‘New York’ profiles Avi Weiss
Weiss, of the Bronx’s Modern Orthodox Hebrew Institute of Riverdale (and Newsweek’s 18th most influential American rabbi) made waves earlier this year when he granted the brand-new title of “rabba” to Sara Hurwitz, the woman he had ordained the previous year under the (also brand-new) title of “maharat.” New York‘s feature does two things especially well: It shows how Weiss’s controversial move was the re-naming of the position, from maharat to rabba, rather than the ordination itself (the Orthodox organization Agudath Israel has called him a “rabba-rouser”); and it situates this latest provocation in the 64-year-old Weiss’s four-decade career of pushing the envelope.
Weiss’s stands mostly concerned matters like the Soviet refuseniks and the Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard. However, author Abigail Pogrebin, a Tablet Magazine contributor, adds, “Within the Orthodox community, Weiss has been equally disruptive, agitating for what he calls an ‘open Orthodoxy,’ which he believes can be inclusive without breaching the tradition’s stringent parameters.”
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