Sasso, Sandy Eisenberg

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SASSO, SANDY EISENBERG (1947– ), Reconstructionist rabbi and author. Sasso was born and raised in Melrose Park, Penn., a suburb of Philadelphia. She received bachelors' and masters' degrees from Temple University and attended the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (rrc) in that city. In 1974 Sasso became the first woman to graduate from rrc and the second woman rabbi in the United States. She and her fellow rabbinical student, Dennis Sasso, married in 1970, becoming the first rabbinic couple in history.

From 1974 to 1977, Sasso served as rabbi of the Manhattan Reconstructionist Havurah in New York. In 1977 Sandy and Dennis Sasso jointly accepted positions as rabbis of Congregation Beth-El Zedeck in Indianapolis, a congregation with joint Conservative and Reconstructionist affiliation. She continued in that post in 2005. In 1996, Sasso received a Doctor of Ministry degree from Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. She and her husband were the first rabbinic couple to serve a congregation affiliated with the Conservative movement, and she was the first rabbi to become a mother.

Sasso undertook local and national leadership of Jewish, interfaith, and community organizations. She served as president of the Indianapolis Board of Rabbis, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association (1989–91), and the Gleaners Food Bank. She lectured in religion and Judaism at Butler University and Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis.

As one of the first female rabbis, she explored the roles of women in Judaism and the rabbinate and offered new perspectives on lifecycle events. Her "B'rit B'not Yisrael" (Covenant for the Daughters of Israel), co-authored with her husband, Dennis Sasso, was among the first of new ceremonies for infant girls paralleling the brit milah (circumcision) ceremony for boys. Sasso wrote liturgical poetry on the life cycle and spoke widely on women in the rabbinate and gendered language in prayer.

In writings for both parents and children, Sasso offered liberal approaches to theology and Judaism, drawing on tradition and midrash. She authored a series of award-winning children's books on religious and spiritual themes, including God's Paintbrush (1992); In God's Name (1994); But God Remembered: Stories of Women from Creation to the Promised Land (1995); and Butterflies under Our Hats (2006).

She received the 2004 Helen Keating Ott Award for Outstanding Contribution to Children's Literature and the 2005 Sugarman Family Award for Jewish Children's Literature. She co-authored, with Rabbi Jeffery Schein, Kol Hano'ar (Voice of the Children; 2005), the Reconstructionist movement's first children's prayer book.


P. Nadell, Women Who Would Be Rabbis: A History of Women's Ordination, 18891985 (1998).

[Robert P. Tabak (2nd ed.)]