The first woman rabbi in the Conservative Jewish movement was ordained Sunday, ending what she called “years of struggle, of pain and of exclusion.”
“This is the day that the Jewish leadership has opened its arms to the full equality and full participation of Jewish women in every arena of Jewish life,” a flushed and happy Amy Eilberg said after the ceremony at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
As the ceremony began, Eilberg, 30, marched up the aisle and took her seat with a wink at her husband, Howard Schwartz, a wave to other relatives and a wide grin.
Although each of the 19 new rabbis among the 80 graduates drew hearty applause from the crowd of several hundred, Eilberg’s reception was louder and longer.
Eilberg said later that she understood why she was the focus of attention of reporters but looked forward to the day when a woman rabbi would no longer be newsworthy.
The ordination of Eilberg, who will become a chaplain at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis in August, is a milestone for the Jewish feminist movement. In 1983, the Conservative seminary announced that it would accept female rabbinical students. This year, the Conservative Rabbinical Assembly voted to accept all those ordained by the seminary, male or female.
The Reformed branch of Judaism ordained its first woman rabbi, Sally Preisand, in 1972. There are now about 100 women rabbis worldwide.