Background Report Pattern of Men and Women Enrolled As Rabbinical Candidates Under Reconstructionist
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Background Report Pattern of Men and Women Enrolled As Rabbinical Candidates Under Reconstructionist

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There has been a drop in the number of men enrolled as rabbinical candidates under Reconstructionist and Reform auspices during the current academic year, compared with enrollment during the 1980-81 year, but virtually no change in the number of women rabbinical candidates studying this year, as compared with the prior academic year.

The data on the decline in the number of men candidates emerged from the annual Jewish Telegraphic Agency survey of the number of rabbinical students in the two categories of Judaism. A bruising struggle for several years over enrollment of women for the Conservative rabbinate has been shelved indefinitely. Orthodox seminaries do not admit women.


The number of men and women studying for the rabbinate at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC) in Philadelphia this academic year is 35 — 20 men and 15 women. During the prior school year, the total was 40 — 25 men and 15 women. The number of men and women studying for the Reform rabbinate this year is 190 — 124 men and 66 women. During the prior academic year, the total was 201 — 134 men and 67 women.

Thus, the data show there are five fewer men students at the RRC this year than last, and 10 fewer men studying for the Reform rabbinate this year.

Four men and two women are completing studies at the RRC this year who, barring unforeseen developments, will be ordained as Reconstructionist rabbis this coming summer. In June, eight women and nine men will be ordained as Reform rabbis in New York City by the Hebrew Union College — Jewish Institute of Religion. Four women and 16 men will be ordained at the Cincinnati branch of the Reform seminary.


An RRC spokesperson said that the seminary added a new program, a preparatory year, for the 1981-82 school year. Two women and four men are enrolled in the preparatory year. Successful completion of this new program will enable the six students to enter Biblical Civilization Studies, the first year of the Reconstructionist five-year rabbinical studies curriculum. The preparatory year courses include intesive study of Hebrew, basic Judaism and historiography.


During the 1981 graduation ceremonies, 14 women were ordained as Reform rabbis and four as Reconstructionist rabbis. This made the total of women ordained as rabbis since 1972 47–37 Reform women rabbis and 10 Reconstructionist women rabbis.

Ordination during the coming summer of the two women graduating from the Reconstructionist school and the eight women completing their Reform rabbinical studies will bring the grand total to 57–45 Reform and 12 Reconstructionist.

In 1972, Sally Preisond became the first woman to be ordained as a rabbi in American history. She has held several pulpits since, though none as a senior rabbi. Most of the women rabbis have entered and remained in the rabbinate, usually as assistant rabbis. The others have taken administrative and teaching posts in Jewish institutions.

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