Elana Zaiman was the first woman rabbi in a family chain of rabbis spanning six generations. Growing up in a traditional Conservative synagogue where women were not allowed to read from the Torah, Rabbi Zaiman’s decision to become a rabbi and forward a new iteration of her family’s legacy made her a pioneer in her family history.
I sensed some apprehension in the sanctuary as we settled into our seats for Rosh Hashanah services. The congregation was experiencing a first: a woman was leading the clergy for the first time in congregational history. Joining her on the bimah was our second rabbi, also a woman. I knew there were some in the congregation who wondered what it would be like to begin this new year without male leadership at the top.
As a member of the first cohort to graduate from Yeshivat Maharat, the first Orthodox seminary for ordaining women, Ruth Balinsky Friedman is helping shape what religious leadership will look like for the next generation of Orthodox women and girls.
A member of the first class to graduate from Yeshivat Maharat, a seminary for ordaining Orthodox Jewish women, Rachel Kohl Finegold is the first Orthodox woman to serve in a clergy position at a Canadian synagogue.
Mychal Springer created the Center for Pastoral Education to enable hospital chaplains of all backgrounds to learn from Jewish models for visiting the sick while incorporating the wisdom of other pastoral traditions.
As the first female executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly, the professional organization for Conservative rabbis, Julie Schonfeld has helped shape the Conservative movement’s approach to prayer as well as its response to world politics.
As both one of the first women and one of the first openly gay rabbis to be ordained in Britain, Elli Tikvah Sarah has shattered assumptions about what it means to be part of—and to lead—the Jewish community.
Haviva Ner-David’s 2006 ordination made her one of the first Orthodox women to claim the title of “Rabbi,” part of her lifelong work to enable Jewish women—and Jews in general—to reexamine and reengage with the tradition.
As a professor of liturgy at the Jerusalem campus of Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion, where students from around the world learn to become Reform rabbis, Dalia Marx is helping to shape how a new generation approaches prayer.