Reform Movement Striving to Assure Equality in Placement of Rabbis in Pulpit Positions and Other Job

In anticipation that by 1979 one out of three newly ordained Reform rabbis in America will be women, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations has launched an educational campaign among its 720 congregations and 1.1 million members in the United States and Canada to assure complete equality of the sexes in the placement of rabbis in pulpit positions and other jobs.

Noting that the Reform branch of Judaism for almost 200 years has championed the equality of women’s rights on all levels, in adding religious rights, Matthew H. Ross, chairman of the UAHC’s Board of Trustees, told board members meeting here at the Century Plaza Hotel that “pockets of resistance still exist in accepting women in jobs traditionally held for centuries exclusively by men.”

Ross cited current enrollment statistics from the movement’s seminary, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, showing that at present 35 out of 215 rabbinic students studying on the four campuses are women, with 12 out of 45 in this year’s freshman class being women and 25 percent of those applying to study for the rabbinate. In addition, the HUC-JIR’s School of Sacred Music in New York City has 17 women out of 44 studying for the cantorate.

At present there are three women ordained by HUC-JIR. Rabbi Sally Priesand, serving as the assistant at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in NYC; Rabbi Michal Bernstein at Temple Beth Sholom, San Jose, Calif; and Rabbi Laura Geller, director of the Hillel Foundation at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. Three women have been officially invested as cantors. The first in 1975, Barbara Herman, was just installed as the cantor of Temple Beth-El of Great Neck. N.Y.

EDUCATIONAL FORCE TO BE ESTABLISHED

To meet the challenge, the UAHC’s Board of Trustees, at the conclusion of its three-day meeting here, approved the creation of an educational task force “to develop effective programs sensitizing our congregations and congregants so that they can respond to the historic

The trustees also cited the “ever-increasing role of women in the councils of Reform Judaism as lay and professional leaders and congregational presidents.” Today there are 100 women who have been presidents of their synagogues, with 60 presently in their elected posts. Also this year, Mrs. Frances Hyman of Teaneck, N.J. was elected as the first woman president of a UAHC region, the Metropolitan Council, serving 50 congregations in New Jersey and New York’s Hudson Valley.

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