17 Women Will Be Ordained As Reform Rabbis This Month and Next

The Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) announced today the names of the 17 women who will be ordained as Reform rabbis this month and next.

However, the total number of such women ordained to date is expected to be 92, rather than 94, because two Reconstructionist women candidates will not be ordained this summer as had been scheduled, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency has been told.

A spokesperson for the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC) told the JTA that one of the two candidates at that seminary had extended her final year of study to October, when she is expected to be ordained.

The second RRC candidate has taken a leave of absence and is expected to return to complete her final year of studies for ordination but more specific details were not available. However, four men will be ordained as Reconstructionist rabbis on June 3 at the Main Line Reform synagogue in Wynnewood, Pa. The RRC is in nearby Wyncote, Pa.

The Reform ordination ceremonies will be held May 27 at Temple Emanu-el here and at the Plum Street Temple in Cincinnati on June 4, home of the founding school of the Reform institution.

NAMES OF THE REFORM CANDIDATES

Eleven of the Reform women candidates will be ordained here. They are: Constance Abrahamson of Brookline, Mass.; Jody Cohen-Gavarian of Springfield, N.J.; Joan Glazer-Farber of Baltimore; Emily Feigenson of Los Angeles; Carol Glass of Avon, Conn.; Julie Gordon of Albert Lea, Minn.; Susan Harris of Oklahoma City; Stacy Offner of Great Neck, N.Y.; Amy Ross Scheinerman of Norfolk, Conn.; Judy Schanks of Phoenix, Ariz.; and Margaret Wenig of Westport, Conn.

The other six graduates, to be ordained in Cincinnati, are Judith Ann Bluestein of Cincinnati; Judith Ann Chessin of Maitland, Fla.; Suzanne Donna Kassel of Salt Lake City; Tracy Guren Klirs of Seattle; Gaylia Rooks of Swampscott, Mass.; and Elizabeth Weiss Stern of Boston.

The Orthodox community has never considered the idea of women rabbis but Conservative Judaism, after a long and heated struggle, has started the process.

There are two principal ways by which an individual may become a Conservative rabbi: graduation from the rabbinical school of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS); or by a 75 percent vote of approval of delegates attending and voting at a convention of the Rabbinical Assembly, the association of Reform rabbis.

CONTINUING SHORTAGE OF CONSERVATIVE RABBIS

A continuing shortage of rabbis for Conservative pulpits has prompted the RA in recent years to accept more than 500 applicants for membership via convention endorsement. But until last October, the JTS had barred women from its rabbinical school. When a Reform-ordained woman rabbi, Beverly Magidson, tried and lost a bid at the 1983 RA convention for RA membership, all of the candidates voted on had been men.

On May 16, Magidson tried again and lost again at the 84th RA convention in Kiamesha Lake, reflecting in part the conviction of many Conservative rabbis that the only route to the Conservative rabbinate should be via the JTS rabbinical school, which will open for its first class of women — after debate over many years — in the fall with more than 20 women candidates.

One of those 20 women, the JTA learned, has earned sufficient JTS credits so that, barring unexpected developments, she will complete the rabbinical school’s study requirements and be graduated in June, 1985 to become the first Conservative woman rabbi in American history.

The process of ordaining American women as rabbis began more than 11 years ago when the HUC ordained Sally Preisand as the first American woman rabbi.

In any case, there are now enough women in the 1985 graduating class in both the Reform and Reconstructionist seminaries that virtually assure that, in addition to the likely first woman Conservative rabbi, 1985 graduates will bring to well over 100 the number of Jewish women by then in the American rabbinate.

NEXT STORY