Annual Survey: 20 Women to Be Ordained As Rabbis Next Month, Bringing the Total Number of American W
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Annual Survey: 20 Women to Be Ordained As Rabbis Next Month, Bringing the Total Number of American W

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The total of American women rabbis is expected to reach 130 in June when 20 women will be ordained as Reconstructionist, Conservative and Reform spiritual leaders, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s annual survey.

The Reconstructionist movement will ordain seven women as rabbis in graduation ceremonies June 1 at Congregation Rodeph Shalom in Philadelphia.

Six women will be ordained as Reform rabbis on the same day at graduation ceremonies at Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan. Six women are to be ordained as Reform rabbis in ceremonies on June 7 at the Isaac N. Wise (Plum Street) Temple in Cincinnati.

The JTA reported previously that Nina Bieber Feinstein of Dallas, Texas, had met all scholastic requirements for ordination as a Conservative rabbi, the second Conservative woman rabbi in American history.

Feinstein was ordained at graduation ceremonies here on May 11 at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS), site of the Conservative rabbinical school. Amy Eilberg of Bloomington, Indiana, was the first Conservative woman rabbi. Ordained in 1985, she was appointed as a chaplain at the Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis where she continues to serve.


The names of the seven women graduating from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC) are:

Judy Gary of Richmond, Va.; Gail Glicksman of Philadelphia; Laurie Levy of Elkins Park, Pa.; Sue Levy of Abington, Pa.; Avis Miller of Washington, D.C.; Joan Sacks of Chicago; and Sheila Weinberg of Philadelphia.


At the New York school of the Reform movement, the Jewish Institute of Religion, six women will be ordained as Reform rabbis. They are: Judith Cohen-Rosenberg of Brooklyn; Ellen Greenspan of Scarsdale, N.Y.; Margaret Holob of Tustin, Cal.; Shira Milgrom of Berkeley, Cal.; Nina Mizrahi of New York City; and Paula Winnig of Milwaukee.

The six women to be ordained as Reform rabbis by the Cincinnati school, the Hebrew Union College (HUC) are: Eve Deena Ben-Ora of Scottsdale, Ariz.; Ellen Sue Levi Elwell of Buffalo, N.Y.; Ruth Langer of Pittsburgh; Margaret Jane Meyer of Cincinnati; Linda Jean Motzkin of Los Angeles; and Julie Sue Schwartz of Cincinnati.

The first class of 20 women candidates in the rabbinical school of the JTS was admitted two years ago, in the climax to a battle within the Conservative movement over such admission of nearly a decade, a battle led by the Rabbinical Assembly, the association of Conservative rabbis. Both Eilberg and Feinstein were members of that initial class.

Women had been permitted to take JTS rabbinical school courses, after being informed that taking such studies would not qualify them for rabbinical status. Both Eilberg and Feinstein qualified for graduation and ordination through transfer credits and credits earned in the JTS rabbinical school which became valid for ordination after the first class with women was admitted.


Since the rabbinical schools of the HUC-JIR, the JTS and the RRC all have women studying for the rabbinate, the supply of such rabbis is certain to grow. The JTA was informed that the number of women attending the JTS rabbinical school as of the close of the 1985-86 academic year was 30, including 11 who enrolled in September, 1985. One of the 11 dropped out.

There are 26 women currently enrolled in the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.

Most of the 110 women who have been ordained as rabbis since such ordination began more than ten years ago were placed in positions as assistant rabbis. Some have since been advanced to positions as associate rabbis. A minority of the women rabbis have taken administrative and teaching positions.

Some of the women rabbis have been named to “solo” pulpits, a designation for a rabbi in a congregation too small to need more than one rabbi.

The program of ordaining women as rabbis began in 1972 when Sally Preisand was ordained as a Reform rabbi. She served as assistant rabbi, then associate rabbi at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in New York City, before resigning to accept a pulpit at Temple Beth El in Elizabeth, N.J. She then became rabbi of Monmouth Reform Temple in Tinton, N.J., her present post.

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