Lila Kagedan

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Lila Kagedan
DenominationOpen Orthodox
YeshivaYeshivat Maharat
SemichaRabbi Avi Weiss

Lila Kagedan (39–40 years old)[1] is a Canadian-born Jewish rabbi who in 2016 became the first female rabbi hired by an Orthodox synagogue.[2][3][4][5][6][7] This occurred when Mount Freedom Jewish Center in New Jersey, which is Open Orthodox, hired Kagedan to join their "spiritual leadership team."[6][7][8] She is currently the rabbi at Walnut Street Synagogue in Massachusetts.[9][2]

Early life and family[edit]

Kagedan moved with her family to Ottawa, Ontario, Canada when she was about 8 years old, and she entered the 4th grade at the local Hillel Academy (now the Ottawa Jewish Community School). She then began high school at Machon Sarah High School for Girls, but switched to join the Yitzchak Rabin High School founded by her parents, Ian and Shoshana Kagedan, for its first graduating class.[10]

Kagedan studied abroad in Israel at Midreshet Lindenbaum for her first year of college.[11]

Kagedan's father died in 2014 from complications due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.[10]


Kagedan trained and received ordination in the summer of 2015 from Yeshivat Maharat, the Orthodox women's religious training program founded by Rabbi Avi Weiss in Bronx, New York. Unlike other Maharat graduates, who assumed titles such as rabba (feminine version of "rabbi") or maharat (manhiga hilchatit ruchanit toranit, or "female leader of Jewish law, spirit and Torah"),[12] Kagedan was the first to take the title "rabbi", because she said she felt that it was the most natural following her ordination.[13]


Kagedan is a medical ethicist and serves as an instructor of bioethics at Touro College.[14][11] She is also a Hadassah Brandeis Institute-Gender, Culture, Religion and Law research associate,[15] and either serves or has served as a chaplain in various hospitals in the Boston and New York City areas.[10]

In 2011, Kagedan founded the Sulam School in Brookline, Massachusetts, a K-5 program that offers immersive Judaic studies in a pluralistic environment.[16]

In 2016 Mount Freedom Jewish Center in New Jersey, which is Open Orthodox, stated that they had hired Kagedan to join their "spiritual leadership team."[6] After she began that job, it was announced that she had been appointed at the modern Orthodox Shira Hadasha synagogue in Melbourne, Australia as a Rabbi in Residence; this made her its first female rabbi.[7] She was to serve for five weeks beginning in May 2016.[7][8]

As of 2017 she is serving, under the title Rabbi, at the Walnut Street Synagogue in Massachusetts, having been hired by them in 2016.[17][8][18]

She is the first female Orthodox Jewish rabbi at a U.S. congregation.[19]


In the fall of 2015, the Rabbinical Council of America, representing over a thousand Orthodox rabbis across the United States, formally adopted a policy prohibiting the ordination or hiring of women rabbis by synagogues that operate within the boundaries of their figurative jurisdiction, regardless of title.[20] Similarly, also in the fall of that year, the Agudath Israel of America denounced moves to ordain women, and went even further, declaring Yeshivat Maharat, Open Orthodoxy, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, and other affiliated entities to be similar to other dissident movements throughout Jewish history in having rejected basic tenets of Judaism.[21][22][23] Right-wing Orthodox news outlets reported Kagedan's hiring by an Orthodox synagogue with derision, putting terms like "clergy" and "ordination" in quotes.[24]

Asked why she chooses to identify with Orthodoxy when a number of other Jewish denominations readily accept female clergy, Kagedan responded that she was raised in Orthodoxy and remains committed to its tenets.[10]


  1. ^ Can Orthodox Jewish Women be Rabbis?, November 9, 2015
  2. ^ a b "Chelsea's historic Walnut Street Shul preserves a future". Jewish Journal. 2017-06-15. Retrieved 2019-05-05.
  3. ^ "Meet the First Female Orthodox Rabbi". The Cut. Retrieved 2019-05-05.
  4. ^ admin-walnut. "Clergy". Walnut. Retrieved 2019-05-05.
  5. ^ The Forward First Woman Orthodox Rabbi Hired by Synagogue, January 3, 2016
  6. ^ a b c "NJ Orthodox shul announces hire of woman using 'rabbi' title". Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
  7. ^ a b c d Jewish Press News Briefs. "The Jewish Press » » Rabbi Lila Kagedan, First Female Rabbi at Orthodox Shul in Melbourne". The Jewish Press.
  8. ^ a b c "Clergy - Walnut". 2014-06-20. Retrieved 2018-05-10.
  9. ^ admin-walnut. "Clergy". Walnut. Retrieved 2019-05-05.
  10. ^ a b c d The Ottawa Jewish Bulletin Rabbi Lila Kagedan Breaks New Ground as Clergywoman Committed to Orthodox Judaism, November 23, 2015
  11. ^ a b "Rabbi Lila Kagedan". Yeshivat Maharat.
  12. ^ Jewish Journal Orthodox shul takes first step to hiring female clergy, September 11, 2014
  13. ^ Canadian Jewish News Why Orthodoxy Needs Female Rabbis, November 25, 2015
  14. ^ The Jewish Chronicle Woman breaking Orthodox mould, December 29, 2015
  15. ^ Rabbis Without Borders Alumni Profiles: Lila Kagedan
  16. ^ Torah in Motion Profile: Lila Kagedan
  17. ^ "Chelsea's historic Walnut Street Shul preserves a future". Retrieved 2017-06-19.
  18. ^ "About - History - Walnut". 2014-06-20. Retrieved 2018-05-10.
  19. ^ Catie L'Heureux. "Meet the First Female Orthodox Rabbi". The Cut.
  20. ^ Times of Israel First Yeshivat Maharat Female Rabbi Hired by Orthodox Synagogue, January 3, 2016
  21. ^ "Moetzes: 'Open Orthodoxy' Not a Form of Torah Judaism". Hamodia.
  22. ^ "Breach in US Orthodox Judaism grows as haredi body rejects 'Open Orthodoxy' institutions". The Jerusalem Post -
  23. ^ Josh Nathan-Kazis (3 November 2015). "Avi Weiss Defends 'Open Orthodoxy' as Agudah Rabbis Declare War". The Forward.
  24. ^ First Yeshivat Maharat Female Rabbi Hired by Orthodox Shul, January 4, 2016