This Week in History

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Rabbi Janet Marder becomes president of Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR)

March 26, 2003

When Rabbi Janet Marder was named president of the Reform Movement's Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) on March 26, 2003, she became the first woman to lead a major rabbinical organization and the first woman to lead any major Jewish co-ed religious organization in the United States.

Marder was ordained in 1979 by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR). After graduate work in comparative literature at UCLA, she became the rabbi of Beth Chayim Chadashim in Los Angeles, the first gay and lesbian synagogue to be recognized by the Reform movement. At Beth Chayim Chadashim, Marder founded an AIDS-education program for the Jewish community, called NECHAMA.

After five years as a pulpit rabbi, Marder became the director of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations Pacific Southwest Council in 1988. For 11 years, she supervised congregations in Nevada, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and southern California. She returned to the pulpit in 1999, as senior rabbi of Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills, CA. With approximately 1300 families, Beth Am is one of the largest congregations in the U.S. to be headed by a female rabbi. Marder continued in this position during her two-year CCAR term.

In her presidential installation sermon on March 29, 2003, Marder spoke about the need to develop and sustain progressive Judaism in Israel, and about "developing an inner life—about personal prayer, about seeking the Holy One, and quiet hours inside a book, and the solitude that is essential for a life of clarity and integrity." Her term as CCAR President ended in 2005.

See also: Reform Judaism in the United States; "Top 50 Rabbis,"Jewesses with Attitude.

Sources:http://www.betham.org/about/meet-our-team; Los Altos Town Crier, April 2, 2003.

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Jewish Women's Archive. "This Week in History - Rabbi Janet Marder becomes president of Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR)." (Viewed on April 17, 2014) <http://jwa.org/thisweek/mar/26/2003/janet-marder>.