Rabbanit Shira Marili Mirvis to visit Milwaukee | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

Rabbanit Shira Marili Mirvis to visit Milwaukee

Rabbanit Shira Marili Mirvis, a woman in the unusual role of leading an observant community in Israel, is to visit Milwaukee early this month.  

Mirvis, who makes use of the title “rabbanit,” is the sole spiritual leader for Shirat HaTamar in Efrat, Israel.  When she was appointed in 2001, the Times of Israel reported that this was a first for Israel.  

Mirvis will be featured at a “Meet and Greet” at Milwaukee Jewish Federation on Thursday, Feb. 2, at 5 p.m. Or see her at a “Lunch and Learn” at Friendship Cafe at noon, Friday, Feb. 3. Finally, she will also appear at a shabbat conversation after the morning service on Saturday, Feb. 4 at Congregation Beth Israel Ner Tamid, 6880 N. Green Bay Ave., Glendale. These events are open to the community. For more information, contact Uria Roth at UriaR@MilwaukeeJewish.org. 

The rabbanit chose her title after crossing off two others. First she says, she’s not a rabbi, even though she has the kind of training an Orthodox rabbi must experience. Thus, when asked if she is a rabbi, she likes to respond, “I am the authority of my community.” 

Second, she said she’s not a rebbetzin. That title is used for the wife of a rabbi and her husband is not a rabbi, she said.  

Mirvis said she wound up leading a community because she loves Torah and the Halachic Orthodox world. She just kept learning.  

“It was never about opening roles to women,” she said. “The motivation was never to be a trailblazer, to do something to break the glass ceiling …. It’s hard for me. That’s the hard part. I’m a very traditional and some might say old school kind of a woman. For me, I just walked and the ceiling broke. I didn’t mean to.” 

“I could never imagine being the leader of a community. It was never something that I even inspired to be or dreamt of ….” 

The feelings are complex. On the one hand, she does not see herself as a feminist symbol. On the other, she said she’s “very grateful, because I understand that I couldn’t do what I do if it wasn’t for feminist women along the ages that took the fire for me. I understand that completely.” 

Mirvis sits on the female side of the mechitza, the traditional barrier between men and women in Orthodox shuls. She can’t go up to read from the Torah during services. She’s not counted as part of a minyan. 

“There are many, many things that I can’t do,” she said. “To be honest, it is heartbreaking. I’m not trying to say I don’t mind it. I do mind this. It’s my decision. It’s fine because I’m conscious about it. I know the price. I know the pain.” 

“I’m choosing to believe in the Orthodox system, and I’m choosing because of belief,” she said. “I believe in the Orthodox system, and I choose to be part of the Orthodox world. I choose.” 

Mirvis is quick to add that she knows of the Reform and Conservative movements and has many great friends from those strains of Judaism. 

Having spent time in Los Angeles, she’s been impressed with power of community in the American Jewish world. It’s part of why she’s bringing her 16-year-old daughter, Yuval, with her on this trip to Milwaukee, to show her American Judaism.