Women Rabbis: A History of the Struggle for Ordination

While the Reform movement was theoretically in favor of women's ordination as far back as 1922, it was not until 50 years later that the first women was ordained as a rabbi in North America.

Print this page Print this page

By then, too, faint tremolos of unrest were apparent even within Orthodoxy. Several rabbis in the trend's moderate wing contributed articles favoring improved education for women, and in 1979 Yeshiva University's Stern College for Women added a course in Talmud. In ensuing years, additional women were enrolled at Yeshiva's Cardozo Law School, until by the mid‑1980s they composed half the student body. The law they studied was not Jewish law, to be sure, and the notion of ordination, even of women's participation in minyans, was all but unmentionable within the Orthodox tradition. Under funda­mentalist pressure, Orthodoxy's progressive wing actually lost ground in the 1980s. Nevertheless, given the flux of American society, there seemed every likelihood that future confrontations would take place, at least along the margins of Orthodoxy.

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

Howard Sachar

Howard M. Sachar is the author of numerous books, including A History of Israel, A History of the Jews in America, Farewell Espana, Israel and Europe, and A History of Jews in the Modern World. He is also the editor of the 39-volume The Rise of Israel: A Documentary History. He serves as Professor of Modern History at George Washington University.