Judaism-Reform

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Reform Judaism leader Jane Evans argues for ordination of women rabbis

April 29, 1957

On April 29, 1957, Jane Evans spoke to 1,000 delegates in favor of ordaining women rabbis at a biennial general assembly meeting of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) – renamed

Rabbi Janet Marder becomes president of Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR)

March 26, 2003

When Rabbi Janet Marder was named president of the Reform Movement's Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) on March 26, 2003, she became the first woman to lead a major rabbinical organizati

The New York Times reports on naming ceremonies for Jewish girls

March 14, 1977

Noting that the new Reform Jewish prayerbook, published in February 1977, included a naming ceremony for baby girls for the first time, and that Ezrat Nashim a small feminist activist collective, was about to publish a booklet entitled “Blessing the Birth of a Daughter: Jewish Naming Ceremonies for Girls,” the New York Times reported on March 14, 1977, that such ceremonies were becoming common in all branches of Judaism.

Rabbi Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus installed as president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis

February 28, 2009

On February 28, 2009, Rabbi Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus was installed as president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), the world's oldest and largest group of Jewish clergy, founded in

Creation of the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods

January 21, 1913

On January 21, 1913, 156 women from 52 congregations around the country met in Cincinnati, Ohio, under the leadership of Carrie Obendorfer Simon, to create the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods (NFTS).

Teaching Profession in the United States

Through Jewish educational organizations, Jewish schools, and public schools, female Jewish teachers have played an important role in shaping the North American teaching profession. Over the last 150 years, American Jewish women have been drawn to teaching in both public and Jewish schools by a multitude of factors.

Pauline Perlmutter Steinem

Pauline Perlmutter Steinem, like her granddaughter Gloria Steinem, was an ardent activist for women’s rights, especially suffrage. She was also involved in Jewish activism, serving many local Jewish organizations and devoting a considerable amount of her income to send Jews to Israel just before World War II began.

Rosa Sonneschein

By founding and editing the American Jewess, Rosa Sonneschein not only provided support and space for the emerging national network of Jewish clubwomen and created a forum in which to publicize her then unconventional views on Zionism, but also pioneered a professional role in journalism for American Jewish women.

Estelle Joan Sommers

Sommers made her career in retail dancewear as a designer, business executive, and owner of various ventures. Since taking ballet and tap classes as a child, dance had been her passion, professionally and socially.

Hannah Greenebaum Solomon

Hannah Greenebaum Solomon was the founder and first president of the National Council of Jewish Women. In creating the first national association for Jewish women, she redefined the roles they could play in American society.

Carrie Obendorfer Simon

In an era in which Victorian social conventions limited most women to the private sphere of home and family, Carrie Obendorfer Simon broke important ground for American Jewish women by founding the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods (NFTS) in the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC).

Esther Jane Ruskay

Esther Jane Ruskay was a distinguished and outstanding writer and speaker in the Jewish community before the turn of the century. Her articles on Jewish life appeared in numerous newspapers, and a collection of her writings, Hearth and Home Essays, was published in 1902 by the Jewish Publication Society.

National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods

In 1913, the women of Reform Judaism, who were organized in independent, local synagogue sisterhoods founded in the 1890s and 1900s, united to create a national organization of women dedicated to religion. Reform Jewish women joined the American women of the era who established a host of voluntary associations to further various social and communal agendas.

Lily Montagu

Lilian Helen Montagu was a British social worker, a magistrate in the London juvenile courts, suffragist, writer, religious organizer, and spiritual leader who founded and long remained the driving force behind the Liberal Jewish movement in England.

Faye Libby Schenk

A committed Zionist, Faye Libby Herz Schenk chose to direct her considerable talents and energies into organizing and strengthening Zionist organizations worldwide. Schenk went on to hold every major portfolio in Hadassah and eventually served as national president from 1968 to 1972.

Therese Loeb Schiff

Among her diverse activities, Therese Loeb Schiff organized a literary series for wealthy German Jewish women, donated ten thousand dollars to the National Council of Jewish Women to help cope with Jewish prostitution among young immigrant women, and lectured for the Consumers League in support of protective legislation to end child labor and the exploitation of women.

Reform Judaism in the United States

Leaders of Reform Judaism in the United States have often celebrated their movement’s role in emancipating women from the many restrictions that Judaism has traditionally imposed upon their ability to participate and lead public worship.

Rabbis in the United States

Jewish women’s recent entrance to the brotherhood of the rabbinate masks a lengthy history of the question of women’s ordination.

Sally Jane Priesand

On June 3, 1972, Sally Jane Priesand became the first female ordained rabbi in America.

Seraphine Eppstein Pisko

Like so many middle-class Jewish women at the turn of the century, Seraphine Eppstein Pisko used her longtime experience in volunteer charitable work and her organizational talents to move into the realm of the professional workplace. In 1911, Pisko was appointed secretary of National Jewish Hospital (NJH) for Consumptives in Denver. She was later appointed executive secretary as well as vice president, and remained in control of day-to-day affairs at the hospital until her retirement twenty-seven years later in 1938.

Tehilla Lichtenstein

In 1951, the New York–based Society of Jewish Science published a small pamphlet entitled “What to Tell your Friends About Jewish Science.” Written by the society’s leader, Tehilla Lichtenstein, the pamphlet sought to clarify the differences between the religions of Jewish Science and Christian Science. Portraying Christian Science as the outgrowth of a Christian philosophy of denial, Lichtenstein defined Jewish Science as the positive application of Jewish teachings to everyday life. She elaborated on this idea in over five hundred sermons delivered between 1938 and 1972, becoming the first Jewish American woman to serve as the spiritual leader of an ongoing Jewish congregation. While the society, which continues to exist, never sought formal affiliation with any of American Judaism’s major religious movements, it retains strong historical and theological ties to classical Reform Judaism.

Leaders in Israel's Religious Communities

Since the late twentieth century women have begun to assume leadership positions that are undoubtedly “religious” in both content and form. Religious leaders, like any other leaders, guide their followers towards achieving goals and purposes, and can do so by influencing their followers’ motivation. Religious leaders guide their followers towards religious goals and derive their authority to do so from the strength of their own religious characteristics. What therefore distinguishes them from secular leaders is that even in democratic societies their authority does not emanate solely from the public, but also from a religious source—in the case of Judaism, the Torah she-bi-khetav: Lit. "the written Torah." The Bible; the Pentateuch; Tanakh (the Pentateuch, Prophets and Hagiographia)Torah. Hence, a crucial criterion for religious leadership in the world of Jewry is “knowledge of the Torah,” by which is meant the ability to refer to the canonical texts in an unmediated manner.

Rose Kohler

Rose Kohler was a multitalented woman who was known as an accomplished painter and sculptor. She was a teacher in, and later the chair of, the National Council of Jewish Women’s religious schools in Cincinnati, Ohio, and wrote many articles on art and religion.

Lillian Ruth Kessler

In 1982, when she retired from the presidency of Kessler International Corporation, Lillian Kessler prepared a brochure listing the principal export items of the company she had founded in 1946. The list included abrasives, adhesives, locomotive parts, chemicals, navigational and meteorological instruments, tank and jeep bearings, crankshaft and camshaft grinders, and many other automotive parts.

Jewish Feminism in the United States

Challenging all varieties of American Judaism, feminism has been a powerful force for popular Jewish religious revival. Of America’s four Jewish denominations, all but the Orthodox have accepted women as rabbis and cantors.

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