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Sally J. Priesand

Throughout her career, Sally J. Priesand has grappled with her role as the first woman rabbi ordained in America. Priesand first wrote to Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion at age sixteen, dreaming of eventually entering their rabbinic program. She enrolled in their joint undergraduate program at the University of Cincinnati and finally won admission to the seminary after years of lobbying. Ordained in 1972 to much fanfare, Priesand struggled with the inevitable notoriety of being the first woman rabbi—some congregations interviewed her only for the novelty, while others refused to even consider her for jobs. After serving for seven years as assistant rabbi at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in New York, she 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. Priesand served on the Central Conference of American Rabbis’ Task Force on Women in the Rabbinate to help create a supportive environment for women rabbis, and she continues to work to raise awareness about the challenges women rabbis face. 

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Rabbi Sally Priesand
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Rabbi Sally Priesand.
Courtesy of Erte Studio, Maspeth, New York.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Sally J. Priesand." (Viewed on December 13, 2017) <https://jwa.org/rabbis/narrators/priesand-sally>.

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