19.03.2011 13.Adar ll, 5771
R. Asenath Barazani of Kurdistan: The first Orthodox woman rabbi.
When an Orthodox woman expresses interest in becoming ordained, the question of precedent invariably arises: Has there ever been a woman who achieved this status? Might there be a precedent to justify and upon which to base such an unusual decision? Much to the surprise or perhaps chagrin of some, the answer is in the affirmative: R. Asenath Barazani of Kurdistan.
Asenath was the daughter of the eminent rabbi Shmuel b. Netanel Halevi (1560?-1625/35?), who was a scholar and mystic with a large following. Her father devoted himself to raising the level of scholarship in Kurdistan and produced rabbinic leaders by founding a successful yeshiva in Mosul. His only daughter was provided with a serious Torah education, as she tells us: “I grew up on the laps of scholars, anchored to my father of blessed memory.
I was never taught any work but sacred study.”…