Rabbi Sally J. Priesand, the first woman to be ordained a rabbi in America, was honored for twenty-five years of service to the Jewish people during Founders Day Ceremonies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati on March 12, 1997. (See a related announcement about the S. J. Priesand Visiting Professorship.) Rabbi Priesand, ordained in 1972, serves as spiritual leader of Monmouth Reform Temple in Tinton Falls, NJ, where a service in celebration of this historic anniversary will take place on Friday, March 14, 1997 at 8:15 pm. Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman, President of the College-Institute, will speak in honor of Rabbi Priesand during this service.
"All of us at the College-Institute rejoice in this celebration," he stated. "Rabbi Priesand has contributed so much to the life of the rabbinate and of the Jewish people. We rejoice in the contribution that all of our women colleagues have made to Jewish life, to our people, and to our understanding of God's covenant with our people."
To celebrate this milestone, the Women's Rabbinic Network and the College-Institute have launched a campaign to raise a minimum of $500,000 to establish the Rabbi Sally J. Priesand Visiting Professorship of Jewish Women's Studies: In Honor of Twenty-five Years of Women in the Rabbinate. The campaign is co-chaired by Rabbi Rosalind A. Gold 78, Rabbi of Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation, Reston, VA, and Rabbi Marcia A. Zimmerman "88, Rabbi of Temple Israel, Minneapolis, MN.
Since 1972, HUC-JIR has ordained 254 women as rabbis in America. Since 1992, when Naamah Kelman Ezrahi was ordained by HUC-JIR as the first woman rabbi in the State of Israel, there have been two Israeli women ordained for the Israel Progressive Movement.
The College-Institute and the Reform Movement of Judaism are advocates for equal rights for women as clergy and lay leaders through: gender-free language in prayer books, equal opportunity for placement and employment in Reform congregation, women's access to all leadership roles in the synagogue, an ever stronger female faculty at HUC-JIR, alumnae mentoring programs for students, liturgy adapted for women's participation, and alumnae continuing education and programs for spiritual renewal. Today, fully half of the College-Institute's enrollment is comprised of capable women who are preparing for professional leadership in HUC-JIR's rabbinic, cantorial, education, communal service, and graduate studies programs.
At the time of the 20th anniversary of her ordination, Rabbi Priesand noted: "The women's movement has served as a catalyst in encouraging a rethinking of previous models of leadership...to move away from hierarchy and power toward new opportunities for networking and partnership...Today, the rabbinate has been empowered to help Jews become more responsible for their Judaism, to foster education, to promote observance, to encourage participation, to inspire commitment, to create a feeling of family."