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About the Project

Overview

For thousands of years men have served as the official spiritual leaders in Judaism. This tradition seemed on the brink of change in the early twentieth century, when the first woman rabbi, Regina Jonas, was ordained in Nazi Germany. Her death in Auschwitz and the loss of her papers behind the Iron Curtain, however, kept her story hidden from the world.

Then, with the ordination of Sally Priesand in 1972 and the opening of rabbinical schools to women, an unprecedented revolution of Jewish thought and spiritual practice ensued. But like every generation that lives through a major paradigm shift, we cannot fully know or predict the impact of this cultural transformation in our lifetime.

We believe the task of our generation is to make sure the struggles and triumphs of this select group of trailblazing women are preserved and remembered for future generations.

In the Beginning

In the spring of 2009, Artistic Director of Jewish Women’s Theatre Ronda Spinak joined with Rabbi Lynne Appel to create a play telling the stories of women rabbis. Janis Nelson, Chairman of Jewish Women’s Theatre, joined the team. Extensive interviews were conducted with eighteen Los Angeles women rabbis to gather material. The resulting documentary theatre piece, Stories From the Fringe: Women Rabbis, Revealed!, was first produced at Jewish Women’s Theatre’s At-Homes Salon, 2010.

A Story Archive of Women Rabbis

The enthusiastic response to the play and the desire to make these stories accessible to a wider audience led to the decision to interview women rabbis throughout North America and beyond, and to create a non-denominational film archive of their stories. Jewish Women’s Theatre board member and philanthropist Lynne Himelstein joined the team and, as of 2016, the Story Archive of Women Rabbis has interviewed more than 165 rabbis from the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Poland, Switzerland, Argentina, and Israel. 

The Partnership with Jewish Women’s Archive

As both the collection and the interest in making this unique treasure trove of stories widely available grew, Rabbi Laura Geller suggested that the Jewish Women’s Archive might be the right partner for this undertaking.  A conversation between the Story Archive of Women Rabbis and Gail Reimer, the founding director of the Jewish Women’s Archive, led to the dynamic partnership.

About the Partners

Story Archive of Women Rabbis

The Story Archive of Women Rabbis was developed from a concept by Ronda Spinak and Rabbi Lynne A. Appel. SAWR collects, preserves, and makes accessible the poignant stories, thought-provoking insights and spiritual points of view of women rabbis who have broken the stained-glass ceiling and are changing Judaism forever. The Story Archive of Women Rabbis was created under the umbrella of Jewish Women’s Theatre.

Jewish Women’s Theatre

The Jewish Women’s Theatre is dedicated to giving voice to Jewish women.  JWT celebrates Jewish life on stage, one story at a time.  JWT is grateful to its board members for their ongoing support of this project.

Jewish Women’s Archive

The Jewish Women’s Archive (JWA) documents Jewish women’s stories, elevates their voices, and inspires them to be agents of change. Through the thousands of stories of Jewish women on jwa.org, a popular blog, a teen fellowship, a new podcast, and a series of public programs, JWA ensures that the voices of Jewish women are included in the historical narrative and in contemporary discourse.

We are grateful to the many people who have worked together over the years to bring this project to fruition.

Story Archive of Women Rabbis

Co-Directors

Rabbi Lynne A. Appel
Lynne Himelstein
Ronda Spinak

Jewish Women’s Archive

Gail Twersky Reimer–Founding Director
Judith Rosenbaum–Executive Director
Rachel King–Director of Communications
Patrick Dash–Web Developer
Lisa Batya Feld–Web Content Editor

Jewish Women’s Theatre Advisory Board

Ronda Spinak–Co-Founder & Artistic Director
Janis Nelson–Board Chair
Sharon Landau–Managing Director
Elizabeth Altman
Julie Bram
Eve Brandstein
Lynne Himelstein
Gail Israel
Suzanna Kaplan
Carol Kirsh
Barbara Koletsky
Susan Landesmann
Patty Linden
Jodie Mendelson Kay
Sherri Morr
Lisa Rosenbaum
Linda Rosman
Maureen Rubin
Ruth Rubenstein
Arlene Sarner
Sandy Savett
Gail Solo
Penny Spark
Marilee Tolwin
Elisa Wayne

Funders/Supporters

Marilyn Ziering, Rosanne Ziering, and the Ziering Family Foundation
Ronda Spinak
Lynne and Phil Himelstein
Rabbi Lynne A. Appel
Gladys and David Layne
Combined Jewish Philanthropies
Rosenthal Family Foundation
Susan Beckerman
Sally Gottesman
Rabbi Suzanne Offit
Rabbi Sonia Saltzman
Sara Lee Schupf
Enid Shapiro
Preeva Tramiel
Rabbi Deborah Waxman

Interviewers

Rabbi Lynne A. Appel
Stefan Glidden
Lynne Himelstein
Janis Nelson
Arlene Sarner
Ronda Spinak
Jon Zimmerman

Camera

Stefan Glidden
Lucas Lee Graham
Geoff Sheldon

Editors

Patrick Conde
Roger Cooper
Linda Rosman

Transcriptions

Melissa Butts–Transcription Coordinator
RaShard Barrentine
Warren Binder
Kevin Brown
Matt Kelly
Annie Malvasi
Florence Young

Readers of Transcripts

Lynne Himelstein
Gail Reimer
Ronda Spinak

Story Archive of Women Rabbis Logo Design

Emily Rich Camras

The logo won the Graphic Design: USA Award in 2012

Strategic Partners for Original Web Design for Story Archive of Women Rabbis at Jewish Women’s Theatre

Mac & Ger

Intern

Natalie Markiles

Special Thanks to:

Susie Yure
Abby Freeman
Cynthia Freeman
Rose Ziff
Rabbi Karen Fox
Rabbi Laura Geller
Rachel Levin
Gary Zola and the American Jewish Archive
Women’s Rabbinic Network
Central Conference of Reform Rabbis
Rabbinical Assembly
Reconstructionist Rabbinical Assembly
Hebrew Union College-Institute of Jewish Religion, Los Angeles, New York, Cincinnati and Israel
American Jewish University
Jewish Theological Seminary
Schechter Institute
Hebrew College
National Museum of American Jewish History
Crown Plaza–Newton, MA

And all the rabbis who agreed to be interviewed.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "About the Project." (Viewed on December 16, 2017) <https://jwa.org/rabbis/about>.

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