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First Woman Rabbi in Israel Ordained by Reform Movement

July 30, 1992
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The first woman ever to become a rabbi in Israel was ordained last week in Jerusalem.

The ordination of Naamah Kelman, 37, was a historic step and brings to 11 the number of Reform rabbis ordained in Israel.

Kelman is the most recently ordained member of an illustrious family which has produced rabbinic leadership for 12 generations.

Her late father, Rabbi Wolfe Kelman, was the much beloved executive vice president of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly for nearly four decades.

Her paternal grandfather was a hasidic leader, and her maternal grandfather is Rabbi Felix Levy, a past president of the Reform movement’s Central Conference of American Rabbis. Her brother, Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman, is the spiritual leader of Kol HaNeshama, a Reform congregation in Jerusalem.

Kelman is now completing a master’s degree from Hebrew University’s Institute of Contemporary Jewry, and will join the staff of the North American Federation of Temple Youth in Israel.

During the six years that she has been preparing for the rabbinate, Kelman has served four Reform communities in Israel as a rabbinic intern.

She helped found and has worked at a kindergarten and elementary school, which was established on the Jerusalem campus of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the Reform movement’s seminary.

Kelman’s rabbinic thesis was devoted to the halachic (legal) development of women as witnesses.

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