Sally J. Priesand broke new ground as the first women rabbi ordained in America. Priesand first wrote to Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion at sixteen in hopes of one day studying to become a rabbi. While their reply was mixed, Priesand continued to press her case while enrolled in their joint undergraduate program at the University of Cincinnati, eventually winning admission to the seminary. Ordained in 1972 to much fanfare, Priesand struggled with the inevitable notoriety of being the first woman rabbi—some congregations only interviewed her for the novelty, while others refused to even consider her for jobs. She became assistant rabbi at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in New York, where she served for seven years, but left when it became clear she would not be considered as a candidate for senior rabbi. She finally found a spiritual home at the Monmouth Reform Temple, where she served until her retirement in 2006. Throughout her career, Priesand took leadership positions for major Jewish organizations, including serving on the Central Conference of American Rabbis’ Task Force on Women in the Rabbinate to help create a supportive environment for women rabbis.
More on Sally J. Preisand
- Encyclopedia Article: Sally Jane Priesand
- The Feminist Revolution: Sally Priesand
- This Week in History: Sally Priesand ordained as first American woman rabbi
- This Week in History: Reform rabbis debate women's ordination
- This Week in History: Congregation appoints first woman to serve as senior rabbi
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Sally J. Preisand." (Viewed on May 23, 2019) <https://jwa.org/people/priesand-sally>.