Jewish Women on the Map - Beth Israel Congregation of Chester County
Reconstructionist rabbi Linda Joy Holtzman was appointed the spiritual leader of Beth Israel Congregation in its original location in Coatesville, PA, on August 1, 1979. The appointment made her the first woman to lead a Jewish congregation in the U.S. Although Sally Priesand had been ordained as a rabbi seven years earlier, and Sandy Eisenberg Sasso was the first woman to be ordained as a Reconstructionalist rabbi in 1974, no woman rabbi prior to Holtzman had won appointment as the leader of a synagogue. Women ordained as rabbis in the 1970s generally either served as associate or assistant rabbis, or found jobs outside the synagogue. In hiring Holtzman, Beth Israel broke with tradition in a second way; the congregation was affiliated officially with the Conservative movement, which had not yet authorized the ordination of women.
Beth Israel Congregation moved to its current location in 1989.
See also: "Congregation appoints first woman to serve as senior rabbi" in This Week in History; Rabbis in the United States and Reconstructionalist Judaism in the United States in Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia.