Sally Opened Doors: The Story of the First Woman Rabbi

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$17.95  $16.69
Apples & Honey Press
Publish Date
8.19 X 10.94 X 0.47 inches | 0.95 pounds

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About the Author
Rabbi Sally J. Priesand, America's first female rabbi, finished her rabbinical studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in June 1972. At that time, there were no women reaching at seminaries and few Jewish women leaders. One of the professors would not sign her diploma. Congregations were reluctant to bring a woman to their pulpits. She was the last person in her graduating class to be offered a job.

Rabbi Priesand became the assistant rabbi at a large synagogue in New York City, where she served for seven years, but when the congregation was ready to hire its senior rabbi, she was not even considered. For two years she was not able to find a synagogue willing to accept a woman as its only rabbi. Then in 1981 she became the rabbi of Monmouth Reform Temple in New Jersey, where she served for twenty-five years, until her retirement, upon which she became rabbi emerita.

Rabbi Sally Priesand became a leader in the Reform movement: she introduced inclusive God-language into worship; and she worked on behalf of those experiencing poverty, hunger, and homelessness.

Thirty-seven years before Sally, another woman, Regina Jonas, has become a rabbi in Berlin, Germany, but her story was forgotten for a long time. With Sally, a new era began for women who wanted to become rabbis. Two years after her ordination, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College ordained Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso (1974). The Conservative movement ordained Rabbi Amy Eilberg in 1985, and Open Orthodoxy ordained Rabbi Sara Hurwitz in 2000.

There are more than a thousand women rabbis in the world today.

"Sally Opened Doors is a captivating and beautifully illustrated work . . . It provides a model of perseverance that will inspire young people to create a more just world." --Rabbi David Ellenson, Chancellor Emeritus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

"A beautiful and inspiring story of how one young woman's vision, determination, and generosity enabled her to fulfill her dreams and also make history." --Dr. Judith Rosenbaum, CEO, The Jewish Women's Archive

"Young readers will come away with an important and timeless lesson: 'Get up and get on with it.' Rabbi Sandy Sasso counsels, and follow your dreams. This delightful story book constitutes a moving tribute from one remarkable trailblazer to another." --Dr. Gary P. Zola, Professor, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and Executive Director, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives

"Sally Opened Doors reminds us that everything is possible with hope, courage, and perseverance. In addition to its powerful life lessons, this book celebrates our communal history through Rabbi Sally Priesand's unique story. --Rabbi Mary L. Zamore, Executive Director, The Women's Rabbinic Network

"The mod-ern era has intro-duced many changes into the lives
of Jew-ish women. Undoubt-ed-ly, one of the most notable was the Reform
movement's 1972 ordi-na-tion of Sal-ly Priesand as the first Amer-i-can
female rab-bi. As a token of our grat-i-tude, we have the very Jew-ish
oblig-a-tion to teach chil-dren about her coura-geous per-sis-tence. Priesand
did indeed open doors for those women, and men, who acknowl-edged the need for
gen-der reform in tra-di-tion-al Jew-ish spaces. Fifty years lat-er, Sandy
Eisen-berg Sas-so and Margeaux Lucas have craft-ed an acces-si-ble intro-duc-tion
to Rab-bi Priesand's life, per-fect for young read-ers who may not real-ize how
firm-ly shut those doors once were.
While Lucas's pic-tures cap-ture the time peri-od, they also
depict a mod-ern-iza-tion that is cen-tral to Priesand's quest. For
instance, when she and a friend are con-vers-ing about the like-ly oppo-si-tion
to women in the rab-binate, their dark brown hair and mid-cen-tu-ry fab-ric pat-terns
stand out against the more gener-ic con-gre-gants seat-ed in front
of them.
For Sasso's part, much of the sto-ry relies on invent-ed dia-logue
to advance the nar-ra-tive. While each sen-tence accu-rate-ly reflects the atti-tudes
of the era, the cumu-la-tive effect is some-what ide-o-log-i-cal. ​"I now
know what I want to do. I want to be a rab-bi ... like you,"
remarks one grate-ful young woman. Priesand's skep-ti-cal friend, whose ​"jaw
dropped" at the mere notion of female rab-bis, warns her that no one will
accept her aspi-ra-tions: ​"Sal-ly ... look around! Women serve cof-fee,
tea, and cake after ser-vices ... they nev-er take out the Torah." There is no
dis-put-ing the real-i-ty of these prej-u-dices, but the char-ac-ters who artic-u-late
them seem more like sym-bol-ic adver-saries than real people.
Sal-ly Opened Doors is effec-tive in that it focus-es
on the most impor-tant parts of Priesand's life, sim-pli-fy-ing cer-tain issues
for young read-ers and main-tain-ing the momen-tum of an excit-ing sto-ry. Yet
some nuances are impor-tant. One vis-i-tor to Priesand's syn-a-gogue rude-ly
con-tends, ​"A woman rab-bi? Out-ra-geous! You start open-ing the door to
change, and this is what hap-pens." Here it would be appro-pri-ate for Sas-so
to com-ment on the irony of his objec-tion. Reform Judaism, after all, was pred-i-cat-ed
on a per-ceived need for change. Priesand's main con-cern was not resis-tance
to change in gen-er-al, but the hypocrisy of those who opposed reform pure-ly
on the basis of gender.
Sas-so and Lucas show-case a Priesand who refus-es to
let naysay-ers dis-cour-age her. Adults read-ing this book with chil-dren will
have oppor-tu-ni-ties to dis-cuss the lim-its imposed on women in the past and
present, and to con-sid-er the ways in which a lit-tle bit of anger might
be pro-duc-tive in the face of ongo-ing inequal-i-ty. We are for-tu-nate to
have this new resource about a trail-blaz-ing Jew-ish fem-i-nist who would
not take no for an answer." --Emily Schneider, The Jewish Book Council