Annual Survey of the Appointment of Women Rabbis
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Annual Survey of the Appointment of Women Rabbis

Most of the 18 women ordained last summer as rabbis — including the first Conservative woman rabbi — have been appointed by congregations as assistant rabbis, according to reports to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in its annual survey of such appointments.

Data on the appointments was obtained from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College; the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the Reform institution; and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS), the Conservative school.

The 18 new rabbis brought to 110 the number of American women entering the rabbinate since the process began in the Reform movement more than 12 years ago. The current enrollment in the three seminaries means that continuing additions annually to the pool of women rabbis are virtually assured for the future.


Twelve of the 18 women were ordained as Reform rabbis and five were ordained as Reconstructionist rabbis. Amy Eilberg of Providence, R.1., the first Conservative woman rabbi, has been appointed a chaplain at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.

The five new Reconstructionist rabbis are: Sandra Berliner of Toledo; Vivian Schirn of Los Angeles; Deborah Brin of Minneapolis; Bonnie Goldberg of Brooklyn; and Andrea Gouze of The Bronx, N.Y.

Berliner was named solo rabbi of Tiferes B’nai Israel in Warrington, Pa. and Schirn was named solo rabbi of Temple Hatikvah in Flanders, N.J.A solo pulpit is the designation for the spiritual leader of a congregation too small to need more than one rabbi.

Brin is chaplain at Martin’s Run Retirement Community in Media, Pa. Goldberg is director of group services at the YM-YWHA in Philadelphia. Gouze made aliya to Israel.


Eight of the new women Reform rabbis were named to posts as assistant rabbis. They are Barbara Abrahamson of St. Paul, at Peninsula Temple Beth El in San Mateo, Cal.; Linda Henry of New York City, at Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan; Laurie Coskey of Beverly Hills, Cal., at Congregation Beth Israel in San Diego; and Charisse Kranes of Cincinnati at Temple de Hirsch in Seattle.

Also, Julie Spitzer of Jacksonville, Fla. at Temple Emanu-El at Livingston, N.J.; Susan Warshell of Highland Park, 111., at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun at Short Hills, N.J.; Judith Zabarenko of Rockford, 111. at Congregation Emanu El in Houston; and Marla Feldman of Toledo, at Temple Emanu-El in Sarasota, Fla.

The other new women Reform rabbis are Barbara Goldman-Wartell of Evanston, 111., named solo rabbi of Congregation B’nai David in Visalia, Cal.; Dayle Friedman of Denver; Rachel Hertzman of Louisville; and Karyn Kedar of Baltimore.

Friedman is a full-time chaplain for the Philadelphia Geriatric Center. Hertzman is director of the Outreach program of the Southeast region of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, in Miami, and part-time educator and youth director at Congregation Kol Ami in Plantation, Fla. Kedar is a teacher in Hod Ha’Sharon High School in Israel.

Eilberg was one of 18 women who made Jewish history in 1984 as the first women to enter the rabbinical school of JTS. Their admission climaxed a battle of nearly a decade in the Conservative movement over the admission of women to the JTS as rabbinical candidates.

Eilberg was ordained after one year of study in the JTS rabbinical school because she had acquired sufficient credits through study in JTS rabbinical school courses, previously permitted to women students but not for credit for the rabbinate, since 1976.

Rabbi Gordon Tucker, the JTS rabbinical school dean, said at the time that credits for such courses, if they are part of the rabbinical school curriculum, would be added to the scholastic records of the first women students admitted to the rabbinical school.

The placements of the 1984-85 ordainees were similar to those of preceding new women rabbis. Most have been named to pulpits, mainly as assistant rabbis. The others have been appointed to positions as instructors in Jewish schools and to the staff of Jewish educational institutions.

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