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Mt. Freedom Jewish Center welcomes female Rabbi Lila Kagedan

For the first time, a woman and graduate of Yeshivat Maharat, Lila Kagedan, has been hired by a New Jersey Orthodox synagogue. She will use the “rabbi” title.

According to the Mount Freedom Jewish Center located in Randolph, New Jersey, Kagedan is scheduled to join the Center's “spiritual leadership team.” Interestingly, the release eschewed the “rabbi” word and referred to their new hire as “Yeshivat Maharat graduate.”

Lila Kagedan was ordained in the summer of 2015 by the seminary established by Avi Weiss, an Open Orthodox Rabbi. The aim of this seminary is to train the Orthodox female clergy. However, graduates of this New York seminary were not too keen on adopting the rabbi title. A majority have assumed the maharat title. It is an acronym which translates loosely to female spiritual leader. Kagedan is the first female clergy to refer to herself as a rabbi.

In an interview, Kagedan admitted that the change can be frightening and difficult. This is particularly true as the populace is used to certain aesthetics when the word “rabbi” is uttered. When it comes to Rabbinical Council of America, the principal Orthodox group of rabbis, they have adopted a stringent policy of prohibiting the hire or the ordination of women rabbis.

The list of her responsibilities at the new place of employment include teaching the Torah and offer learning opportunities to both adults and children. She will also connect with the young families and participate in the pastoral and lifecycle needs along with Rabbi Menashe East. Kagedan will work part-time, commuting from her residence in Boston.

The Mount Freedom Jewish Center said that they felt fortunate to welcome Kagedan to the community. It said that she brings a width of knowledge and the much required interest for the yiddishkeit which will inspire both the young and the old. The Center said that its employees are looking forward to share duties with Kagedan for the benefit of all Jewish citizenry. The board president of the center, Sharon Nessel, said that they try to balance dynamic and new opportunities while honoring Orthodox tenets at the same time.

The Yeshivat Maharat has until now ordained a total of 11 students. Six of them are presently serving in different Orthodox synagogues scattered across the North American region. The remaining five graduates work at international educational institutions and schools and also in different community organizations. 

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