Sara Hurwitz has recently made Jewish history. If you don’t already know who she is, she’s the first Orthodox woman to become a publicly ordained Jewish rabba (“rabba” is the female form of rabbi)–which is a huge deal for the Jewish community as a whole. Besides that, she also co-founded and is now the Dean of Yeshivat Maharat, which is the first yeshiva to ordain women as Orthodox clergy.
As someone who firmly believes that women should be afforded every opportunity and position men have, I couldn’t wait to speak with Hurwitz about the difficulties surrounding her journey to becoming a rabba, how she deals with criticism, and what her biggest pet peeve is.
Read what she has to say below:
What was one difficult part and one easy part of establishing Yeshivat Maharat?
The easy part was knowing there would finally be an institution that would provide a credentialed pathway for young women to pursue their dreams of becoming Orthodox rabbis. Although there was a lot of criticism when I was ordained, and again when I co-founded Yeshivat Maharat, I was buoyed by the letters I received from 11-year old girls describing how excited they were that they could now become full members of the clergy.
The difficult part is knowing that every new community that hires their first female clergy person will have to go through a similar evolution towards realizing the benefits of Orthodox women as clergy. I know how painful that process was for me. We prepare our graduates to remain above the controversy, but it is difficult to remain emotionally detached from the process; I also know that as Yeshivat Maharat normalizes the phenomenon of women in clergy, female rabbinic leaders will be, and already are, seen as necessary to the fabric of Orthodox life.
You faced a lot of criticism when you became the first woman to be ordained an Orthodox rabba. What are your tips for dealing with criticism?
Know who criticizes you. If it is someone you respect, take it seriously; otherwise, it is unlikely to be personal, and must not prevent you from putting one foot in front of the other, to pursue what is right and just in our world.
Favorite Yiddish word:
Tzirchlufin–a Yiddish word my husband invented!
Favorite comfort food:
Hot, homemade challah!
What TV show have you binge watched?
Biggest pet peeve:
When your fork scrapes your dinner plate–that noise makes me nuts!
If you were a Jewish holiday, which one would you be?
Yom Kippur—what an amazing opportunity to get a second chance to evaluate the person you want to be in this world.
What’s your weirdest family tradition?
Placing balloons over our kids beds the night before their birthdays.
Least favorite part of your day:
That hour when you keep walking your children back to bed again and again, because they just won’t go to sleep!
“Joy of Text,” which is moderated by Maharat Ramie Smith, class of 2016.