“There are women who are learned and it is only fitting that they too have a title”

…I still don’t see the objection to female clergy. I am not talking about women pulpit rabbis, but what is the problem with a woman chaplain at a hospital or a woman teacher of advanced Torah studies or even a woman posek (poseket)? I realize that there are objections to using the title of “rabbi” for women, and Saul Liebeman focused on this in his letter of opposition. So why not just come up with a different title?

The RCA is apparently opposed to giving learned women any title. However, titles are important, as they are community recognition that someone has reached a certain level. There are women who are learned and it is only fitting that they too have a title. In fact, some women who went into academic Jewish studies would have been just as happy to remain in traditional Jewish studies if there was some way of recognizing their achievements. And before you start putting down the importance of titles, I can tell you that there are learned (and not so learned) men who use the title “rabbi”, even though they have never received semikhah. They do so because they feel the title is important for their community work. By the same token, a title can also be important for women who are involved in teaching Torah and community leadership.

As for the title of “rebbetzin”, or “rabbanit” in modern Hebrew, this has no appeal for many of the Modern Orthodox, as I have mentioned here. This point is also seen in a recent comment by Yakir Englander and Avi Sagi, that the title “rabbanit” is used to create a halo of authority where none exists. Yet as I note in the just mentioned post, there is biblical precedent for calling women by their husband’s title. I subsequently saw that in Shabbat 95a, Rashi, s.v. אשה חכמה claims that אשה חכמה here does not mean a learned woman but the wife or daughter of a scholar who would have picked up some knowledge by virtue of her family situation. Isn’t this the same thing with rebbetzins in the haredi world? Simply by being married to a rabbi they end up more Jewishly learned, especially in practical halakhah, than the typical haredi woman.

Marc B. Shapiro, “Some Unusually ‘Liberal’ Statements by Mainstream Rabbinic Figures”, The Seforim Blog (9 February 2016) [http://seforim.blogspot.com/2016/02/some-unusually-liberal-statements-by.html]