Sally Priesand

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Sally Priesand, 1972

On Not Going to Rabbinical School

Chanel Dubofsky

Let's be clear: I did not make it to the application process for rabbinical school. I didn't even request an application. I came close, but luckily, before I did anything, I managed to figure out the difference between a calling and an impulse. In this case, I probably should have felt a little more called to actually engage with the Torah, instead of hoping that my ambivalence would resolve itself. (Update: it has not.)

Topics: Rabbis
The Sisterhood 50: America's Influential Women Rabbis

Success is a Loaded Word

Rabbi Rebecca W. Sirbu

In the rabbinate, success is a loaded word. As Sally Priesand describes in her video interview, a generation ago everyone could describe a successful rabbi. He would be the senior rabbi of a large synagogue in a large city, and he would have a long-term contract. Ideally the synagogue would be growing. That was success.

Topics: Rabbis

Sally Priesand

When I decided to study for the rabbinate, I never thought much about being a pioneer, nor was it my intention to champion the rights of women. I just wanted to be a rabbi.

Rabbah Sara Hurwitz

We Begin to Become a Multitude

Jessica Cavanagh-Melhado

This was the first time that Orthodox women were ordained in an institutional setting. There was a profound sense that not only was this a big moment for the three women getting ordained, but also for the men who trained them. I could hear the pride in Rabbi Jeffrey Fox, the Rosh HaYeshiva’s voice, and how much this meant to Rabbi Avi Weiss. In particular, Rabbi Weiss emphasized the desire to give a professionally recognized title to these women (even if it is Maharat, rather than Rabba), and the absolute necessity of the support of the male rabbis who have welcomed these women into their congregations. For Rabba Sara, I had the profound sense that she was creating an exciting new cohort of colleagues for herself. It’s one thing to be a groundbreaker, but totally another to bring others along with you, to create a system and a path for future generations. 

Gail T. Reimer Receives the 2012 American Jewish Distinguished Service Award from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

Women’s strides spotlighted this spring at Reform Movement’s graduations, ordinations

Deborah Fineblum Raub

This month marks 40 years since the ordination of the first woman rabbi in America. And the Reform Movement is doing some serious celebrating.

Liberals Are That Way Too?

Deborah K. Bravo

Rick, Danny, Jonah, Mark and Brad. One might think this is a list of possible names for you new baby boy.

Topics: Judaism-Reform
Raising Up the Light, 2010

Celebrating the First Lights of Women Rabbis

Elizabeth Imber

On a cold New England night, as the first flurries of the season began to fall, members of the Jewish community in Boston piled into the sanctuary at Temple Reyim to kindle the lights of Hanukkah and celebrate four remarkable Jewish women. Sally Priesand, Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, Amy Eilberg, and Sara Hurwitz, the first-ordained North American Reform, Reconstructionist, and Conservative women rabbis and Open Orthodox rabba, respectively, gathered together for the first time, in an event cosponsored by the Jewish Women’s Archive, to share their inspirational stories, to celebrate the progress that has been made across the Jewish movements, and to discuss what still needs to be done.

Rabbi Sally J. Priesand blesses US Congress

October 23, 1973

Rabbi Sally J. Priesand offered the opening prayer in the United States House of Representatives, at the invitation of Congresswoman Bella Abzug.

Congregation appoints first woman to serve as senior rabbi

August 1, 1979

Reconstructionist rabbi Linda Joy Holtzman was appointed the spiritual leader of Beth Israel Congregation in Coatesville, PA, on August 1, 1979.

Reform rabbis debate women's ordination

June 30, 1922

On June 29, 1922, the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), the Reform movement's professional organization, meeting in Cape May, N.J., debated a resolution declaring that "women cannot jus

Sally Priesand ordained as first American woman rabbi

June 3, 1972

Sally Priesand made history on June 3, 1972, when she was ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), becoming the first female rabbi in American history and the first

Reform Judaism in the United States

The 150-year history of organized Reform Judaism in the United States has been marked by a continuous adjustment to roles and expectations for women in Judaism that, in many ways, has been the movement’s signature defining feature. The Reform Movement has been a pioneer in forwarding women’s public engagement and leadership as Jews. At the same time, those advances have often been accompanied by experiences of exclusion and discrimination that have, at times, belied the movement’s rhetorical embrace of equality.

Rabbis in the United States

Since 1972, when Sally Priesand became the first woman in the world ordained by a rabbinical seminary, hundreds of women have become rabbis in the Reform, Reconstructionist, and Conservative movements. In recent years, womenhave also entered the Orthodox rabbinate, using a variety of titles, including rabbi.

Sally Jane Priesand

On June 3, 1972, when Cincinnati’s Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion ordained Sally Jane Priesand rabbi, she became the first woman in America to become a rabbi and the first in the world ordained by a rabbinical seminary.

Leadership and Authority

The concepts of leadership and authority have evolved over time. From biblical leaders elected by God to contemporary makers of social change, women have been leading the Jewish people for centuries.

Laura Geller

One of the first American women rabbis, Laura Geller has repeatedly challenged exclusions and shown that women’s leadership could bring a different, more meaningful, experience of Judaism. As a leader at the University of Southern California Hillel, the American Jewish Congress, Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, and ChaiVillageLA, Geller showed the emerging possibilities of women’s leadership.

Bat Mitzvah: American Jewish Women

When Judith Kaplan Eisenstein became the first American girl to mark her bat mitzvah on March 18, 1922—two years after women were guaranteed the right to vote in the US—she recalled “shock[ing] a lot of people,” especially her disapproving grandmothers. Today, American girls across the Jewish spectrum, from secular to ultra-Orthodox, mark their coming-of-age in various forms.

A Reluctant Pioneer

Judith Rosenbaum

This June marks a milestone in the history of Jewish feminism: the retirement of Rabbi Sally Priesand, the first American woman rabbi. In the feature about her in the New York Times last Saturday, she repeated something she’s said often during her career: “I became a rabbi not to champion women’s rights.

Topics: Feminism, Rabbis

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