The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, along with the Leo Baeck Institute, will present a conversation with Rabbis Sally J. Priesand and Sonja K. Pilz on “Women in the Rabbinate Then and Now.”

The program will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 17, beginning with a 4:30 p.m. reception, followed by the program at 5:30 p.m., at The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati International Learning Center at The Marcus Center, on the Cincinnati Campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

The event is free and open to the public.

Dr. Gary P. Zola, executive director of The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives and the Edward M. Ackerman Family Distinguished Professor of the American Jewish Experience & Reform Jewish History; and William Weitzer, executive director of the Leo Baeck Institute (LBI) will moderate and participate in the evening’s conversation. LBI is a research library and archive (in New York and Berlin) focused on the history of German-speaking Jews.

The evening’s program will begin with a special presentation of The Jacob Rader Marcus Award to Jay and Shira Ruderman in recognition of their contributions to the study of the American Jewish Experience. Recently, the Ruderman Family Foundation funded the establishment of an M.A. Program on the American Jewish Experience at Haifa University.  This academic program is unique in Israel. M.A. students study a range of issues pertaining to American Jewish history, contemporary American society and the long-lasting and important bond that links the Jews of America, the State of Israel and Israeli society. Many of the Ruderman M.A. students have come to Cincinnati to study at the American Jewish Archives.  

“It is most fitting that we will hear firsthand about the barriers two pioneering women rabbis had to surmount on their journeys to ascend to the rabbinate; while honoring two outstanding philanthropists whose noble work has focused on inspiring Israelis to enter into the study of Jewish life in America,” Zola said. “The Ruderman Foundation’s efforts to help Israelis better understand American Jewry eases the burden some aspiring women rabbis may feel when wondering if – or how –their rabbinic careers will be affected by their gender. The fascinating stories attendees will hear from the pioneering women rabbis on the panel will powerfully illustrate how much they have impacted the ‘then’ and ‘now’ for future women rabbis; and what more must be done to achieve full gender parity on the pulpit.”

The story of women in the rabbinate illuminates the connections between German and American Jewish history. When Sally J. Priesand was ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati in 1972, she became the first woman rabbi in North America. Yet the first woman rabbi in Jewish history was actually a German woman, Regina Jonas (1902-1944), who was murdered at Auschwitz. In 1999, the Abraham Geiger College at the University of Potsdam in Germany was founded and became the first liberal rabbinical seminary in Continental Europe since the Holocaust. Rabbi Sonja Pilz was ordained there in 2015 – only five years after the college ordained its first female rabbi, Alina Treiger. 

Please RSVP to Susan Boyce at HUC-JIR>


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