Background Report Women Being Ordained As Rabbis Under Reform, Reconstructionist Auspices
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Background Report Women Being Ordained As Rabbis Under Reform, Reconstructionist Auspices

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The seven women scheduled to be ordained as Reform rabbis next month will being to 29 the total number of women designated as rabbis under Reform and Reconstructionist displaces, according to a Jewish Telegraphic Agency survey. The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia will name three men but no women as rabbis at production exercises today.

Six men and five women will be ordained here as rabbis at the Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) ceremonies on June 1 at Temple Emanu-El. Thirteen men and two women will be ordained of the HUC-JIR in Cincinnati on June 7. However, there are 12 women studying for the rabbinate in the Reconstructionist college, according to Rabbi Ludwig Nodelmann, president of the Jewish Reconstructionist Foundation-three in the first year, four in the second year, one in the third year and four in the fourth year.

The Conservative movement continues to be embroiled in vigorous and widespread debate, rabbinical and lay, on whether to admit women to the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS) here as candidates for the rabbinate. Support for such action was endorsed at the 1977 convention of the Rabbinical Assembly, the association of Conservative rabbis, but action on the proposal was postponed indefinitely by a mojority vote of the JTS Faculty Senate last December. No Orthodox organization, rabbinical or lay, has indicated the sligntest interest in ordaining women as rabbis.

The process of ordination of women rabbis in the United States began in 1972 when Sally Preisand was named by the HUC-JIR as the first woman rabbi in American history. Subsequently, 15 women were ordained under Reform auspices and six under Reconstructionist auspices.


The five women to be ordained by the HUC-JIR here in June are: Cathy Felix of Highland Park, ill., Joan Friedman of Marblehead, Mass.; Debra Hachen of Cleveland Heights, Ohio; Judith Lewis of Rochester, N.Y.; and Mindy portnoy of New Haven, Conn., according to Stanley Saplin, HUC-JIR associate information director. The two women to be ordained as Refom rabbis in Cincinnati are Aliza Wallin Berk of Encino, Calif, and Ellen Jay Lewis of Westfield, N.J.

Saplin also disclosed that Aliza Wallin Berk is married to Michael Berk, who will be ordained, with her in June of the HUC-JIR Cincinnati school. Ellen Lewis is married to William Kraus, who will be ordained with his wife, also at the Cincinati school. They have a child, Gideon Lewis-Kraus, bom last January, who becomes the first HUC all rabbinic baby” Saplin reported.

Michael Weinberg, one of the male candidates being ordained in Cincinnati, is the brother of Rabbi Ellen Dreyfus, who was ordained in 1979. Rabbi Janet Ross is now Janet Ross Marder. She is married to Rabbi Sheldon Marder, ordained in the HUC-JIR class of 1978, and is now on instructor in Hebrew literature at the HUC-JIR school of Sacred Music.

Rabbi Ellen Weinberg, who did not enter the rabbinate, married Dr. James Dreyfus, a son of Rabbi Stanley Dreyfus, former rabbi of the Union Temple in Brooklyn, who is now director of plocement for the Central Conference of American Rabbis. Mrs. Dreyfus is a mother and serves as a chaplain at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center of New York.

Steven Fox, who is being ordained in Cincinnati in June, is the brother of Rabbi Karen Fox, who is assistant director of the New York Federation of Reform Synagogues. Rabbi Michal Berrstein, the first woman to direct a United States congregation and who quit because of the problems she found of being a woman rabbi, is one ordainee about whom neither the HUC-JIR or the CCAR has any information, Saplin said.


There has been no change in the status of the seven women Reform rabbis serving as assistant rabbis at various synagogues, nor in that of the four women Reform rabbis serving Hillel Foundations, the JTA was told.

Nodelmann said there had been no change in the status of the six women named so far as Reconstructionist rabbis. One of six has continued to share the pulpit of Congregation Beth El Zedek in Indianapolis with her husband. She is Rabbi Sandy Pisenberg Sasso and her husband is Rabbi Dennis Sasso. He is also a Reconstructionist rabbi.

Rabbi Linda Holtzman, ordained as a Reconstructionist rabbi last year, was engaged to direct a Conservative synagogue. Beth Israel congregation in Coatsville, Po. Preisand held her first pulpit position as assistant rabbi at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue of New York and was promoted to associate rabbi before she suddenly resigned, refusing to discuss her reasons for doing so. Subsequently she accepted a part-time pulpit at Reform Temple Beth El in Elizabeth, N.J.

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