The Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women

Features thousands of biographic and thematic essays on Jewish women around the world. Learn more

Bonnie Koppell

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

Rabbi Bonnie Koppell, the first female rabbi to serve in the U.S. military.

One of the first women rabbis ordained, Bonnie Koppell became the first woman rabbi to serve as a US military chaplain. Koppell joined the Army Reserves in 1978 and was ordained as a Reconstructionist rabbi in 1981. She trained at Fort Dix and the US Army Chaplain School. In 1991, during Operation Desert Storm, she served at the Academy of Health Sciences at Fort Sam Houston, neat San Antonio, Texas, where she was to be the only rabbi on staff for the anticipated casualties from Iraq. She was then assigned to the 164th Corps Support Group in Mesa, Arizona. Koppell was called to active duty again in 2003, serving at the US Army Europe headquarters in Germany and in Operation Noble Eagle. She deployed to Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Iraq to help Jewish service members celebrate the holidays. Koppell was awarded the Global War on Terrorism medal in 2005 and the Legion of Merit in both 2012 and 2016. In 2007 she offered the opening prayer at a White House meeting between the President and leaders of the Jewish community. She earned a Master of Strategic Studies from the US Army War College in 2013. Colonel Rabbi Koppell retired from her post as Command Chaplain for the 807th Medical Command (Deployment Support) in 2016, but continues to serve as rabbi of Temple Chai in Phoenix, Arizona.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Bonnie Koppell." (Viewed on June 8, 2023) <>.


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