire Jewish nation. Why were they ignored by the OU?
As for the issues of mesorah and halachic ethos, no sources are cited at all. The rabbis state that “the absence of institutionalized women’s rabbinic leadership has been both deliberate and meaningful.” Deliberate certainly. Meaningful for whom, and why?
This is an insult to Orthodox women and men who can envision a more egalitarian leadership structure within halachic bounds. New, halachically valid congregations are being founded and are growing, where women play a more vital and meaningful role than ever before.
The OU in its nearsighted statement risks being left behind as irrelevant.