What’s in a Name? Choosing ‘Rabba’ Over ‘Rav,’ and Why
Kaya Stern-Kaufman is graduating from rabbinical school this spring, but she says she will not always be called “rabbi.” Instead, the 47-year-old mother of two will also use the title “rabba,” making her the first woman to specifically choose this Hebrew feminized version of “rabbi” as a preferred moniker.
Just what this will mean, however, is unclear. After initially announcing her choice in a press release issued by her school, The Academy for Jewish Religion, Stern-Kaufman said she will use either rabbi or rabba, depending on the circumstances.
“I can’t predict every situation,” she said, in an interview, when pressed to explain. “It will be just sometimes ‘rabba’ and sometimes ‘rabbi,’” depending in part on whether she is working in a Jewish or general setting.
This straddling is a choice that distinguishes her from the first woman to ever receive the rabba title. Sara Hurwitz, who had the title conferred upon her in a 2010 special ceremony, is an Orthodox spiritual leader whose Orthodox mentor devised the term on his own to address objections that he was breaking with the tradition that reserves the title “rabbi” for males.