Rabbi Denise L. Eger was inducted into the Board of Governors of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) at its meeting in New York on June 8, 2015.
“Rabbi Eger’s passionate advocacy for human rights as a leader of the Reform Movement is a powerful source of inspiration for our students, faculty, and lay leaders as we work together to ensure a vital Jewish future,” stated Rabbi Aaron D. Panken, Ph.D., HUC-JIR President.
In March 2015 Eger was installed as the 60th President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), the largest rabbinical organization worldwide, with a membership of more than 2000 Reform rabbis. She is the first openly gay or lesbian rabbi to hold that position. She is the founding rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami, West Hollywood’s Reform Synagogue, which began with 35 people and has grown to 325 households.
Rabbi Eger believes that activism is an important part of her rabbinate. She has worked extensively with people with AIDS. She served as co-chair of the Community Advisory Board of the Shanti Foundation and is a past Chair of the Spiritual Advisory Committee of AIDS Project Los Angeles. She is past Co-Chair of the Institutional Review Board for Search Alliance, an AIDS drug research organization.
Rabbi Eger is the past chair of the Task Force on Gays and Lesbians in the Rabbinate of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and also serves on Human Sexuality Committee of the CCAR and represents the CCAR on the Joint Commission on Synagogue Management with the URJ. She is a past President of the Southern California Board of Rabbis (the first woman and openly gay person to do so) and a past President of the Pacific Association of Reform Rabbis. She co-chaired the Gay and Lesbian Rabbinic Network for two years. She is a past Treasurer of the Women's Rabbinic Network. She was the founding President of the Lesbian, Gay, & Bisexual Interfaith Clergy Association. She served on the Board of the No On Knight Campaign/No on Proposition 22 and sat on the Board of the Equality for All/No on Prop 8. She is active on the steering committee of the California Faith for Equality and helped to organize Jews for Marriage Equality. She is a member of the Religion and Faith Council of the Human Rights Campaign. Rabbi Eger helped to organize the Southern California Gay and Lesbian Jewish Professionals Group, which brings together gay and lesbian Rabbis, Cantor, Jewish communal workers and educators in the L.A. area.
A board member of HUC-JIR’s Institute for Sexual Orientation and Judaism and HUC-JIR’s Western Region Board of Overseers, Rabbi Eger was instrumental in helping pass the March 2000 CCAR resolution in support of officiation and gay and lesbian commitment ceremonies. She is co-author of the official Reform movement gay and lesbian wedding liturgy.
Raised in Memphis, TN, Rabbi Eger graduated with honors from the University of Southern California with a Bachelor's Degree in Religion in 1982. She received her Master's Degree from HUC-JIR in 1985 and was ordained in 1988 at HUC-JIR’s New York campus. Following ordination, she served Congregation Beth Chayim Chadashim for four years as its first full-time rabbi, and has served pulpits in Canada, New York and Los Angeles.
Rabbi Eger has written many articles that have appeared in magazines and newspapers such as Compass, Reform Judaism, The Advocate, The Jewish Journal, Huffington Post, The Jewish Forward, KCET Blog and the Los Angeles Times including contributions to the books, Twice Blessed: On Being Lesbian, Gay and Jewish (Boston: Beacon Press, 1988) and an article on Judaism and Homosexuality in the new edition of Positively Gay, edited by Betty Berzon (Berkeley: Celestial Arts, 2001). Rabbi Eger's work is also featured in a collection published by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Jewish Question Our Children Ask, edited by Olitzky, Roseman, and Kasakove. Rabbi Eger was featured in a book by Suzanne Sherman, (Temple University Press)entitled Gay and Lesbian Marriages. She has been featured in the book UNCOMMON HEROES, as one of 150 prominent gay and lesbian role models in the United States. She also authored a chapter in the book entitled Conflicting Vision – Contemporary Debates in Reform Judaism by Routledge Press. Rabbi Eger has contributions to Breaking the Glass: A Spiritual Guide to Your Jewish Wedding (Weiner, CCAR PRESS, 2001). Rabbi Eger wrote a chapter in the book, Lesbian Rabbis: THE FIRST GENERATION by Elwell, Alpert, and Idelson (published by Routledge Press, August 2001). And she was featured in the photographic collection, Rabbis: The Many Faces of Judaism by George Kalinsky. (Rizolli Press, 2002). Rabbi Eger has contributed articles to the Women’s Haftarah Commentary and new Women’s Torah Commentary published by the Women of Reform Judaism. Her work in her congregation on issues of Judaism and addiction recovery was recently highlighted in an article in the Jerusalem Post (December, 05). Rabbi Eger was recently featured in articles by the Jewish Forward and the Los Angeles Times on her leadership roles. Rabbi Eger’s latest work, a commentary on Parshat Vayigash, appears in Torah Queeries: Reading the Bible through a Bent Lens published by New York University Press. Rabbi Eger has a Torah commentary in the book Text Messages published by Jewish Lights Press. Most recently Rabbi Eger has two articles in the anthology entitled, The Sacred Encounter: Jewish Perspectives on Sexuality (CCAR PRESS, 2014).
Rabbi Eger has a son in college.