I was a member of a special commission appointed by the Conservative movement to study the issue of ordaining women as rabbis. We met over the course of a year, between 1977 and 1978. Typical of the times, the 14-member commission consisted of 11 men and only three women: Marian Siner Gordon, an attorney; Rivkah Harris, an Assyriologist; and myself, a writer. The male members included rabbis, scholars, attorneys, and Jewish community leaders.
Francine Klagsbrun is an author, editor, and columnist, who often writes and lectures on women’s issues. Her column, “Thinking Aloud,” appears monthly in The Jewish Week, and she has contributed articles to such national publications as the New York Times and Newsday. She has written several books, including her most recent, The Fourth Commandment: Remember the Sabbath Day, which was a National Jewish Book Award Finalist. She was also the editor of the best-selling book, Free To Be…You and Me, developed by Marlo Thomas and the Ms. Foundation. Klagbsrun was at the forefront of the effort to have women ordained as rabbis in the Conservative movement, and served on the Commission for the Study of Women in the Rabbinate that deliberated the issue. She is a member of the Jewish Women’s Dialogue of the American Jewish Committee, the Commission for Women’s Equality of the American Jewish Congress, and the Task Force on the Jewish Woman of the UJA-Federation.
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Members of the Commission on the Ordination of Women as Rabbis listen to Chancellor Cohen (back to camera) at one of the early meetings. From left to right: Francine Klagsbrun, Fishel A. Pearlmutter, Haim Z. Dimitrovsky, Norman Redlich, Gordon Tucker, Rivka Harris, Wilfred Shuchat, Elijah J. Schochet, Victor Goodhill, Marian Siner Gordon and Seymour Siegel. Hidden from the camera were the two other members, Milton Himmelfarb and Harry Plotkin.
Credit: From the Jewish Theological Seminary Chancellor's Report 1977-1979. Courtesy of the Ratner Center for the Study of Conservative Judaism.