First woman chosen to lead an orthodox community in Israel

Modern Orthodox synagogue in Gush Etzion selects woman as their spiritual leader.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

An Orthodox Jewish community in Israel has become the first to appoint a female rabbi as head of a synagogue, Ynet reported Tuesday.

The “Shirat HaTamar” congregation in the town of Efrat, in the Gush Etzion bloc south of Jerusalem, chose Rabbanit Shira Mirvis as their spiritual leader. She will also provide guidance in “halakha” – Jewish rabbinic law.

Mirvis, 40, was approved by an overwhelming majority of the community members and will officially be inaugurated in her position next month after graduating from the Halachic Leadership Institute of the Ohr Torah Stone network of Jewish educational institutions established by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin. The program is described as the most comprehensive track for Torah studies for women and the equivalent of rabbinical certification studies for men.

While still a rabbinical student, Mirvis had already served as head of a Beit Midrash – a school associated with a seminary or synagogue for intensive Torah study – as well as with the community burial society. Mirvis is also a partner in a blog about religious studies and hosts a popular Torah-centered podcast.

Mirvis thanked the community “for the opportunity they gave me to continue to lead this wonderful community … I pray that with God’s help, God will light our way and that we will continue to grow together to increase Torah.”

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“The opportunity to see Rebbetzin Shira Mirvis in this position is a crucial moment for Judaism, in which we recognize that female spiritual and halakhic leadership can go hand in hand and fully and completely with our halakhah and tradition,” said Rabbi Katriel Brender, head of Ohr Torah Stone.

“There is no doubt that Rebbetzin Shira has deep Torah knowledge, a commitment to tradition and uncompromising compassion, and she will be a tremendous asset to both the local community and the entire Jewish world,” Rabbi Brender added. “I believe and am sure that in the course of time, we will look back on this moment as a new halakhic pioneer in the proper place of women as spiritual leaders in the Orthodox community.”

Efrat Mayor Oded Revivi said he considers the selection Mirvis a “natural and necessary move” and that “the only test is Torah-inspired quality and the ability to lead a community… I am happy with her choice and hope others will follow suit.”

Efrat’s 13,000 residents are mostly Modern Orthodox who emphasize Jewish learning and religious practice but also do national service. The city is known for its many residents who are involved in Israel’s high-tech sector.

During the pandemic, Mirvis reached out to members of her community, many of whom had been infected when there was a coronavirus surge in her neighborhood, helping get them through the crisis.

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“As wthe ord spread about her expertise, over the last few months, Rabbanit Mirvis received more calls than ever before from throughout Efrat and beyond,” Ohr Torah Stone said on their website.

“People from different religious communities began to call – many who I never would have expected to see me as a resource,” Mirvis said.