Submitted by the Cincinnati Chapter of Hadassah


Honoring the Fiftieth Anniversary of Women in the Rabbinate 

Sunday, August 7th at 2 p.m.  

at the Skirball Museum


Cincinnati Chapter of Hadassah members and guests are invited to join with members of Lexington Chapter for a docent-led tour of the special exhibit “Holy Sparks: Pioneering Women Rabbis” at the Skirball Museum, on the Hebrew Union College campus, on Sunday, August 7th at 2 p.m. The exhibit is presented in partnership with The Braid and the Dr. Bernard Heller Museum. 

In celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the ordination of Rabbi Sally J. Priesand as the first female ordained rabbi in North America, twenty-four pioneering rabbis’ lives and achievements are illuminated in works of twenty-four leading contemporary Jewish women artists. An additional exhibit, “Sally Priesand Paves the Way,” features never-before seen documents relating to Sally J. Priesand’s journey to becoming the first woman rabbi ordained in North American, as well as unique memorabilia and personal artifacts recently donated by Rabbi Priesand to the American Jewish Archives.  

Sally Priesand was born on June 27, 1946, in Cleveland, Ohio. Deeply spiritual and affected by the vision of Reform Judaism epitomized in its camps and youth groups in the early 1960s, she set her sights on becoming a rabbi long before an emerging women’s liberation movement raised anew the call for women’s access to traditionally male professions.  

In 1964, Priesand chose to attend the University of Cincinnati because its joint undergraduate program with neighboring Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC–JIR) would allow her to complete the first year of rabbinical school as an undergraduate. Upon graduating from UC in 1968, she was admitted to HUC–JIR’s rabbinical class. On June 3, 1972, Alfred Gottschalk, president, ordained her, making Priesand the first woman in the world ordained by a rabbinical seminary. 

As a rabbinical student, Priesand experienced the rewards and frustrations that would mark her career as the first female rabbi. Priesand found herself standing before a wide spectrum of American Jews as a symbol of the emerging feminism. Her rabbinical thesis, published as “Judaism and the New Woman” (1975), highlighted the changing role of women in Jewish history.  

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