Closeup of a blue and white prayer shawl

We are who we are, equally capable in our abilities to preside at liminal, sacred moments of our people no matter the biology or gender identification we carry.

Rabbi Esther L. Lederman
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Following today's announcement that Rabbi Hara Person will become the next Chief Executive of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), stated: "I could not be more excited to welcome my friend and colleague Rabbi Hara Person to her new, and richly deserved, position as Chief Executive of the Central Conference of American Rabbis."

Female rabbis pose together with the new Sacred Calling book

When I was 8 years old, I learned that the first woman rabbi had just been ordained. I was shocked because, until then, I hadn’t realized that there weren’t any women in the rabbinate. Rabbi Sally Priesand became my hero.

Rabbi Hara Person

Priesand, now 70 and retired for a decade, talks about her ordination, her 25 years as the rabbi at Monmouth Reform Temple, and why she insisted on wearing miniskirts.

Lauren Markoe (RNS)

The prime minister has been generous with his time; in fact, I have had the opportunity to meet with him often since becoming president of the URJ.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs

Rabbi Lance Sussman, the senior rabbi of Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park, PA,  wrote a piece published today in eJewish Philanthropy titled

On July 27th, a group Reform Rabbis from throughout North America representing the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) plan to begin a mission to Israel in an expression of solidarity and support.

Says Rabbi Richard Block, senior rabbi of the Temple-Tifereth Israel in Beachwood, Ohio, who is president of the CCAR and a leader of the trip,

We know that the timing of this mission may not be convenient. But we also know this: Our presence in Israel, at this critical juncture, as North American Reform Rabbis, especially our interaction with some of those most directly impacted by recent events, will demonstrate more eloquently to the people of Israel than anything else we could say or do that they are not alone in this struggle, that the Central Conference of American Rabbis stands with the State of Israel and all its citizens in good times and bad.

During the 125th annual Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) Convention, more than 60 Reform rabbis will shave their heads to raise awareness of and funding for pediatric cancer research. As the religious leadership of Reform Judaism, the CCAR Rabbis strive for justice and wholeness and health in the world in for all people. At the same time, through the CCAR, the rabbis support one another in their rabbinic and personal lives. Shave for the Brave has been a catalyst in uniting members of the rabbinic community who have lost children and brought the entire community together to support each other.

The convention brings together members of the CCAR, the rabbinic leadership organization of Reform Judaism, with more than 2,000 Reform rabbis providing religious leadership in all walks of life. The connection between the Reform rabbinic community and pediatric cancer advocacy began with the story of Samuel “Superman Sam” Sommer (pictured here), the son of Reform rabbis Phyllis and Michael Sommer. Sam succumbed to leukemia in December 2013. The Sommers documented Sam's battle with cancer on their blog, Superman Sam.

By Cantor Barbara R. Finn

Last week, in my discussion of the beginnings of the N’ilah service, I reflected upon the contemplative nature of the concluding service for Yom Kippur. The music of the actual conclusion imparts additional urgency in our pleas for forgiveness as the “gates are closing.” There are many interpretations of when the gates actually close: at the closing of the ark after N’ilah, at the end of Simchat Torah, or the particularly appealing idea that in fact the Gates of Heaven are always open. Beth Schafer expresses this sentiment in her beautiful arrangement of Psalm 118, “Open the Gates,” offering a thoughtful and soulful musical texture. Beth shares that she “wanted to capture the personal heartfelt plea that comes as N’ilah comes to a close. Assuming the submissive pose of head bowed and knee bent (or body prostrated), asking for God’s forgiveness as the last slivers of sunlight fade from view, is an awesome moment. From that most vulnerable position, we have a chance to offer our humblest prayer and feel the magnitude of what it means to be worthy of forgiveness.” LISTEN

By Cantor Barbara R. Finn

Yom Kippur is bookended by music and liturgy that speak to us on an emotional level.  We often cannot explain it; it is simple yet powerfully spiritual, reaching into our souls with a fervor that would leave us empty were we to miss those elements of the service.

In her article about Kol Nidre, Cantor Hayley Kobilinsky says, "There is an intangible, lasting power to the Kol Nidre, and that power does not emanate from its text, but rather its melody."  Ritual observance or non-observance, belief or non-belief in the Holy One does not affect how the music stirs our souls.  In words from the book, Imperfect Harmony by Stacy Horn, "words that tell an emotional story, set to appropriate music, burn into the soul."