Denise Eger

b. March 14, 1960

by JWA Staff
Our work to expand the Encyclopedia is ongoing. We are providing this brief biography for Denise Eger until we are able to commission a full entry.

Rabbi Denise Eger, photo courtesy of Rabbi Eger.

In 2015, Denise Eger became the first openly gay president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the professional organization for Reform rabbis, serving until 2017. Eger graduated from the University of Southern California in 1982 and was ordained by Hebrew Union College in 1988. She served as the first full-time rabbi at Beth Chaim Chadashim, a gay and lesbian congregation in Los Angeles, from 1988 to 1993, before becoming the founding rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami in West Hollywood, where she served for 30 years before her retirement in June 2023. Already an activist, Eger was further galvanized by serving as a rabbi for the gay community at the height of the AIDS crisis. She chaired the review board for an AIDS drug research organization and co-chaired the Spiritual Advisory Committee of AIDS Project Los Angeles. She co-chaired the Gay and Lesbian Rabbinic Network for two years and was founding president of the Lesbian, Gay, & Bisexual Interfaith Clergy Association. The co-author of the Reform movement’s wedding liturgy for gay and lesbian couples, Eger was honored to officiate at the first legal wedding of a lesbian couple in California in 2008. She was named one of the Forward 50 that year. In 2023, Eger co-authored 7 Principles for Living Bravely, a book about using interfaith principles to confront challenges, born out of her experience during both the AIDS and COVID-19 pandemics. She has also edited two books about LGBTQ leadership in religion and contributed to five anthologies. Eger received an honorary Doctor of Philosophy from Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Israel in 2022. 

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Denise Eger." (Viewed on May 20, 2024) <http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/eger-denise>.