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RA Convention to Vote on Application of a Woman Ordained As a Reform Rabbi

The application of a woman ordained as a Reform rabbi for admission to be a member of the Rabbinical Assembly, the association of Conservative rabbis, will be voted on during the 83rd annual RA convention in Dallas next week. Rabbi Wolfe Kelman, RA executive vice president, disclosed today. If the application of Beverly Magidson is approved at the April 12 session of the convention, she will be the first Conservative woman rabbi. Whether the movement should have a woman rabbi has been an issue of controversy for years, based largely on a futile struggle to change existing rules barring admission of a woman to the rabbinical school of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, the Conservative educational and rabbinical institution.

Kelman fold the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that during the past 40 years, some 500 rabbis, ordained elsewhere than at the Seminary have been admitted to membership in the RA out of some 1,000 applicants. Ordination at the Seminary automatically qualifies the graduate as a Conservative rabbi and as a member of the RA, Kelman said.

PROCEDURE FOR APPLICATIONS

The procedure for such applications starts with an application to the RA membership committee, in which the applicant submits proof of ordination and evidence of at least two years of work in some recognized Jewish institution.

Names of applicants approved by the membership committee are then submitted to the RA executive council for consideration and approval. Names of applicants successful to this point are submitted to all 1,150 RA members.

The final step is approval at an RA convention. Kelman said there are six names to be voted on at the convention next week, five men and Rabbi Magidson. A vote of 75 percent approval of members present and voting is required for acceptance of the applicant and admission to the RA as a member.

Kelman said that the 75 percent vote normally is automatic for candidates who had successfully passed the earlier RA tests. However, in the case of Magidson. the fact that she is a woman adds “an extra dimension” to her application, he said.

Magidson, who was ordained at the New York school of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1979, served as a chaplain at Vassar College and as a rabbinic intern at the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the association of American Reform synagogues. Currently, she is associate director of the Hillel Foundation at Washington University in St. Louis.

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