A Finding Aid to the
Task Force on Women in the Rabbinate Collection
Manuscript Collection No. 677
ACCESS AND PROVENANCE
The Task Force on Women in the Rabbinate Collection was received from Rabbi Neil E. Kominsky, Brookline, Mass., in 1996. Rabbi Kominsky, by the act of donating the collection to the American Jewish Archives, assigned the property rights to the American Jewish Archives. Literary rights are held by the individual authors of the documents or his/her heirs. Questions concerning rights should be addressed to the Director of the American Jewish Archives.
The Task Force on Women in the Rabbinate Collection is open to all users and available in the reading room of the American Jewish Archives.
INSTITUTIONAL SKETCH top
Following the ordination of the first woman rabbi, Sally Priesand, in 1972 by the
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, the Central Conference of American Rabbis passed a resolution asserting definitively the equality of women in the Reform Movement and their equality in the rabbinate. In 1976 the Executive Board of the CCAR moved that a separate CCAR Task Force on Women in the Rabbinate be appointed to help implement this resolution. Beginning its work in 1977, the first chair of the task force was Rabbi Priesand. Following her as chair was Rabbi Neil E. Kominsky. Other chairs of the task force have included David S. Hachen and Rosalind A. Gold.
Immediately following the announcement of the task forces creation, Rabbi Kominsky wrote to Joseph E. Glaser, executive vice-president of the CCAR, volunteering his
services. Kominsky wrote, in part, that he would bring to his work not only the perspective of a rabbi interested in equal treatment for his female colleagues but also the experience of ten years marriage to a woman who functions in a male profession.
The early work of the task force focused on issues pertaining to the acceptance and
integration of women into the Reform rabbinate. Placed under the authority of the executive board of the CCAR, the task force was, as Rabbi Kominsky wrote, responsible for the oversight and facilitation of the complete professional and collegial integration of women as rabbis. This responsibility manifested itself in many specific issues, such as the placement of women rabbis, mentoring of female rabbinic students, parenting and maternity leave, and admittance of women into the rabbinic program at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.
In February 1980 another organization, the Womens Rabbinic Network, was established. This group was formed with the intention of being an association of women rabbis that would provide, again in Rabbi Kominskys words, the kind of support, sharing of experience, and concerns that only those in their unique position were able to offer each other.
SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTE top
The records in this collection of the Task Force on Women in the Rabbinate were gathered and compiled by Rabbi Neil E. Kominsky, primarily during Rabbi Kominskys tenure as chair of the task force from 1979-1983. Kominsky was the second chair of the task force, following Rabbi Sally Priesand.
Following the ordination of the first woman rabbi, Sally Priesand, in 1972, the Central Conference of American Rabbis passed a resolution asserting definitively the equality of women in the Reform Movement and their equality in the rabbinate. In 1976 the Executive Board of the CCAR moved that a separate CCAR Task Force on Women in the Rabbinate be appointed to help implement this resolution.
The Task Force remains a standing committee of the CCAR. The records in this
collection reflect the early years of women in the rabbinate - revealing their struggles for acceptance and inclusion among their peers, their congregants, and the larger religious community. The records also reveal the priorities and interests of this new group of rabbis, showing their desire to establish themselves within the institutions of the Reform movement and to direct the work of the CCAR towards the place and rights of women in the Reform rabbinate and movement. It also shows their interests in issues such as family life, child care, womens rights, and social justice. Perhaps most importantly, the records reveal the thoughts and work of women who were pioneers in their field - while also documenting some of the obstacles they faced, including a few lingering doubts and (perhaps unintentional) residual biases directed towards them.
As there were only a handful of ordained women rabbis in the late 1970s/early 1980s,
most of these women were active in the work of the task force. These include Sally Priesand, Laura Geller, Rosalind Gold, Myra Soifer, Karen Fox, and Deborah Prinz. As a result, this collection contains much of their correspondence, as well as that of Joseph Glaser, then executive vice-president of the CCAR, together with other Reform rabbis and leaders of the CCAR and HUC-JIR.
The records also contain materials pertaining to the Womens Rabbinic Network, a professional association of Reform women rabbis founded in 1980. These records, which are interspersed throughout the collection, relate to mutual areas of interest and instances of interaction and cooperation between the task force and WRN.
Annual reports of the Task Force on Women in the Rabbinate may be found in volumes
of CCAR Yearbook, beginning in 1977.
BOX AND FOLDER LISTING topThe Task Force on Women in the Rabbinate records are arranged into a single chronologically arranged series. The final folder, consisting of articles and background materials on the Task Force and women in the rabbinate, is not arranged in any order.Box File Contents 1 1 Correspondence, 1976-1979 2 Correspondence, 1980 3 Correspondence, 1981 4 Correspondence, 1982-1991 5 Background materials/newsclippings, n.d.
Copyright © 2000 Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives