Rabbi Riskin has recently appointed Dr. Jennie Rosenfeld as a communal spiritual leader for the people of Efrat. Her function will be tol answer questions about Halacha and Jewish life for the people of Efrat.

This is certainly an exceptional move, but Rav Riskin and Dr. Rosenfeld are both exceptional people.

Rosenfeld is currently enrolled in the five-year program for women at the Susi Bradfield Women’s Institute for Halachic Leadership (WIHL) at Midreshet Lindenbaum, a modern-Orthodox women’s seminary that ordains women to give instruction and rulings in Jewish law which Rav Riskin co-founded.

According to Rabbi Shmuel Klitsner, director of the WIHL, Rosenfeld’s appointment is the first time a woman in the country has been appointed to an official position of communal leadership within an Orthodox framework.

Dr. Rosenfeld is not acting as the communal Rabbi or as any public appointed figure so funding for her position is being provided by an outside source that was solicited by Rav Riskin for this purpose.
“Women are 50 percent of the community and there are questions which women are less comfortable asking men, not just in the field of family purity but relating to children’s education, marriage, divorce and other issues,” she said in a recent interview.

“The significance and requirement of having women in spiritual leadership roles might not be fully realized or appreciated until they are in place and available to the wider public,” she continued. “We are blessed to live in a generation where there are women who are qualified to lead and provide guidance. Enabling these talented and altruistic women to strengthen Judaism and the Jewish community should not be considered revolutionary; on the contrary, it is a move which is late in coming. We have confidence that her presence will prove crucial and beneficial to the community at large. With time, we believe that the municipal and governmental authorities too will recognize the need for female spiritual leadership and budget these positions by law.”

Riskin “strongly encourages…rabbinic colleagues throughout Israel to follow suit…” and believes female spiritual leaders serving alongside municipal rabbis will advance Israeli trust in and pride and love for Judaism and will ultimately hasten the redemption.”

Dr. Rosenfeld holds a PhD in English from the City University of New York Graduate Center, where she was a Wexner Graduate Fellow, and wrote her dissertation on Talmudic Re-readings: Toward a Modern Orthodox Sexual Ethic. Prior to making aliyah, she was the co-founder and director of the Tzelem project at Yeshiva University. A graduate of Stern College for Women, Dr. Rosenfeld completed the Yeshiva University Graduate Program in Advanced Talmudic Studies for Women along with an MS in Jewish Education at the Azrieli Graduate School. She has taught Talmud, Jewish law, and Hasidism in various adult educational settings in North America and in Israel, and was named one of the 36 under 36 by the Jewish Week in 2008.

Rabbi Riskin has been very active in redefining the halachic role of women in modern Israel. One other example of this is his ruling that permits women to serve in the IDF. He broadened women’s participation in public religious practices, and declared that women could hold their own celebration of Simhat Torah. Rav Riskin also established the first program for the training of women advocates in the religious courts.

Graduates of the program now defend the rights of Agunot in the religious courts, helping them to secure a Get Rav Riskin is an advocate of the Prenuptial agreement idea as a solution for the problem of recalcitrant husbands. Riskin is an advocate of respectful dialogue with the leaders of other religions to create better understanding, religious tolerance and support for Israel against the forces of fanatical anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. He has also worked to promote good relations with the leaders of the Palestinian villages surrounding the Efrat settlement.