Rabbi Sally J. Priesand blesses US Congress

October 23, 1973
Rabbi Sally Priesand.

On 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. According to Abzug, Priesand was not only the first Jewish woman, but the first woman to be accorded this honor. October 23, 1973 also turned out to be the day on which the first resolution to impeach President Richard Nixon was offered.

Priesand became the first woman to be ordained by a rabbinical seminary in June 1972. Although she was the first American woman rabbi, Priesand was not the first woman to study toward that goal. She was preceded as a student at Hebrew Union College and the Jewish Institute of Religion by other women including Martha Neumark, Helen Levinthal Lyons, Toby Fink, and Norma Kirschner.

In 1973, Priesand was serving as assistant rabbi at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in New York City. Priesand became rabbi of the Monmouth Reform Temple in Tinton Falls, New Jersey in 1981, serving that congregation for twenty-five years until her retirement in 2006.

Sources: Sally Priesand, letter to JWA (2004). Bella Abzug, "Bella on Bella," Moment Magazine, February 1976; Pamela S. Nadell, Women Who Would Be Rabbis: A History of Women's Ordination 1889-1985 (Boston, 1998), pp. 118-169; "Preserve the Shards of the Shattered Glass Ceiling," Forward, July 7, 2006, www.forward.com/articles/418/.

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In 1935, Regina Jonas became the first woman to be ordained as a rabbi. She was killed in Auschwitz in October, 1944. There's an entry for Rabbi Jonas in the Encyclopedia ( http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/ar... )


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Jewish Women's Archive. "Rabbi Sally J. Priesand blesses US Congress." (Viewed on April 21, 2024) <http://jwa.org/thisweek/oct/23/1973/sally-j-priesand>.