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Sally Priesand, 1972

On Not Going to Rabbinical School

by Chanel Dubofsky

Let's be clear: I did not make it to the application process for rabbinical school. I didn't even request an application. I came close, but luckily, before I did anything, I managed to figure out the difference between a calling and an impulse. In this case, I probably should have felt a little more called to actually engage with the Torah, instead of hoping that my ambivalence would resolve itself. (Update: it has not.)

Topics: Rabbis
The Sisterhood 50: America's Influential Women Rabbis

Success is a Loaded Word

by Rabbi Rebecca W. Sirbu

In the rabbinate, success is a loaded word. As Sally Priesand describes in her video interview, a generation ago everyone could describe a successful rabbi. He would be the senior rabbi of a large synagogue in a large city, and he would have a long-term contract. Ideally the synagogue would be growing. That was success.

Topics: Rabbis

Sally J. Preisand

Sally J. Priesand broke new ground as the first women rabbi ordained in America.

Sally Priesand

When I decided to study for the rabbinate, I never thought much about being a pioneer, nor was it my intention to champion the rights of women. I just wanted to be a rabbi.

Rabbah Sara Hurwitz

We Begin to Become a Multitude

by  Jessica Cavanagh-Melhado

This was the first time that Orthodox women were ordained in an institutional setting. There was a profound sense that not only was this a big moment for the three women getting ordained, but also for the men who trained them. I could hear the pride in Rabbi Jeffrey Fox, the Rosh HaYeshiva’s voice, and how much this meant to Rabbi Avi Weiss. In particular, Rabbi Weiss emphasized the desire to give a professionally recognized title to these women (even if it is Maharat, rather than Rabba), and the absolute necessity of the support of the male rabbis who have welcomed these women into their congregations. For Rabba Sara, I had the profound sense that she was creating an exciting new cohort of colleagues for herself. It’s one thing to be a groundbreaker, but totally another to bring others along with you, to create a system and a path for future generations. 

Gail T. Reimer Receives the 2012 American Jewish Distinguished Service Award from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

Women’s strides spotlighted this spring at Reform Movement’s graduations, ordinations

by  Deborah Fineblum Raub

This month marks 40 years since the ordination of the first woman rabbi in America. And the Reform Movement is doing some serious celebrating.

Liberals Are That Way Too?

by  Deborah K. Bravo

Rick, Danny, Jonah, Mark and Brad. One might think this is a list of possible names for you new baby boy.

Topics: Judaism-Reform
Raising Up the Light, 2010

Celebrating the First Lights of Women Rabbis

by  Elizabeth Imber

On a cold New England night, as the first flurries of the season began to fall, members of the Jewish community in Boston piled into the sanctuary at Temple Reyim to kindle the lights of Hanukkah and celebrate four remarkable Jewish women. Sally Priesand, Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, Amy Eilberg, and Sara Hurwitz, the first-ordained North American Reform, Reconstructionist, and Conservative women rabbis and Open Orthodox rabba, respectively, gathered together for the first time, in an event cosponsored by the Jewish Women’s Archive, to share their inspirational stories, to celebrate the progress that has been made across the Jewish movements, and to discuss what still needs to be done.

Rabbi Sally J. Priesand blesses U.S. Congress

October 23, 1973

Rabbi Sally J. Priesand offered the opening prayer in the United States House of Representatives, at the invitation of Congresswoman Bella Abzug.

Congregation appoints first woman to serve as senior rabbi

August 1, 1979

Reconstructionist rabbi Linda Joy Holtzman was appointed the spiritual leader of Beth Israel Congregation in Coatesville, PA, on August 1, 1979.

Reform rabbis debate women's ordination

June 30, 1922

On June 29, 1922, the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), the Reform movement's professional organization, meeting in Cape May, N.J., debated a resolution declaring that "women cannot jus

Sally Priesand ordained as first American woman rabbi

June 3, 1972

Sally Priesand made history on June 3, 1972, when she was ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), becoming the first female rabbi in American history and the first

Reform Judaism in the United States

Leaders of Reform Judaism in the United States have often celebrated their movement’s role in emancipating women from the many restrictions that Judaism has traditionally imposed upon their ability to participate and lead public worship.

Rabbis in the United States

Jewish women’s recent entrance to the brotherhood of the rabbinate masks a lengthy history of the question of women’s ordination.

Sally Jane Priesand

On June 3, 1972, Sally Jane Priesand became the first female ordained rabbi in America.

Leadership and Authority

All early biblical leaders of the Jewish people were elected by God. The matriarchs and patriarchs, priests, prophets, kings, judges and warriors were chosen by divine plan to lead the nation at different points in its history. The Torah she-bi-khetav: Lit. "the written Torah." The Bible; the Pentateuch; Tanakh (the Pentateuch, Prophets and Hagiographia)Torah offers us glimpses into the relationships between Sarah and Abraham, Rebecca and Isaac, Rachel, Leah and Jacob, based on the principle that ma’aseh avot siman le-banim (the deeds of the ancestors serve as a model for the descendents). Beyond the biblical text, the influence of matriarchal faith and insight is conveyed in the midrashic literature which expands the role of wife, helper and mother to include prophetess, teacher and visionary. Yet it is clear from the biblical narrative that females did not serve in the broader leadership roles filled by males.

A Reluctant Pioneer

by  Judith Rosenbaum

This June marks a milestone in the history of Jewish feminism: the retirement of Rabbi Sally Priesand, the first American woman rabbi. In the feature about her in the New York Times last Saturday, she repeated something she’s said often during her career: “I became a rabbi not to champion women’s rights.

Topics: Feminism, Rabbis
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