Indeed the inaugural graduation ceremony at Yeshivat Maharat is a great moment for the Jewish people. However the two articles you ran (“Maharats March Into Jewish World” and “History, Yes. Respect, Well…”), while almost comprehensive in their coverage of the subject, did not give enough attention to the most important impact of the graduation of maharats.
This detail is eventually acknowledged halfway through Lilit Marcus’ (“History, Yes.”) article and three-quarters of the way through Susan Reimer-Torn’s (“Maharats March”) article. Rather than address this issue, both articles seemed obsessed with the popular feminist question of whether these women now have equal status with the men.
Unfortunately, the articles failed to acknowledge the work of the almost 10-year-old women’s yeshiva Nishmat in Jerusalem, under Dean Rabbanit Chana Henkin. Nishmat grants certificates of Yoetzet Halacha (halachic adviser) to women who successfully complete the course of study. The graduates go on to be professional religious advisers for women. Henkin has pointed out that the number of women seeking counseling grew more than tenfold in the first year that a Yoetzet Halacha was available. Thus we have some facts about the likely impact that maharats will have.
This is the real cause for celebration. Finally, traditional Jewish women can get guidance, answers and leadership from Jewish clerical professionals who get it — i.e., get it about a woman’s unique needs. Yeshivat Maharat is to be praised for delivering this gift to our wives, mothers, daughters and sisters. We look forward to the Yoetzot Halachah in Israel and Maharats in North America expanding their services and increasingly becoming a voice in the continuing evolution of traditional Jewish thought and action.