(photo credit: KNESSET)
The prominent Orthodox Ramban synagogue in southern Jerusalem’s Greek Colony has appointed Rabbi Itiel Oron to replace outgoing rabbi Benny Lau as the head of its community.
Oron has been serving as the head of the Torah Mitzion kollel in Washington, DC since 2018, and has taught at the Eretz Hatzvi yeshiva as well as Midreshet Lindenbaum and Migdal Oz religious seminaries for women. He received his rabbinic ordination from Yeshivat Har Etzion in Alon Shvut.
Oron, selected on Thursday by a vote of some 250 synagogue members, will begin a one-year trial contract this summer after Lau retires. Tel Aviv-born Lau, 57, has served as Ramban’s spiritual leader for more than 17 years during which time he authored several books and initiated well-known projects such as the “929” daily Bible-study enterprise.
He advocated for the appointment of a female spiritual leader in the community, a position which was filled in 2016 by Rabbanit Carmit Feintuch.
This was a landmark step in the advancement of women’s religious leadership in the Orthodox community, and Feintuch was the first woman to be appointed to a religious leadership position in an Orthodox synagogue in Israel.
The synagogue membership also voted on whether or not to extend Feintuch’s tenure, and although a majority of members voted to renew her contract the required two thirds majority was not obtained.
A new female spiritual leader will nevertheless be hired since the position is now guaranteed in the synagogue’s statutes, with the selection process expected to begin later this year.
The community is however somewhat divided over the issue, with more conservative-minded members reportedly opposed to hiring a new female religious leader.
One member of the synagogue said that there was a noticeable split within the community over the issue of having a female spiritual leader.
The member stated that the community membership in recent years had become older and more conservative, and that whereas the step Ramban took in hiring Feintuch had been groundbreaking, the community was now “going backwards” in its approach to the role of women in the religious leadership of the synagogue.
They also expressed concern that the lengthy delay in appointing a replacement for Feintuch could create a status quo without a female spiritual leader that becomes permanent due to the objections of a significant portion of the community to a female religious leader.
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