Ray Frank

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Ray Frank

“In a Place Where There Are No Men”

Rabbi Leah Berkowitz

The 21st century in general, and this season in particular, is a high stakes time in the congregational rabbinate. Taking a break from my annual scramble to produce four 20-minute sermons that will change the course of history (that’s really what it feels like), I had the opportunity to re-read some High Holy Day words that actually did change the course of history.

Topics: Yom Kippur

Ray Frank's Yom Kippur Sermon, 1890

Read the 1890 Yom Kippur sermon by Ray Frank, the first Jewish woman to preach formally from a pulpit, and consider what unites and divides the Jewish people both historically and today.

Melissa Benoist, June 30, 2015

Superwoman! Er, Girl

Larisa Klebe

Is it sexist to call a woman a girl? Yes it is. At the risk of having the world’s shortest blog post though, I’ll elaborate. The Washington Post published a piece this week about the new CBS drama, “Supergirl,” titled: “Is the term ‘Supergirl’ offensive? The story behind the ‘girl vs. woman’ speech in the pilot.” 

Topics: Feminism

Ray Frank

Ray Frank paved the way for women to serve as rabbis with her passionate and incisive preaching.

Women of Valor: Jewish Heroes Across Time

Learn about the lives of three trailblazing women and get some practical ideas for how to bring their stories into your community in creative ways.
Zelda R. Stern

Fall Donor Spotlight

Leah Berkenwald

This fall, JWA is recognizing the contributions of three very different donors.

Lessons from "A Lay Sermon by a Young Lady"

Leah Berkenwald

One hundred and twenty years ago today, Ray Frank delivered a historic sermon on what was the first night of Rosh Hashanah in Spokane, Washington. Ray Frank, featured in JWA's Women of Valor exhibit, is one of those "complicated" heroines.

Ray Frank

Ray Frank's position in American Jewry was truly a novel one. In 1890, she became the first Jewish woman to preach formally from a pulpit in the United States, inaugurating a career as "the Girl Rabbi of the Golden West" that would help to blaze new paths for women in Judaism. Virtually overnight, Frank became a sensation in the Jewish world, and she would remain so for nearly a decade.

Ray Frank: "Lady Preacher" of the West

Leah Berkenwald

One-hundred and nineteen years ago today, Ray Frank became the first Jewish woman to speak from a synagogue pulpit in the United States. Ray Frank's story is particularly intriguing due to its complexity and the questions it raises. This was undoubtedly an important event in American Jewish women's history, but its impact is not straightforward, and thinking of Ray Frank as a heroine of the women's movement is somewhat problematic.

Topics: Rabbis

Ray Frank preaches on Rosh Hashanah

September 14, 1890

On September 14, 1890, Ray Frank became the first Jewish woman to preach formally from a synagogue pulpit in the United States.

Ritual: A Feminist Approach

Beginning with the first bat mitzvah, Jewish women began adapting traditional ceremonies to focus on women and their experiences. Other rituals have been created for parts of the female life cycle such as menstruation or childbirth. However, there continues to be a lack of recognition of women in recently created holidays that are based on nationalist and Zionist beliefs.

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.

Assimilation in the United States: Nineteenth Century

Female German Jewish immigrants were uniquely impacted by both their gender and class during the process of their assimilation to American life. They began participating in voluntary social work, which secularized over time, reflecting the women’s increased sense of personal autonomy. Through their work, German Jewish women immigrants preserved Jewish tradition and expanded their roles beyond the home.

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