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Rabbis

Dianne Cohler-Esses

Dianne Cohler-Esses broke new ground as not only the first woman from the Syrian-Jewish community to become a rabbi, but also the first non-Orthodox rabbi from that community.

Nina Beth Cardin

Part of the first class of women ordained as Conservative rabbis, Nina Beth Cardin embraced the unconventional path of a “community pulpit” by founding healing centers and creating new ways to approach miscarriage and loss.

Rachel Adler

As a theologian, a committed Jew, and a pioneer of the Jewish feminist movement, Rachel Adler challenged her religion from within.

Shulamit Izen

After realizing at an early age that she was a lesbian, Shulamit Izen devoted herself to creating a supportive environment for Jewish GLBTQ teens.

Ray Frank

Ray Frank paved the way for women to serve as rabbis with her passionate and incisive preaching.

All of the Above: Refusing to Choose

There was a moment in my late twenties when I seriously considered rabbinical school. I was changing careers, trying to figure out what my next step would be, and becoming a rabbi would have allowed me to blend my love of Jewish ritual, my intellectual curiosity, and my passion for helping people into a calling. It made sense, on a deep level. But the more I talked about it with friends who were already rabbis and rabbinical students, the more they cautioned me, “As a woman, if you become a rabbi and you’re not married yet, you need to accept that you’ll probably never marry. Men don’t want to date women who are authority figures; it’s too emasculating.” I wanted to be a rabbi. But I also wanted marriage and children. When I believed that I needed to choose between them, I couldn’t bear the thought of never having children of my own. I quietly turned my focus to other graduate programs.

Death of Paula Ackerman, “America’s first Lady Rabbi”

January 12, 1989

The congregation president wrote of Paula Ackerman, "she is qualified, and we want her.”

Sally Priesand

Sally J. Priesand, America’s first female rabbi, was ordained in Cincinnati, Ohio, on June 3, 1972, by Dr. Alfred Gottschalk, President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR).

Sharon Kleinbaum

Sharon Kleinbaum has been Senior Rabbi of New York City’s Congregation Beth Simchat Torah (CBST) since 1992. Under her leadership, CBST has become an important voice in Judaism, in the world-wide discourse on the nature of religious community, and in the movement to secure basic civil rights for gay people everywhere.

Francine Klagsbrun

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.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Rabbis." (Viewed on September 22, 2014) <http://jwa.org/topics/rabbis>.

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