March 9, 2020
Yesterday was International Women’s Day–a day within an entire month dedicated to highlighting the contributions of women in history and contemporary society. This year, within the Jewish community, we mark two important anniversaries highlighting the movement toward gender equality and recognizing female leadership.
As mentioned in my message from Wednesday, 2/23/22, one hundred years ago, in March of 1922, Judith Kaplan became the first Bat Mitzvah in the United States. Fifty years later, in June of 1972, Sally J. Priesand became the first woman to be ordained as a Rabbi in the United States. These trailblazing moments have made it possible for thousands of women since then to share the bimah: as a bat mitzvah, blessing and reading from the Torah, and counted in a minyan as a Jewish adult; and as inspirational spiritual leaders donning the title Rabbi.
In the progressive Jewish world, female leadership is now commonplace. At CBI, we have had five bat mitzvah’s in the last 2 years! I am a student Rabbi working toward ordination and our previous two Rabbis have been women!
my two daughters, who spent their early years at CBI with Rabbi Julie as their role model, asked why the Rabbi at our synagogue in Berkeley was a man? It didn’t make sense to them, since their only experience of a Rabbi was female. Surely, this experience with Rabbi Julie has impacted their greater sense of what women can do in the world. For my daughters, it is quite natural and common for women to be in leadership roles.
We owe Judith Kaplan and Sally J. Priesand a great deal. We honor these two strong Jewish during Women’s History month. L’chaim!