At the beginning of the summer, I met with a group of women from my temple to watch and discuss the award-winning documentary, And the Gates Opened: Women in the Rabbinate. The film chronicles the history of womens' struggle for the right to be ordained as rabbis. It features the personal stories of the first three women ordained: Rabbi Sally Priesand, Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg-Sasso, and Rabbi Amy Eilberg, of the Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative Movements respectively. Until seeing And the Gates Opened, I had largely taken women in the rabbinate for granted. My own parents were married by Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg-Sasso in 1974, and although the Rabbi who officiated at my Bat Mitzvah was a man, when we switched synagogues shortly thereafter, we joined a temple with a female Associate Rabbi who is vibrant, vocal, and involved.
For me, female Rabbis are as essential to my spiritual wellbeing as female gynecologists are to my physical wellbeing. True, I could survive without them, but certainly not as richly or comfortably.
Nearly 1,000 women had been ordained as Rabbis at the time of Rabbi Sally Priesand's retirement last summer.
Here are three of my favorites:
Rabbi Jamie Korngold, AKA "The Adventure Rabbi", (Reform)
Rabbi Jamie Korngold is earthy. So earthy, in fact, that she's taken her whole dang congregation outdoors. Based in Boulder, Colorado (but always on the move) she utilizes camping trips, retreats, hiking, biking, skiing, snowshoeing, and any other outdoor activities she can come up with to bring people closer to nature and, consequently, to God. Having worked previously as an EMT and an Outward Bound Guide, it's safe to say that her congregants are in good hands. She's currently writing a book about the spiritual opportunities we've missed by moving religion indoors. From her MySpace page (Yeah. MySpace):
"Rabbi Jamie S. Korngold has experienced her most vibrant Jewish experiences in the outdoors. From scaling mountains to praying beneath the boughs of an apple tree in the backyard, she believes that the spirituality of the wilderness awakens Judaism. Surrounded by the raw wonder of creation, Rabbi Korngold helps people experience an inner peace and an abiding connection to That Which is Greater Than Ourselves. In the wilderness, she believes, it is possible to distance ourselves from politics and protocol and allow the awareness of the connectedness of all things to permeate our souls. Come join us; let the wilderness awaken your Judaism."
Rabbi Sharon Brous, (Ordained Conservative, Ikar Unaffiliated)
Wunderkind Rabbi Sharon Brous is the founding Rabbi of Ikar, the hugely popular, fast-growing Los Angeles Jewish community that brings together intellectual and spiritual development, and political and social activism. She has a serious knack for making Judaism accessible, and believes that there is no authentic religious life without a deep sense of responsibility in the world. Rabbi Brous is involved with both Reboot, a network of Jewish trend-setters, thinkers and activists, and Synagogue 3000, a national, not-for-profit institute dedicated to revitalizing and re-energizing synagogue life in North America. Ikar's stated mission:
"Our mission is to bring together a diverse and dynamic mix of Jews to study, pray, and work toward social change in a community of purpose, integrity and spirit. Through awakening a desire for meaningful and challenging Jewish experiences and community, we are also working to energize and catalyze change in the broader Jewish community and in the world."
Rabbi Naomi Levy (Ordained Conservative, Nashuva Unaffiliated)
Author of the bestselling book To Begin Again, and founder and spiritual leader of Nashuva, a groundbreaking Jewish outreach organization based in Los Angeles, Levy was the first Conservative female rabbi to head a pulpit on the West Coast. Through Nashuva, Rabbi Levy has been involved in drawing hundreds of unaffiliated Jews back to a Judaism that is soulful, committed to social justice, meaningful, relevant and fun. From the Nashuva site:
"We all have a need to return—to passion, to our dreams, to our essential goodness, to love, to our own souls, to our God. We spend so much time trying to succeed or to simply manage the chaos in our lives, that we rarely make the time to reflect and uncover our true possibility. Our souls are hungry for more. Nashuva is a haven from the hectic lives we lead. A place where we can leave behind our worries, receive the spiritual infusion we have been looking for, and emerge transformed. Nashuva is a time to pray, to sing, to be still and listen to the voice of your soul. But the goal of prayer isn’t only personal peace. At Nashuva we believe that prayer leads us to action. It reminds us that we are here to heal this broken world. Nashuva is a service that leads to service. On the first Friday of each month we pray together, on the third Sunday of each month we serve together to bring light to some dark corner of our city."
What awesome women rabbis are on your radar?