Rabbi Sally J. Priesand: Private Thoughts of a Public Person Watercolors of the First Woman Rabbi in America

On View

April 22-June 28, 2002

The exhibition Private Thoughts of a Public Person: Watercolors by Rabbi Sally J. Priesand honors the thirtieth anniversary of the ordination of women as rabbis in America. The Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Museum presents the watercolors of the first woman ordained as a rabbi in America, Rabbi Sally J. Priesand, from April 22 through June 28 at One West 4th Street, Manhattan.

Jean Bloch Rosensaft, Exhibitions Director, noted: “Rabbi Sally Priesand is renowned internationally as the first woman to be ordained a rabbi. This exhibition provides a rare opportunity to encounter the private, personal, and spiritual soul behind the public persona of a famous Jewish leader.”

The exhibition of 22 abstract watercolors highlights the work of a self-taught artist. According to Priesand, “Abstract watercolor is a lot like studying Torah. Just as the devoted student delves into each and every work to discover the meaning of a text, so the observant eye dwells on each stroke of the brush, looking for secrets that dwell only in the artist’s mind.”

Priesand began painting during a time of physical duress and filters natural phenomena, text, and observations through a lens of personal experience. Laura Kruger, Exhibition Curator, commented: “The colors, forms, shapes, and textures are woven together to create a multi-layered visual experience in which the viewer is brought to a moment of personal contemplation.”

Rabbi Priesand has been the spiritual leader of Monmouth Reform Temple in Tinton Falls, New Jersey since 1981. The first female rabbi in America, she was ordained in 1972 by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. The President of the Rabbinic Alumni Association and a member of the Board of Governors of HUC-JIR, she has also served on the Executive Board of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. She has served on the board of Planned Parenthood of Monmouth County, and was named an Honorary Vice President. She is President of Interfaith Neighbors, which provided rental assistance and support services for the homeless. Author of Judaism and the New Woman and contributor to Women Rabbis: Exploration and Celebration and Treasury of Favorite Sermons by Leading American Rabbis, she has been an exhibitor in the annual Monmouth Festival of the Arts.


One West 4th Street (between Broadway and Mercer St.), Manhattan

Artist’s Reception

Wednesday, May 22, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Personal Reflections by the Artist: 6:30 p.m.

Museum Hours

Monday-Thursday, 9 am – 5 pm; Friday, 9 am – 3 pm.

Group Tours and Information

(212) 824-2205