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First Woman Rabbi Elected to Lead Congregation

Rabbi Linda Joy Holtzman, a 1979 graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC) in Philadelphia, has been elected as spiritual leader of Beth Israel Congregation, Coatesville, Pa., it was announced by Newton Duitch, president of the 55-year-old Conservative congregation. The 110 member-family congregation thus becomes the only synagogue in North America to have a woman rabbi at its helm, he said.

Holtzman will also serve as the educational director of the synagogue. She is a native of Philadelphia who, during her student days at the RRC, served as student rabbi at the Bristol Jewish Center in Bristol, Pa. Holtzman also spent a year studying at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She received her BA and MA degrees in English from Temple University, and a Bachelor of Hebrew Literature degree from Gratz College in Philadelphia.

In commenting upon the election of Holtzman, Rabbi Ludwig Nodelmann, executive vice president of the Jewish Reconstructionist Foundation, said her appointment “represents an important breakthrough for women rabbis.. Until now, women have only been elected as assistants, or, as in the case in a unique arrangement at Beth El Zedeck Congregation in Indianapolis, the Sassos, Dennis and Sandy, function as co-rabbis of their congregation. We are confident that Linda Holtzman. In embarking upon her new career, will demonstrate that both men and women can serve as rabbinical leaders with equal competence.”

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