The university which awards several education courses for the London School of Jewish Studies will raise concerns with the institution after a teacher lost her official title because she became a rabba (female rabbi).
Dr Lindsey Taylor-Guthartz, 61, was informed by the institution that she would be unable to carry on in her position as a research fellow on an adult education course at the school – which is not accredited by Middlesex – or retain her honorary title, because she had enrolled on a rabbinic ordination course at the Yeshiva Maharat in New York.
Orthodox authorities, including the Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, do not recognise female rabbis.
Middlesex University, the body which separately validates several of the school’s degrees, will raise the issue with the school, while hundreds have signed letters in support of the teacher of 16 years.
“I am so sad at this denial of the opportunity to take my teaching to new heights and to expand access to Torah learning for my beloved students at LSJS,” said Taylor-Guthartz.
She added: “The decision is regrettable, but I am determined to continue to teach Torah across the community to everyone who is eager to learn.”
The popular lecturer, who was employed on an informal contract, graduated from her semicha course on Tuesday. She says she had never sought to become a communal rabbi, and had volunteered not to use the title of ‘rabba’.
But officials at the school told her that it would not be possible to continue in the role, as obtaining the qualification would not be in line with the halachic guidance of the Chief Rabbi.
Chief Rabbi Mirvis has repeatedly outlined Orthodox opposition to female rabbis, saying that while women were welcome to take up numerous senior leadership positions in communal life, a rabbi could not be one of them.
“On behalf of all LSJS trustees, I would like to thank Dr Taylor-Guthartz for her many years of service and we wish her all the best for the future,” said Chair of LSJS, Gary Phillips.
“She is a wonderful teacher who will be much missed by both her students and colleagues at the college.’”
A letter signed by more than 30 Reform and Liberal rabbis in support of Dr Taylor-Guthartz, has been sent to the Chief Rabbi, which states there is “clearly still a glass ceiling of Torah above which half your community may not ascend.”
Eve Sacks, of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, said: “My sense is that Rabbi Mirvis has panicked, because he does not want the right-wing part of Orthodoxy in America to see that he has allowed a female rabbi to teach in one of his colleges.”
She added that she believed he should have accepted a compromise with Lindsey-Guthartz not to use the title while teaching.
Middlesex University told Jewish News that LSJS had explained to it that “they are bound by [the Chief Rabbi’s] guidance in the teaching of religious texts and rabbinic authority.”
Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.
Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.
For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.
Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.
You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.
100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...
Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.
There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.
In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.
Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.
In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.
Voice of our community to wider society
The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.
We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.