January 29, 2010

Amy Eilberg, First Woman Conservative Rabbi

Amy Eilberg, First Woman Conservative Rabbi, Speaks in Ann Arbor

Topic:“Listening for the Sacred in our Lives.”
When: Saturday evening, February 20 at 8:00 p.m
Where: Beth Israel (2000 Washteanw Ave.)

On Sunday, February 21 Rabbi Eilberg will facilitate a full day retreat on the topic of Spirituality & Social Justice from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the JCC (2935 Birch Hollow Dr.) in an event co-sponsored by TBE, BIC, UM Hillel, AARH and Pardes Hannah.

Rabbi Amy Eilberg directs interfaith dialogue programs in the Twin Cities after many years working in pastoral care, hospice and spiritual direction. She teaches the art of compassionate listening in venues throughout the country.

Eilberg's college and graduate school years coincided with the height of the Jewish feminist movement. She entered Brandeis University in fall 1972, the same year the Reform movement ordained its first female rabbi. Priesand. During her undergraduate years, Eilberg decided to pursue a path to the Conservative rabbinate, even though the Jewish Theological Seminary was, at that time, a decade away from its decision to ordain women.

In 1976, Eilberg entered the Seminary as an MA student in Talmud. After completing the masters program, she continued her academic work as a doctoral student in Talmud. While Eilberg and other women hoping to enter the rabbinical school pursued graduate studies, the battles surrounding women's ordination grew more intense. In 1982, she entered the Masters of Social Work program of Smith College in order to train in the pastoral aspects of rabbinic work. In October 1983, following heated debate at both the Jewish Theological Seminary and in the Rabbinical Assembly, a vote was taken by the Seminary faculty to admit women to the Rabbinical School beginning with the incoming class of the fall 1984. Nineteen women, including Amy Eilberg, were admitted to the Rabbinical School. Since Eilberg had already completed most of the Rabbinical School curriculum, she was able to graduate in the same academic year, becoming the first female Conservative rabbi on May 14, 1985.

In 1991, Eilberg, together with Rabbi Nancy Flam (Reform), co-founded the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center. At the height of the AIDS crisis in San Francisco, the Jewish Healing Center offered spiritual care to Jews living with illness, death, and loss.

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