A Cambridge University theology graduate is soon to be becoming a rabbi in a UK Orthodox community.
Miriam Lorie, 35, was recently appointed as a “rabbi in training” with Kehillat Nashira minyan in the town of Borehamwood, just north of London. A minyan is a quorum of 10 men (or in some synagogues, men and women) over the age of 13 required for traditional Jewish public worship.
Lorie is a long-distance student at Yeshivot Maharat, a ground-breaking Orthodox Jewish educational institution for women in New York City. Founded in 2009, Maharat is the first yeshiva to ordain women to serve as Orthodox clergy.
Other Maharat graduates have also gone on to assume key leadership roles in Orthodox communities. In April 21, Rabbi Shira Marilee Mirvis became the first woman spiritual leader of an Orthodox community in Israel.
“It doesn’t feel radical to me,” Lorie told the Jewish Chronicle about her rabbinical appointment. “It feels like a very natural progression from work I was already doing in a community which welcomes it.”
She feels “immensely fortunate to live at a time when women can become rabbis in Orthodox communities,” and looks forward “to watching the positive ripples this will have on the Jewish world and individuals, whatever their gender.”
Jonny Hart, a trustee of Kehillat Nashira, told the Chronicle that the minyan “has always aimed to be inclusive and inspiring.” He said that “hiring a woman in a rabbinic role is a natural step for us. Understanding that ‘you can’t be what you can’t see,’ we believe that Miriam’s work will provide girls and boys, men and women with a crucial role model for community leadership, Torah learning and religious support.”
The United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth does not recognize women rabbis. Nor does it acknowledge minyans where women are permitted to read from the Torah and lead prayers. But since Kehillat Nashira, one of half a dozen British minyans where women have leadership roles, started in 2013, tensions between the Orthodox establishment and progressive institutions have lessened.
Lorie is “one of the most gifted educators of her generation,” Miriam Shaviv, a Kehillat Nashira member told the Chronicle. If it weren’t for recent changes in women’s rabbinical leadership, Orthodox synagogues “would have missed out on almost everything she and women like her have to offer,” Shaviv said. “I’m excited that Miriam will be serving the entire community—not just other women, as is sometimes the case in Orthodox frameworks. I’m hopeful that as the community becomes used to seeing Orthodox women like Miriam in rabbinic positions, it will create opportunities for women in other Orthodox shuls as well.”
Lorie has studied at Midreshet Harova, a seminary in the Old City of Jerusalem. She worked for seven years with the Cambridge Interfaith Program and the Woolf Institute, which specializes in relations among Jews, Christians and Muslims.
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