Priesand, Sally Jane

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PRIESAND, SALLY JANE (1946– ), the first U.S. woman to receive rabbinic *ordination from a theological seminary. Born to Irving Theodore and Rose Elizabeth (Welch) Priesand in Cleveland, Ohio, Priesand determined in her teens to pursue a rabbinic career. She received her B.A. in English from the University of Cincinnati in 1968, together with a Bachelor of Hebrew Letters from neighboring *Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the rabbinical school of American Reform Judaism. She continued as a rabbinic student at huc-jir and was ordained as a Reform rabbi in 1972. As a pacesetter, Priesand endured what she described as "the unbelievable and almost unbearable pressures of being the first woman Rabbi" (Nadell, p. 169). Her early rabbinic positions included serving as assistant and associate rabbi at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in New York City (1972–79) and working as a chaplain at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan. Since 1981, she has served as rabbi of Monmouth Reform Temple in Tinton Falls, n.j.

Priesand is the author of Judaism and the New Woman (1975) and "Postscript," in Women Rabbis: Exploration and Celebration, ed. G. Zola (1996), a volume honoring 20 years of women in the rabbinate. She has received several honorary degrees, has served as president of the Rabbinic Alumni Association, and is a member of the huc-jir Board of Governors. In 1997, the Women's Rabbinic Network initiated efforts to establish the Rabbi Sally J. Priesand Visiting Professorship of Jewish Women's Studies at huc-jir.


P.S. Nadell. Women Who Would be Rabbis (1998), 148–169.

[Judith R. Baskin (2nd ed.)]

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Priesand, Sally Jane

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