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The Reform Movement

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years ago

THE REFORM MOVEMENT

 

 

 

LIBRARY:

 

 

 


THE ORDINATION OF WOMEN AS RABBIS IN THE REFORM MOVEMENT

 

 Rabbi Sally Priesand

 

 

 

The Reform Movement was the first movement of American Judaism to ordain women as rabbis.  Although the first actual ordination -- of Sally Priesand -- did not take place until 1972, a number of women attempted to obtain, and came close to recieving, ordination in the early part of the 20th century.


 

 

AS YOU READ THROUGH THIS PAGE, KEEP IN MIND:

 

 

WHAT IS THE REFORM MOVEMENT'S PHILOSOPHY WITH RESPECT TO HALACHA?

 

HOW DOES THE REFORM MOVEMENT RESPOND TO CHALLENGES OF MODERNITY?

 


 

NOW....

 

WHAT CAN WE LEARN ABOUT THE REFORM MOVEMENT FROM THE HISTORY OF ITS ORDINATION OF WOMEN RABBIS?

 

 


 

 

 

FIRST:  Read the Report on the Ordination of Women (1956) [Reform Report on the Ordination of Women.pdf]-- This is the report of a committee appointed by the CCAR-Central Conference of American Rabbis- to give a recommendation to the CCAR about the issue of ordaining women.  The CCAR is the organization of ordained Reform rabbis.  (Its equivalent in the Conservative Movement is the Rabbinical Assembly (RA) and in the Orthodox Movement is the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA).)

 

 

 

Answer the following questions:

 

    1)  Make a list of all the reasons outlined by the Report as to why women should have equal status to men in Reform Judaism.  After each reason, note what person or body stated the reason (some may be stated by the committee writing the report and others are past statements by the CCAR and/or other individuals or bodies that are cited by the committee).  Now categorize each reason as either:  halachic, religious, historical, philosophical or sociological.  How many reasons did you have in each category?

 

    2)  Examine the following quote from the reading:

 

         Whatever may have been the specific legal status of Jewish women regarding certain religious functions,

         her general position in Jewish religious life has ever been an exalted one.  She has been the priestess in

         the home, and our sages have always recognized her as the preserver of Israel.  In view of these Jewish

         teachings and in keeping with the sprit of our age and the traditions of our Conference, we declare that

         woman cannot justly be denied the privilege of ordination.  (p. 70)

 

           How does this quote exemplify Reform philosophy and theology?  List as many examples and reasons as you can.

 

    3)  Why do you think the Report emphasizes that "The question before us is purely academic at this time"?   Is this related to the fact that HUC does not actually ordain the first woman rabbi until seventeen years after this report, and a full 71 years after the CCAR overwhelmingly adopted a resolution stating "[w]e declare that woman cannot justly be denied the privilege of ordination"?  How?

 

 

 


 

 

NOW - Visit the exhibit on Sally Priesand at the Jewish Women's Archive.  Go to www.jwa.org/feminism.  Click on "Search the Collection" and then click on "Person."  Scroll down to Sally Priesand and click on the icon that pops up next to her name.

 

 

A)  Correspondence from Hebrew Union College to Sally Priesand.  Rabbi Priesand's statement in the exhibit gives some background information which is important to understanding this correspondence.  She writes: 

 

            While in high school, I requested admission information from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio.

            The letters I received in response reflect some uncertainty on the part of college officials as to whether or not there was a place

            for women in the rabbinate.  Nonetheless, I was accepted into the undergraduate program, a joint program between HUC-JIR

            and the University of Cincinnati, and four years later officially welcomed into the rabbinic program.

 

 

       After reading the correspondence carefully, answer the following questions:

 

            1.  What is HUC's initial reaction to Miss Priesand's application to its rabbinical school? 

 

            2.  What suggestion does HUC initially make for Miss Priesand's role in the Jewish community?

 

            3.  How long does it take for HUC to admit Miss Priesand to the rabbinical school?  What do you think transpired during this time?

 

 

    B)  Photograph of the ordination of Sally Priesand:  Examine this photograph, taken from the personal collection of Rabbi Priesand. 

 

             Answer the following questions:

 

             1.  What are some adjectives you would use to describe this photograph?

 

             2.  What messages about Reform Judaism does the photograph convey to you?

 

             3.  What messages about the role of rabbi in the Reform Movement are conveyed by this photograph?

 

 

    C)  New York Times article about Sally Priesand:   NYT Sally Priesand.pdf

 

                After reading this article carefully, answer the following questions:

 

                1.  How does Dean Roseman of the Hebrew Union College describe Sally Priesand?  Do you think that his description/impression of her impacted on the Reform Movement's decision to begin ordaining women with her?

 

                2.  How does Dean Roseman describe the reasons women cannot be rabbis?

 

                3.  What reasons does he give for the Reform Movement changing this tradition?

 

 

 


 

CONCLUSIONS

 

How was the process of beginning to ordain women in the Reform movement in keeping with Reform philosophy and theology?  Give as many examples as you can think of.

 

How was the process NOT in keeping with Reform philosophy and theology, if at all?  Give examples.  Why do you think the issue of ordaining women diverged from this philosophy and theology in this way?

 

What can this teach us about the interaction of theology/philosophy and society?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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