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Sally Priesand was a 16-year-old Cleveland girl in 1963 when she wrote to the Reform Jewish movement’s flagship seminary and said she wanted to be a rabbi.
Hebrew Union College accepted her as the only woman in a class of 36, and in June 1972, Priesand became the first woman in history to be ordained by a rabbinic school. Today, all but Judaism’s Orthodox movement accept women rabbis, and non-Orthodox rabbinic schools typically enroll about as many women as men.
To mark more than 40 years of women in the rabbinate, the Central Conference of American Rabbis recently published “The Sacred Calling,” a collection of essays by women rabbis that cover everything from Priesand’s ordination to the depiction of female rabbis on television.
RNS asked Priesand, now 70 and retired for a decade, to talk about her ordination, her 25 years as the rabbi at New Jersey’s Monmouth Reform Temple and why she insisted on wearing miniskirts.