KEY DATES FOR WOMEN’S LEADERSHIP IN JUDAISM IN THE UNITED STATES

NINETEENTH AND TWENTIETH CENTURIES

 

1846

The Breslau Conference (Reform) in Germany states that women are equal to men in Judaism in terms of "religious privileges and duties." The result is that in Reform Judaism, women are counted in the minyan or quorum needed for public worship service, the daily prayer in which a man thanks God for not having made him a woman is dropped, girls and women are taught Torah and Talmud, and women and men sit together in the congregation.

1875

Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise founds Hebrew Union College (Reform) in Cincinnati, and encourages women to attend.

1886

The Jewish Theological Seminary is founded to train rabbis in Conservative Judaism.

1893

Two Jewish women, Josephine Lazarus and Henrietta Szold, address the World’s Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in conjunction with the Columbian Exposition. The Congress of Jewish Women, organized by Hannah G. Solomon, is held in conjunction with the Parliament. Crowds attend lectures of Henrietta Szold, Josephine Lazarus, and Ray Frank. The Congress of Jewish Women continues after the Parliament as the National Council of Jewish Women (Reform), the first national Jewish women’s organization, with Hannah G. Solomon as President.

1911

Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, is founded by Henrietta Szold (Conservative), who had earlier attended Jewish Theological Seminary, to bring improved health care to Palestine.

1921

The issue of ordaining a woman rabbi is first raised by Martha Neumark, a student at the Hebrew Union College (Reform) and daughter of a HUC professor. The HUC faculty and the Central Conference of American Rabbis conclude that there is no reason not to ordain women, but the HUC Board of Governors maintains the policy of ordaining only men as rabbis.

1922

The first bat mitzvah in America takes place for Judith Kaplan, daughter of Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, who subsequently becomes the inspirer of Reconstructionism.

1938

Tehilla Lichtenstein is the first woman (non-ordained) to serve her congregation as rabbi after death of her husband, Rabbi Morris Lichtenstein. Tehilla Lichtenstein serves as Leader of the Society for Jewish Science from 1938 until her death in 1973.

1951-54

Paula Ackerman (non-ordained) in Meridian, Mississippi, serves as rabbi to a congregation after the death of her husband, Rabbi William Ackerman.

1968

The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College is founded in Philadelphia based on the ideals of Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, a strong advocate of the equality of all persons.

1972

Sally Priesand is the first woman rabbi ordained in the United States by a Jewish theological seminary, Reform Judaism’s Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio.

1973

The first Jewish feminist conference convenes in New York City.

1974

Sandy Eisenberg Sasso is the first woman ordained by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.

1979

The Jewish Theological Seminary (Conservative) Faculty Senate tables the issue of admitting women for the rabbinical training as "provoking unprecedented divisions . . . . The bitter divergence of opinion threatens to inflict irreparable damage."

1983

The Jewish Theological Seminary (Conservative) Faculty Senate votes to admit women for rabbinical training.

1984

The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College faculty vote to admit gay and lesbian students.

1984

Conservative Judaism’s Jewish Theological Seminary admits 18 women into its rabbinical program.

1985

Amy Eilberg is ordained the first Conservative woman rabbi.

1987

There are 101 Reform women rabbis, constituting 7% of 1,450 Reform rabbis.

1988

The Jewish Women’s Studies Project is begun by students and faculty at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College to promote Women’s Studies at that institution

1990

Survey by the Central Conference of American Rabbis (Reform) shows that 57 out of 153 Reform women rabbis work full-time in congregations that belong to the Union of American Hebrew Congregations; 16 are Assistant Rabbis, 10 are Associate Rabbis, and 31 are solo Rabbis. There are only 37 Reform women rabbis with the requisite experience making them eligible to become senior rabbi of a congregation of more than 900 members . Three years earlier, there were only 7 women rabbis who were so eligible. As of 1990, no woman rabbi has become senior rabbi of such a large congregation. Only 3 women rabbis head congregations of 300-600 members, while 90 women rabbis have the qualifications to do so.

1990

The Central Conference of American Rabbis (Reform) votes to admit openly and sexually active gay men and lesbians to the rabbinate. Earlier, Reconstructionism, Unitarian-Universalists, and the United Church of Christ had begun ordaining lesbians and gay men.

1991

There are 168 women rabbis ordained by the Hebrew Union College (Reform); 40% were ordained during the previous five years; 80% were ordained during the previous ten years. Women rabbis constitute about 10% of Reform rabbis.

1992

Rabbi Susan Grossman is elected as the first woman to serve on the Committee on Law and Standards of Conservative Judaism’s Rabbinical Assembly.

1993

Conservative Judaism has ordained a total of 52 women rabbis between 1985 and 1993. Of the total of twenty graduates who were ordained in 1993, eleven were women (55%).

June 1993

The Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (Reform) has ordained a total of 205 women rabbis. Of the 224 currently enrolled in the Hebrew Union College, 101 are women, constituting 45% of the student body.