UK woman appointed to rabbinic leadership role in Orthodox community

Jewish mother-of-two, 35, who went to Cambridge makes history by becoming the first woman in the UK to be appointed as an Orthodox rabbi during her training

  • Miriam Lorie, 35, has started working as a ‘rabbi in training’ with Kehillat Nashira 
  • Based in Hertfordshire, Kehillat Nashira is a partnership minyan – a prayer group including women to the fullest extent possible within boundaries of Jewish law
  • Miriam is studying for rabbinical ordination at New York’s Yeshivat Maharat

A Jewish mother-of-two has made history by becoming the first woman in the UK appointed to a rabbinic leadership role in an Orthodox community.

Miriam Lorie, 35, has started working part-time as a ‘rabbi in training’ with Kehillat Nashira, a partnership minyan (prayer group that includes women to the fullest extent possible within the boundaries of Jewish law) in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire.

She is currently studying for rabbinical ordination as a long-distance student at New York’s progressive Yeshivat Maharat for women – which is offering religious study and training that was once reserved exclusively for men.

Speaking about her appointment to The Jewish Chronicle, Ms Lorie said: ‘It doesn’t feel radical to me. It feels like a very natural progression from work I was already doing in a community which welcomes it.’

Miriam Lorie (pictured), 35, has started working part-time as a ‘rabbi in training’ with Kehillat Nashira, a partnership minyan (prayer group that includes women to the fullest extent possible within the boundaries of Jewish law) in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire

With Orthodox women rabbis slowly obtaining acceptance, Ms Lorie added that by the next generation, she believes it will be ‘normal – that is my ardent hope.’

The Chief Rabbi and United Synagogue, which is a union of British Orthodox Jewish synagogues, don’t recognise women rabbis and also don’t accept partnership minyanim.

Ms Lorie, who will still attend services at her local Borehamwood and Elstree United Synagogue, graduated Cambridge University, having studied theology.

Following her studies, she spent seven years working with the Cambridge Interfaith Programme and the Woolf Institute, which is a global leader in the study of current and historical relationships between the faith-traditions of Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

She told the publication that had the Orthodox rabbinate been open to women when she was in her 20s, she would’ve trained then.

‘A massive changing point’, said Ms Lorie, was the story of Rabbi Dina Brawer, who was the first woman from the UK to graduate from Yeshivat Maharat four years ago.

Rabba Dr Lindsey Taylor-Guthartz graduated last year. However, The London School of Jewish Studies at first said she could no longer teach following her graduation.

Yet the school – whose president is the Chief Rabbi – back-pedalled once it had decided her role was not rabbinic and instead was academic.

Ms Lorie (pictured) is currently studying for rabbinical ordination as a long-distance student at New York’s progressive Yeshivat Maharat for women – which is offering religious study and training that was once reserved exclusively for men

Ms Lorie, who in her new part-time role spends one morning a week helping the community, is in the second year of her four-year course and has sessions four days a week.

She said she has ‘positive relationships with United Synagogue rabbis’ and one of her desires is to start a Jewish rock choir.

Kehillat Nashira, which started in 2013, congregates in a hall for Shabbat services each month and also offers educational occasions.

Religious Jews observe Shabbat every week, beginning at nightfall on Friday and lasting until nightfall on Saturday. They refrain from travelling in cars or planes on Shabbat, apart from in life-threatening medical or security situations.

One of Kehillat Nashira members, Miriam Shaviv, told the publication that Ms Lorie ‘is one of the most gifted educators of her generation. But until recently, Orthodox synagogues would have missed out on almost everything she and women like her have to offer.’

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