Israeli Rabbinate Threatens To Suspend Semicha Examinations Over Issue Of Female Participation

Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel Yitzhak Yosef speaks during Shas Party's election rally at the Yazdim synagogue in Jerusalem on February 29, 2020. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90 *** Local Caption *** ???? ???? ?????? ?????? ?? ?"? ????? ?????? ??????

JERUSALEM (VINnews) — The Israeli chief rabbinate has reacted angrily to a legal opinion submitted by Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit regarding the issue of females taking semicha tests and receiving an equivalent status to semicha as ‘halachic advisors’. Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef, the Sephardi chief rabbi, even threatened to suspend the entire Semicha examinations over the issue.

On Monday Israeli journalist Kobi Nachshoni revealed that in response to a petition by the Itim organization representing the women who wish to take semicha tests, the attorney-general stated in a legal opinion that the rabbinate has no legal authority to prevent women from taking the tests and receiving national recognition for their knowledge which would grant them equivalent status to semicha.

The attorney-general effectively stated that the state would not be able to defend the fact that the semicha tests are only given to men and would therefore force the Rabbinate to establish a similar framework for women’s examinations.

Rabbinate spokesman Kobi Alter said Tuesday that “the Israeli chief rabbinate rejects the position of the attorney-general supporting the establishment of rabbinate examinations for women. The rabbinate is not an institution of higher academic studies and its function is to  train rabbis in Israel.”

Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef directed the professional staff in the rabbinate to “oppose unconditionally any training of women for the rabbinate. The halacha and Jewish tradition which the rabbinate upholds do not allow women to be trained for the rabbinate.”


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  1. When you mix religion and politics, you’re going to get religious people making political decisions, political people making religious decisions, or maybe (as in Israel) a bit of both. It does not seem like a recipe for success, but I do wish everyone involved much hatzlochoh.

    Out of curiosity, however, I might wonder what would happen if a woman took the bechinos, and passed them with a higher score than her male colleagues. If the purpose of the test is merely to ascertain a candidate’s expertise on halahchah, and a woman passes the test, what would be so terrible?

    • By that logic, what would be so terrible if a Jesuit priest sought Rabbinical ordination? I mean, if he/she/it could establish proficiency in the requisite curriculum, “what would be so terrible?”.

  2. It is not the rabbanim who are the “so insecure” ones, “Gertrude.”
    Why are these women coveting semicha? Traditional Orthodox Judaism does not recognize lady rabbis. Let them go to Reform and stop bothering the Orthodox with secular arguments to coerce changes not l’shem shomayim.


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