Women of Valor



Ray Frank, 1861 - 1948

Ray Frank Litman died on October 10, 1948. Her lifelong enthusiasm for Judaism and tireless work to bring people into the circle of Jewish life left their mark both on those immediately surrounding her and on American Jewry at large. Her words had moved several congregations to overcome differences and "join hands in one glorious cause"; her leadership and encouragement had inspired many students to pursue studies in Jewish history and involvement with the Jewish community.

Frank's death occurred almost a quarter of a century before the Reform movement finally admitted women to the rabbinate. Many observers during Frank's heyday in the 1890s would have been surprised to learn that the ordination of women was so long in coming. When asked in 1896 if she expected at some point to see a Jewish woman in the pulpit, Louise Mannheimer, one of the speakers at the 1893 Jewish Women's Congress, responded simply, "We have a woman in the pulpit, though she has not been ordained. Her enthusiasm impels her to speak. She is Miss Ray Frank."

Although Frank's experiences were but one step along the long road to the ordination of women, "the Girl Rabbi of the Golden West" played a pivotal role by reinvigorating and redirecting an ongoing conversation about Jewish women's roles. Jewish women had already demonstrated their importance to communal life over the course of the nineteenth century; Frank's unprecedented presence in the pulpit demonstrated the contribution they could make to religious leadership as well. While subsequent pioneers in the field would face their own challenges and opposition, never again would they be called "the first woman since Deborah to preach in a synagogue," for Frank had trod that path before them.

  1. Quote from "In Woman's Wake," The American Jewess, December 1896, 142.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Women of Valor - Ray Frank - Legacy." (Viewed on April 16, 2014) <http://jwa.org/womenofvalor/frank/legacy>.