Q. I read that a modern orthodox rabbi in New York is ready to ordain an orthodox woman but is worried about calling her “rabbi”.* Why is this a problem?
A. There are many orthodox women today with a high level of rabbinic knowledge. Few are clamouring to be called rabbis though they may be learned enough. Of those who do want a title, the question is their motivation: whether they sincerely wish to serve God and the Torah, or if they wish to make a statement and show they are as good as men.
Some modern orthodox congregations have women carrying out pastoral and educational functions without a rabbinic title, but is there an appropriate title? “Rabbi” is masculine. Medieval authorities call a woman scholar a rabbanit, but this has come to mean a rabbi’s wife.
* This article first appeared in 2009.