In a surprise move, Judith Hauptman, esteemed professor of Talmud at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, will soon be ordained as a rabbi— but not at the flagship institution of the Conservative movement, where she has taught rabbinical students and others since 1974. Instead, she will receive her own rabbinic ordination from the non-denominational Academy of Jewish Religion in Riverdale, New York. Rabbi Ismar Schorsch, JTS Chancellor, last year refused Hauptman’s request to take the few courses she still needed to qualify for ordination. The Forward newspaper reported. Hauptman received her doctorate from JTS in 1982, one year before the Conservative movement began to admit women into its rabbinical program.
Among the reasons that Rabbi Schorsch gave for denying Hauptman’s request was that he could not allow her to take classes with her students, “When you have to give four or five reasons, none is likely to be the real reason,” Hauptman told LILITH. While she had really wanted to be ordained at JTS, she said, she went on to note that the Academy for Jewish Religion has “a wonderful, supportive atmosphere.”
Hauptman is particularly interested in advocating for the role of Jewish elderly in synagogue life and the rebuilding of the downtown Jewish community in the wake of 9/11.
“As a rabbi,” Hauptman said, “I will have a greater voice.”