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22 Women Now Ordained As Rabbis Most of Them Do Not Have Pulpits

August 23, 1979
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The nine women ordained as Reform rabbis and the two ordained as Reconstructionist rabbis last June brought to 22 the total number of Reform and Reconstructionist women earning the title since such ordinations began in 1972, a Jewish Telegraphic Agency survey indicated today but only nine have pulpit posts.

That total will be increased to ten when Rabbi Sally Preisand, ordained in 1972 as the first woman rabbi in American history, will take a part-time pulpit at a small Reform congregation, Temple Beth El in Elizabeth, N.J., according to Rabbi Malcolm Stem, placement director of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the association of Reform rabbis.

Preisand was named assistant rabbi at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue here and promoted to associate rabbi before she suddenly resigned last July, refusing to discuss her future plans except to say she intended to remain in the rabbinate.

Two women were graduated as rabbis at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College last June. One was Linda Holtzman of Philadelphia and the other was Gail Shuster of Evanston, Ill. Holtzman achieved widespread public notice when she was elected presiding rabbi of Beth Israel Congregation in Coatesville, Pa. Newton Duitch, president of the Conservative congregation, said Beth Israel was the only synagogue in North America to have a woman as presiding rabbi.

Shuster, who made aliya and married an Israeli, and who now identifies herself as Gail S. Shuster-Bouslika, is the first woman Reconstructionist rabbi to settle in Israel where she teaches in the Jerusalem Pedagogic Center.


Four of the June Reform women ordainees found pulpits — all as assistant rabbis. They are Vicki Hollander of Beechwood, Ohio, at Larchmont Temple in Larchmont, N. Y.; Beverly Jo Lerner of Shawnee Mission; Kan.; at the Temple in Atlanta, Ga., Michal Bourne of Mount Kisco, N. Y. at Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco; and Sheila Russian of Cranston, R. I. at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation.

Bonnie Steinberg of Belmont, Mass., was named director of Hillel at Hofstra University. in Hempstead, N. Y. Beverly Magidson of Detroit was appointed associate director of Hillel of Washington University in St. Louis. Jan Kaufman of Baltimore was named assistant director of Hillel of the University of Maryland at College Park.

Two of the newly-ordained women Reform rabbis did not seek placement, according to Stanley Saplin, associate information director for the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the Reform seminary, who provided most of the information on the women Reform rabbis. Rabbi Ellen Dreyfuss of Chicago was one Her reasons were not disclosed. Rabbi Janet Rose of Tarzana, Calif. Is marrying a rabbi.

Three previously ordained women Reform rabbis continued to hold rabbinical posts — all as assistant rabbis, according to Saplin They are Rosalind A. Gold at Temple B’rith Kodesh in Rochester; N. Y.; Deborah Prinz, at the Central Synagogue in Manhattan; and Myra Soifer, at Temple Sinai in New Orleans. Rabbi Karen L. Fox continues as assistant director of the New York Federation of Reform Synagogues. Rabbi Laura J. Heller continues as director of the Hillel Foundation Center of the University of California in Los Angeles.


Stem told the JTA it was his understanding that Holtzman is not the first presiding woman rabbi at a North American congregation. He said that distinction belonged to Rabbi Michal Bernstein, ordained in 1975, who, after working for the United Jewish Appeal as director of college youth activities, became presiding rabbi at Temple Beth El Shalom in San Jose, Calif. She resigned that pulpit in June, 1978, to enroll in the law school of the University of Santa Clara.

Of the four previously ordained women Reconstructionist rabbis, only one has a pulpit post. She is Sandy Eisenberg Sasso who, in a unique arrangement, shares the pulpit of Conservative Congregation Beth El Zedek in Indianapolis, with her husband, Dennis Sasso, also a Reconstructionist rabbi.

The other three are continuing in their non-pulpit positions. Rebecca Trachtenberg Alpert is director of student affairs at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. Ilene Schneider is principal in the Cyrus Adler regional Hebrew high school in Philadelphia. Ruth Sandberg is director of religious education at Reform Congregation Kneseth Israel in Elkins Park, Pa.

Ordained with the nine women in June at the Reform seminary were 31 men candidates: Five men received degrees as rabbis last June at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.

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