Ray Frank - The First Woman Rabbi? - Debates about the Ordination of Women

Joining his voice to that of Rabbi Stolz, Rabbi Moses declaimed, "We need women in pulpits.... [D]ire necessity calls for such a step, especially in our smaller communities. Organize and establish a woman's seminary from which woman teachers and preachers will go forth. If we are to have a messianic time it will be hastened by the maidens that go forth from such institutions in the cause of their religion." Similarly, a writer in The Jewish Exponent commented, "The female Jewish preachers of the past have confined their work to their own sex. But there ought to be no objection to a woman in the pulpit teaching God's words in the larger house of learning, when there is none to her instilling religious thoughts in smaller rooms to children of a lesser growth."

But many other Jewish leaders disagreed. A contributor to the San Francisco Progress wrote, "[Miss Frank] is not, and never will be, a Rabbi, in the sense that we understand the word—nor does she, to our personal knowledge, aspire to that high office.... [A] woman-Rabbi is an anomaly.... [L]et there be no foolish exaggeration or misconstruction of the mission of our aspiring womanhood. The usurpation of the Rabbinical office—an office in which learning, courage, and an infinite amount of self-sacrifice are indispensable—was not, and is not, intended, nor should a great newspaper like the Chronicle assist in the diffusion of such sensational twaddle." Others simply ridiculed the idea of woman rabbis, writing, for example, "We hear of several ladies in the Eastern States who desire to imitate Miss Ray Frank in becoming rabbis. This will all be very nice and may draw larger attendance than male rabbis, but we see danger ahead. Supposing a half dozen of the trustees of the congregation should fall in love with their lady rabbi, or even go so far as to make a mash on the preacher in the pulpit."

1. Rabbi Moses quoted in "Jewish Women Discuss Religion," Jewish Times and Observer, date unknown .

2. The Jewish Exponent, November 25, 1892.

3. San Francisco Progress, n.d.

4. Final quote from newspaper clipping, no source, in Ray Frank Litman Scrapbook, American Jewish Historical Society.


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Letter from Rabbi Joseph Stolz to Ray Frank, September 14, 1893.

Courtesy of American Jewish Historical Society.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Ray Frank - The First Woman Rabbi? - Debates about the Ordination of Women." (Viewed on September 22, 2023) <https://jwa.org/womenofvalor/frank/first-woman-rabbi/debates-about-ordination-of-women>.


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