Sara Hurwitz

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Sara Hurwitz
Johannesburg, South Africa[1]
SpouseJosh Abraham[1]
ChildrenYonah, Zacharya, Davidi and Natan[1]
DenominationOpen Orthodox
SynagogueHebrew Institute of Riverdale
YeshivaYeshivat Maharat
SemichaRabbi Avi Weiss

Sara Hurwitz is an Open Orthodox Jewish spiritual leader who received ordination from Rabbi Avi Weiss. She is the "Rabba" at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale in Riverdale, Bronx, New York,[2] and the dean of Yeshivat Maharat[3] in Riverdale, Bronx, New York.[4]

She is the curricular researcher and writer for JOFA's Gender and Orthodoxy Curriculum Project.[5]

Early life and education[edit]

Hurwitz was born in South Africa.[6] In 1989, Hurwitz moved with her family to Boca Raton, Florida. That year, she was in the eighth grade.[7]

Hurwitz graduated from Barnard College in New York City with a Bachelor of Arts.[1][8]

She was a student at Midreshet Lindenbaum in Talpiot, Israel, a post-high school religious seminary, not degree-granting.[1]

Sara is married to Joshua Abraham and lives in Riverdale, NY with their four sons.

She went to the Drisha Institute in New York City as part of Drisha's three-year[9] Scholar Circle Program. Drisha is a women's religious studies institution. She has a certificate from Drisha.[1][8][10]

Hurwitz has a rabbinic degree issued by Rabbi Avi Weiss in a private 5-year study program.[8][10]

Controversy regarding honorific Rabba[edit]

In June 2009, Weiss ordained Sara Hurwitz with the title "maharat" (an acronym of manhiga hilkhatit rukhanit Toranit[11]) rather than "Rabbi".[6][12] In February 2010, Weiss announced that he was changing Maharat to a more familiar-sounding title "Rabba".[13] The goal of this shift was to clarify Hurwitz's position as a full member of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale rabbinic staff. The change was criticised by both Agudath Yisrael and the Rabbinical Council of America, who called the move "beyond the pale of Orthodox Judaism".[14] Weiss announced amidst criticism that the term "Rabba" would not be used anymore for his future students. However, in 2015 Yaffa Epstein was ordained as Rabba by the Yeshivat Maharat, which Weiss founded.[15] Also in 2015, Lila Kagedan was ordained as Rabbi by that same organization, making her their first graduate to take the title Rabbi.[16] Hurwitz continues to use the title Rabba and is considered by some to be the first female Orthodox rabbi.[17][18][19][20]

Interdenominational meetings[edit]

On December 6, 2010, Hurwitz met for the first time with Sally Priesand, the first Reform female rabbi, Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, the first Reconstructionist female rabbi, and Amy Eilberg, the first Conservative female rabbi, at Temple Reyim in Newton, Massachusetts. With a group of about 30 other women rabbis, they lit Hanukkah candles and spoke about their experiences in an open forum.[21]

Priesand, Sasso, Eilberg, and Hurwitz met again on June 3, 2012 at Monmouth Reform Temple in Tinton Falls, New Jersey for a celebration honoring the four first women Jewish spiritual leaders to be ordained in their respective denominations, and the 40th anniversary of Priesand's ordination.[22]


Hurwitz is featured in Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance's (JOFA) Mission Statement YouTube video uploaded on November 29 of 2011. She is featured saying, "I fell in love. I felt like I was at home (at the first JOFA Conference in 1997[23]). I felt like I was in a community surrounded by like minded people who were passionate about Judaism, passionate about being religious and Orthodox and halacha—but were interested in creating ways for women to have a voice… JOFA is trying to shape the young minds of children, to a gender sensitive curriculum that I worked on many years ago… People in my age range and younger than me are afraid of the word feminism and I get that question all the time, ‘Are you a feminist?’ and my response is, if feminism means creating a more cohesive and inclusive community, then absolutely, I’m a feminist." [24]

Yeshivat Maharat's Semikha Ceremony[edit]

On June 2nd of 2016 Hurwitz delivered the "A Message from the Dean" at Yeshivat Maharat[25]'s Semikha Ceremony, hosted at Ramaz Lower School in which she applauds "the loud voices of those who hired our graduates as spiritual leaders, who support our graduates in fulfilling their dreams of serving the Jewish people as Orthodox clergy" and expresses her belief that the graduates: Hadas (Dasi) Fruchter, Ramie Smith, and Alissa Thomas-Newborn, "embody the ethic of optimism."[26]


In 2013 Hurwitz was awarded the Hadassah Foundation Bernice S. Tannenbaum prize.[9]

In 2014 Hurwitz received the annual Myrtle Wreath Award from the Southern New Jersey Region of Hadassah.[27]

In 2016 Hurwitz was the Trailblazer Award Recipient at UJA Federation of New York.[9]

Hurwitz was named as one of Jewish Week's 36 Under 36, the Forward50 most influential Jewish leaders, and Newsweek's 50 most influential rabbis.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Sara's Story". Yeshivat Maharat. Yeshivat Maharat. 6 July 2010. Archived from the original on 2012-01-24.
  2. ^ "Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, Contact Page". Retrieved 9 November 2015.
  3. ^ Yeshivat Maharat
  4. ^ "Rabba Sara Hurwitz, Dean - Yeshivat Maharat". Retrieved 9 November 2015.
  5. ^ "Speaker's Bureau - Sara Hurwitz". JOFA. Retrieved 13 March 2010.
  6. ^ a b Eisner, Jane (2009-11-14). "Forward 50, 2009". The Forward. Retrieved 13 March 2010.
  7. ^ Woman Orthodox "Rabbi" Sara Hurwitz, interview on Shalom TV, Mar 8, 2011,
  8. ^ a b c "Faculty and Staff". Yeshivat Maharat. Retrieved 2013-08-26.
  9. ^ a b c d "Yeshivat Maharat".
  10. ^ a b Pogrebin, Abigail (July 11, 2010). "The Rabbi and the Rabba". Retrieved April 14, 2011.
  11. ^ "home - Yeshivat Maharat". Retrieved 1 February 2011.
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-06-27. Retrieved 2014-09-15.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ ""Rabba" Sara Hurwitz Rocks the Orthodox". Heeb Magazine. March 10, 2010. Retrieved 13 March 2010.
  14. ^ Staff. "Do 1 Rabba, 2 Rabbis and 1 Yeshiva = a New Denomination?". Moment Magazine. Retrieved March 21, 2013.
  15. ^ "Class of 2015". Yeshivat Maharat.
  16. ^ Rabbi Lila Kagedan (25 November 2015). "Why Orthodox Judaism needs female rabbis". The Canadian Jewish News.
  17. ^ Harris, Ben (March 9, 2010). "Amid Furor, Weiss Backs Away from 'Rabba' Title for Women". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Archived from the original on June 7, 2011. Retrieved March 22, 2010.
  18. ^
  19. ^ "The Jewish Chronicle - Classifieds, News, Business, and Events". Retrieved 29 October 2014.
  20. ^ "Celebrating the First Lights of Women Rabbis". Retrieved 29 October 2014.
  21. ^ Imber, Elizabeth (December 8, 2010). "Celebrating the First Lights of Women Rabbis". Jewish Women's Archive. Retrieved May 5, 2012.
  22. ^ "Four First Women Rabbis". Monmouth Reform Temple. Retrieved May 5, 2012.
  23. ^ "JOFA 1997" (PDF).
  24. ^ "JOFA Mission".
  25. ^ "Yeshivat Maharat".
  26. ^ "Yeshivat Maharat" (PDF).
  27. ^

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]