The Essence of Female Jewish Leadership

Forty years ago this past week, Rabbi Sally Priesand was ordained as a Reform rabbi, making her the first woman rabbi to be ordained after the Holocaust. It was an historic time and in the years that followed, the Conservative movement continued ordaining women. Of late, Modern Orthodoxy has, too, given women new leadership roles. As we marked this watershed moment, there was much discussion about the effect and impact of women’s leadership in Judaism and Jewish community.

I have been taking part in the conversation by participating in “Stories from the Fringe: Women Rabbis Revealed”, a play and discussion based on over 100 interviews of female rabbis across the world and across denominational lines. Throughout the United States there have been numerous activities and programs like this to recognize the anniversary of women in the rabbinate and to reflect on the impact of this shift in leadership and authority.

The fight for the ordination of women as rabbis can teach us something about what it means to be a Jewish leader, and could even give the Israeli government an insight regarding its struggle to address the changing face of religious Jewish leadership, in light of its recent decision to recognize – albeit limitedly – non-Orthodox rabbis.


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