Contributors from across the Jewish world offer prose, poetry, stories, and insights in celebration and appreciation of the fiftieth anniversary of women’s inclusion in the American rabbinate.
New York, NY — July 2023: CCAR Press, a division of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, is honored to announce the publication of The First Fifty Years: A Jubilee in Prose and Poetry Honoring Women Rabbis. Coedited by Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell, Jessica Greenbaum, and Rabbi Hara E. Person, CCAR chief executive, the anthology brings together over ninety Jewish thinkers to celebrate fifty years of women in the rabbinate. Part of the Press’s Reform Judaism Publishing imprint, it joins The Sacred Calling: Four Decades of Women in the Rabbinate, a 2016 National Jewish Book Award winner, in the CCAR Press catalog.
The 1972 ordination of Rabbi Sally J. Priesand as the first woman rabbi in North America was a watershed moment in Jewish history. In The First Fifty Years, contributors from across the Jewish and gender spectrums reflect on the meaning of this moment and the ensuing decades, both personally and for the Jewish community. In short pieces of new prose, authors—many of them pioneering rabbis—share stories, insights, analysis, and celebrations of women in the rabbinate. These are intertwined with a wealth of poetry that poignantly captures the spirit of this anniversary. The volume is a deep, heartfelt tribute to women rabbis and their indelible impact on all of us.
As Rabbi Person writes in the introduction, “This collection serves as a mile marker along the journey, a momentary stopping place for reflection and commemoration. While we experience the evolution of women in the rabbinate as inevitable, that doesn’t mean it was easy. These pages likewise acknowledge challenges and complexities of these fifty years, identifying some of the detours and roadblocks that still lie ahead… In a mere half century, rabbinic leadership effected a dramatic turning point in Jewish history, an acknowledgment that the voices that were silent or silenced, marginalized, unheard and unseen, are an essential part of the rich and variegated fabric of the Jewish story and must be included.”
Among the anthology’s many accomplished contributors are Rabbi Janet Marder, the first woman president of the CCAR and coeditor of Mishkan HaNefesh: Machzor of the Days of Awe (CCAR Press); Rabbi Dr. Dalia Marx, the Rabbi Aaron D. Panken Professor of Liturgy at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem and the chief editor of T’filat HaAdam, the new Israeli Reform prayer book; Rabbi Amy R. Perlin, the first female rabbi in the United States to start her own congregation; Rabbi Kinneret Shiryon, the first women rabbi to lead in Israel; Rabba Sara Hurwitz, president and cofounder of Yeshivat Maharat; Rabbi Shai Held, president and dean of the Hadar Institute; Alicia Suskin Ostriker, scholar and a former New York State Poet Laureate; and Stephanie Burt, poet, literary critic, and professor of English at Harvard University.
The three coeditors of The First Fifty Years are also pioneers. Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell was the founding director of the Los Angeles Jewish Feminist Center and the first rabbinic director of Ma’yan: The Jewish Women’s Project. She is the editor of Lesbian Rabbis: The First Generation, The Open Door: A Passover Haggadah (CCAR Press), and Chapters of the Heart: Jewish Women Sharing the Torah of Our Lives. Jessica Greenbaum is a poet, teacher, and social worker. She is the author of three poetry collections, most recently Spilled and Gone, and coeditor of Mishkan HaSeder: A Passover Haggadah (CCAR Press), along with Rabbi Hara E. Person. Rabbi Person is the first female chief executive of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. She was the managing editor of The Torah: A Women’s Commentary and executive editor of Mishkan HaNefesh.
“We are exceedingly proud to publish The First Fifty Years,” said Rafael Chaiken, director of CCAR Press. “Readers will find within a treasury of reflections and poetry from leading lights in the Jewish community that deepens our understanding and appreciation of women rabbis.”
The First Fifty Years: A Jubilee in Prose and Poetry Honoring Women Rabbis is available at fiftyyears.ccarpress.org
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