Ordination of Women as Rabbis

Women rabbis in history and in the news.

Each year in May and June, high school and college students step up to recieve their diplomas, move their tassels to the other side, and celebrate graduation season. This exciting time of year is also ordination season for new rabbis.

With the passing of each year, more and more women are being ordained at the major rabbinical schools. Just three or four decades ago, this would have been unthinkable. Jewish women have come a long way in earning positions of Jewish religious and spiritual leadership.

Below are a series of articles marking major dates in American history for women rabbis. Many are courtesy of the Jewish Women’s Archive, and the JTA: The Global News Service of the Jewish People.

Women Rabbis: A History of the Struggle for Ordination
While the Reform movement was theoretically in favor of women’s ordination as far back as 1922, it was not until 50 years later that the first women was ordained as a rabbi in North America.

Reform Rabbis Debate Women’s Ordination
In 1922, the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), the Reform movement’s professional organization, debated a resolution declaring that “women cannot justly be denied the privilege of ordination.”

Reform Jewish Leader Jane Evans Argues for Ordination of Women Rabbis
Jane Evans was a passionate woman who spent her life fighting for the ordination of female rabbis.

The First American Woman Rabbi
In 1972, Sally Priesand made history when she was ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), becoming the first female rabbi in American history and the first woman to be ordained by a rabbinical seminary.

The First Female Reconstructionist Rabbi
Sandy Eisenberg Sasso became the first female Reconstructionist rabbi when she was ordained by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC) in 1974.

The First Female Conservative Rabbi

Amy Eilberg’s 1985 ordination at the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS)’s commencement ceremony made her the first woman rabbi in the Conservative movement.

Women Rabbis in the News

On Track to be the First Black Female Rabbi
Alysa Stanton-Ogulnick  is studying at the Cincinnati campus of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Her ordination in May 2009 will make her the first black female rabbi.

Orthodox Female Rabbi? False Alarm

What do you call an Orthodox woman who learns like a rabbi, teaches like a rabbi and has a job description like a rabbi? Answer: Sara Hurwitz.

For Israel’s Female Soldiers, Someone New to Provide Strength
Captain Ofra Gutman?s work as the first female officer in the Rabbinate Corps of the Israel Defense Forces is a mix of the sacred and the logistical.

Other Articles about Rabbis, Gender, and Feminism

What is a Rabbi?
The traditional rabbinate harks back to ancient practice, but is in fact a changing institution.

Gender and the Rabbinate

How has the ratio of men and women in the different rabbinical schools changed over the past decade?

The Changing Face of the Rabbinate

Exclusively the territory of young men for so long, rabbinical schools today in the non-Orthodox movements are welcoming women and gay students.

Feminism and Jewish Prayer
A variety of views on changing masculine bias in Jewish liturgy.

Discover More

Modern Israel at a Glance

An overview of the Jewish state and its many accomplishments and challenges.

Black-Jewish Relations in America

Relations between African Americans and Jews have evolved through periods of indifference, partnership and estrangement.