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Women Rabbis Moving Up Rabbinic Ladder in Latest Placements; 47 Women Ordained to Date

November 17, 1981
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A growing number of the women who have been ordained as Reform and Reconstructionist rabbis since such ordinations began in 1972 are being placed as “solo” rabbis, spiritual leaders of congregations too small to need more than one rabbi, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency was informed in its annual survey on the status of women rabbis in America.

During the past summer, 14 women were ordained as Reform rabbis and four as Reconstructionist — making the grand total of American women ordained as rabbis 47 — 37 Reform and 10 Reconstructionist.

Rabbi Joseph Glaser, executive vice president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Reform rabbinical association, told the JTA that eight of the movement’s 37 women rabbis have been placed in solo pulpits, presumably a step up the rabbinical career ladder from the far more typical position of assistant rabbi held by most of the women rabbis.

Two of the 1981 Reform ordainees — Elyse Frishman of Armonk, N. Y. and Leah Kroll of Woodland Hills, Cal. — have been named solo rabbis–Frishman at the Reform Temple of Suffern, N. Y. and Kroll at Emanu-El at Elmhurst, N. Y.


Two of the 1981 Reconstructionist ordainees found solo pulpits. Rabbi Joy Levitt of Centerpoint, N. Y. is at B’nai Keshet in Montclair, N. J. Rabb Hava Pell is at Brith Achim in Valley Forge, Pa., a synagogue planning to use solar sources for energy.

The other two 1981 Reconstructionist ordainees are Bonnie Koppel of Brooklyn and Susan Frank of Woodshole, Mass. According to Rabbi Rebecca Trachtenberg Alpert, a graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia who is now its director of student affairs, Koppel has a part-time pulpit in Ossining, N. Y. at Congregation Anshe Dorshe Emet. She will also continue to serve as the only woman rabbi in the U. S. Armed Forces, Alpert said. Frank is working at the Rabbinical College and studying for a doctorate at Temple University.

The routine practice of naming women as assistant rabbis began with Sally Preisand who, in 1972, became the first woman to be ordained a rabbi in American history. She was named assistant rabbi at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in Manhattan and promoted to associate rabbi before she abruptly resigned, refusing to comment publicly on why she did so.


Among the 14 Reform women ordainees in 1981, eight have been named assistant rabbis. The one taking a pulpit farthest from home is Soira Karen of Western Springs, III., who has been named assistant rabbi of Temple Beth Israel in Melbourne, Australia.

The other Reform women rabbis serving as assistant rabbis and their synagogues are:

Susan Abramson of Boston, Main Line Reform Temple Beth Elohim in Wynnewood, Pa.; Melanie Aron of Cincinnati, Temple B’nai Or of Morristown, N. J.; Helen Ferris of Scarsdale, N. Y., Stephen Wise Free Synagogue; Patrice Heller of St. Louis, Rodeph Sholom, Philadelphia; and Sara Perman of Hollywood, Fla., Temple Beth El in Spring Valley N. Y. Rabbi Heller was also named educational director.

Lynne Landsberg of Roslyn Heights, N. Y. was named assistant rabbi at Central Synagogue in Manhattan, succeeding Rebecca Prinz, who had been assistant rabbi for three years before accepting a solo pulpit this fall at Temple Beth Am in Teaneck, N. J.

Susan Talve of North Hills, N. Y. and Rabbi James Goodman, both ordained last June as Reform rabbis, married and were named assistant rabbis at Shaare Emeth Congregation is St. Louis. They are the second husband-and-wife rabbinical team serving the same congregation. Sandy Eisenberg shares the pulpit of Conservative Congregation Beth El Zedek in Indianapolis with her husband, Dennis Sasso, also a Reconstructionist rabbi.


Among the other new Reform rabbis, Faedra Weiss of Los Angeles is doing graduate work in environmental health at Cincinnati University. Rabbi Sandra Levine of San Jose, Cal., has been named assistant director of the Los Angeles chapter of the American Jewish Committee. Laurie Ruttenberg of Clearwater, Fla., has been named assistant chaplain at Yale University.

Beverly Lerner, who served as one of three assistant rabbis at the Temple in Atlanta, was named to Congregation Or Ami of Richmond, Va., as its first woman rabbi — a solo pulpit.

Debra Hachen of Cleveland Heights has been named to a solo pulpit at Congregation B’nai Shalom of Northboro, Mass. Rabbi Rosalind Gold, assistant rabbi of Temple B’rith Kodesh in Rochester, N. Y., was named solo rabbi of the Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation in Reston. Joan Friedman, assistant rabbi at Toronto’s Holy Blossom Temple, has been named solo rabbi at B’nai Israel in Laconia, N. H.

Preisand, after resigning from the Stephen Wise synagogue, took a part-time pulpit at Temple Beth El in Elizabeth, N. J. and later was named solo rabbi at Monmouth Reform Temple in Tinton Falls.

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