When I was Ordained, It was Difficult to Find a Job.
Some synagogues refused to interview me, others wanted me for my publicity value and still others wanted to be able to say they were the first to hire a female rabbi. In the end, I got what I have always considered to be the best job: Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in New York City where Rabbi Ed Klein z”l taught me how to be a rabbi. I left the Free Synagogue after seven years when it became apparent that the congregation would never allow me (or any other woman) to be its senior rabbi. The next two years were spent part-time at Temple Beth El in Elizabeth, New Jersey, where I was warmly welcomed. I also served as a chaplain at Lenox Hill Hospital. I accepted these two positions because I was not able to find a synagogue willing to accept a woman as its only rabbi. In truth, our movement had not yet done the necessary groundwork to raise the consciousness of congregations. I remember a meeting I had with the placement commission: I walked into the room, saw sixteen men sitting around the table and said, “I hope you know that you are part of the problem.”
Sally Priesand, the first woman ordained in the U.S., recently retired from Monmouth Reform Temple, NJ.