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Themes

The lives of these trailblazing women rabbis are each unique, yet patterns emerge from their stories: the joy and challenges of answering a calling, the difficulty of helping others when you yourself are in crisis, the need for role models and mentors, and the wonderful, uncharted territories you discover when your spiritual journey doesn’t match the roadmap of tradition.

Dianne Cohler-Esses

Work/Life Balance

A mother’s work is never done. Neither is a rabbi’s. Here, women rabbis explain how they balance two sets of overwhelming obligations and teach their communities to shift their expectations of their rabbis.
Father and Daughter in Prayer

How Revolutionary Is This?

Women rabbis consider whether women’s ordination is part of the natural evolution of their religion or a radical transformation that could revitalize Judaism.
Mechitza

Grappling with Change in the Orthodox Community

Women’s education and ordination are pushing the Orthodox community to either recognize the value of women’s leadership or risk losing some of their most committed, passionate, and learned members. But what this will mean for both women’s roles and for Orthodox Judaism as a whole is still very much up for debate as this new chapter in the history of women’s ordination unfolds.
Sarajevo Haggadah

Path to the Rabbinate

What’s a nice girl like you doing in a pulpit like this? For some women rabbis, the spark was ignited early. For others, the path to rabbinical school meant a long, winding path through crises of faith, career shifts, and in one case, a literal road trip.
Girl with Tefillin at Kotel

Being Different

It takes courage and vision to become the first of your kind, to carve out a place for yourself when there is no model to follow. Here, rabbis share what it means to challenge the norm, offering the wisdom that comes from being on the fringes.
Sally Priesand and Colleagues, Europe

Leadership

In taking on new roles in Jewish public life, women rabbis have the opportunity to create new models of leadership and success. From the pulpit to the floor of Parliament, women rabbis serve as examples and offer insights that are reshaping our careers, our communities, and even our nations.
Miriam's Cup, by Karen Koblitz

Prayer and Spirituality

Carving out a place for themselves in the Jewish community, women rabbis see the tradition from a new angle. From creating rituals for uniquely female experiences to exploring the role of technology in prayer, they have asked questions and proposed innovations that have transformed twenty-first century Jewish spirituality and practice.
Rosenstrasse Monument, Berlin, Germany

Crisis

Rabbis are usually the ones counseling others through moments of pain and upheaval, but what helps them through their own dark times? These women rabbis reveal not just how they survived, but what they learned that strengthened them in their personal and professional lives.
Sarah Barasch-Hagans Preparing for Protest

Making Change

At their best, rabbis inspire their communities and lead by example, whether that means being on the front lines of battles for social justice or the subtler revolution of encouraging women to raise their voices in the synagogue.
Joan Snyder's Our Foremothers, 1995

Role Models

We look to trailblazing rabbis to inspire us—but who inspires them? One rabbi considers her mother’s surprisingly rich and varied life; another was inspired by her spiritual foremother, Regina Jonas; while a third describes the moment when she realized she’d have to completely overhaul the framework her male colleagues used.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Themes." (Viewed on December 16, 2017) <https://jwa.org/rabbis/themes>.

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