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Judaism-Reform

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 [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:424]Torah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary]. 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.

Adele Bluthenthal Heiman

Adele Bluthenthal Heiman spent her life in Arkansas, helping create and lead the state’s close-knit Jewish community. In her various leadership positions, she made strides in helping not only Jewish women, but the Jewish community as a whole.

Reina Hartmann

Reina Kate Goldstein, the daughter of Simon and Kate (Mayer) Goldstein, was born in Chicago on February 2, 1880, and lived in the Chicago area her entire life. She became an integral member of the community by devoting her life to organizations that served Chicago’s women.

Janet Harris

Janet Simons Harris shepherded the National Council of Jewish Women through one of the most divisive times in its history and led both national and international efforts for women’s rights. The organization grew during her tenure, and she continued to do national and international volunteer work with multiple other organizations until her retirement.

Sidonie Matzner Gruenberg

In 1973, in her nineties, Sidonie Matzner Gruenberg declared that her eighties had been the best decade of her life. She had published the revised edition of her monumental four-volume The New Illustrated Encyclopedia of Child Care and Guidance (1967) and had earned more money than in any previous decade.

Elyse Goldstein

Rabbi Elyse Goldstein was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania and educated at Brandeis University (B.A. summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 1978) and the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (M.H.L. followed by ordination in 1983). As a student, she served at Beth Or, a synagogue for the deaf in the New York City area, and she remains committed to Jewish education for the deaf. Her first rabbinic positions were as assistant rabbi at Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto and rabbi of Temple Beth David in Canton, Massachusetts. She is one of many Canadian Jewish professionals born and/or trained in the United States. In the somewhat more conservative Canadian Jewish community, where synagogue egalitarianism has developed much more slowly than in the United States, she has been a path breaker.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Judaism-Reform." (Viewed on September 25, 2018) <https://jwa.org/topics/judaism-reform>.

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