Responding to an appeal from students from the Shaarei Mishpat College, the Rabbinate stated that it was not its job to provide state recognition of people's knowledge, but only to ordain scholars to serve in rabbinical roles.
The Rabbinate's legal advisor, attorney Harel Goldberg, informed Attorney Prof. Aviad Hacohen, dean of the Shaarei Mishpat College and the representative of the college's legal clinics, that the Rabbinate sees women's desire to deepen their knowledge of Halacha favorably, but that as a governmental body it approves the qualification of a person to serve as a rabbi or religious judge and does not provide examination services.
Attorney Goldberg noted that had the Rabbinate's role been more extensive, as attorney Hacohen expected, it would have been required to allow every person to take its exams without any preconditions – and that was not the case.
The legal advisor added that in 2010, the High Court of Justice denied a petition by 14-year-old Moshe Sharifi who asked to receive a grade for an ordination exam he was permitted to take as long as it would not be checked.
'It's not the Rabbinate's duty'
"This is relevant to our issue as well," Goldberg wrote. "It is the Rabbinate's duty, as an ordaining body, to only test those who at the end of the ordination process will indeed be qualified to serve as rabbis or religious judges. As you know, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel does not ordain women as rabbis, and your appeal, as you have noted, does not allude to that either."
About a month ago, women studying Torah demanded that the Chief Rabbinate let them take its ordination exams in order to allow them to prove their proficiency in Jewish law and fill different roles.
The women appealed to Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, arguing that by only permitting men to take the exams, the Rabbinate was discriminating against women. They stressed that all they were asking for was the right to take the exams, and not to be ordained as rabbis.
They 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."