The women have appealed to Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, arguing that by only permitting men to take the exams, the Rabbinate is discriminating against women. They stressed that all they are asking for is the right to take the exams, and not to be ordained as rabbis.
Attorney Prof. Aviad Hacohen, dean of the Shaarei Mishpat College, noted in a letter on behalf of the college's legal clinics that they have been received appeals from women studying in advanced Halacha studies programs in different institutions. He is demanding that the Rabbinate grant the request as soon as possible, implicitly threatening to petition the High Court of Justice.
According to Prof. Hacohen, the recent years have seen a major change in women's Torah studies, and some of these women continue studying intensively for years in institutions parallel to men's seminaries and Judaic studies programs.
"Some of these women, who have completed the first stage of their studies, even serve in practice as 'Halacha advisors,'" he wrote. "The great number of appeals they receive, hundreds a month, show that there is a real need for this."
Hacohen explained in his letter that in order to complete their studies and integrate into different systems, the women were requesting to take the Chief Rabbinate's exams. "The problem is that the exams today are only intended for men, with all that it entails," he said.
"Therefore, I ask that you allow them to take the regular exams prepared for men (while maintaining the required modesty rules, of course), or alternatively, offer similar exams for women, at the same level and scope of the men's exams," he suggested.
He stressed that "this appeal is not aimed at having women ordained as 'rabbis' (a complex and completely different issue), but at giving those women the option to be examined about their knowledge just like men (who, as we know, do not all go on to work as actual rabbis), and to receive 'state recognition' of their knowledge in Halacha, similar to the recognition given to men.
"It seems that under the current circumstances and needs, it is a duty to find a proper and suitable solution for this issue, which will prevent turning to other channels, whose damage may be greater than their benefit," he concluded.
A Rabbinate official said in response that the matter would be discussed by the Chief Rabbinate Council.