Women’s Leadership in Judaism: Amy Eilberg’s Ordination


  • Rachel Bear Tulane University


Conservative Judaism is a sect of American Judaism founded in the late 1800s by immigrants and has been the backbone of American Judaism for over a hundred years. Yet in the 1970s as America and less religious sects of Judaism moved forward in gender equality, Conservative Judaism resisted in order to maintain its customs, such as the traditional roles that women held in Judaism as being solely mothers, wives, and daughters. This case outlines Conservative Judaism’s journey to allowing women’s ordination as rabbis. The case delves into the historical significance of women in Judaism by looking at different practices in which women have been involved. Women in Judaism are both considered holier and lesser-than men, a contradiction which has carried over from biblical times into modern practices. This case analyzes the issue of women’s ordinance in the 1970s and 80s in America. It specifically discusses Amy Eilberg, the first Conservative Jewish woman ordained as a rabbi, and her journey to the rabbinate. The case additionally explores the decision-making body of the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and its significance for Conservative and American Judaism. While the Conservative movement decided to allow women into the rabbinate, there are still gender gaps in wages, significance, and legitimacy for female rabbis in the Jewish community. Ultimately, this is a case that reaches further than the American Jewish community and has implications for the relationship between religious conservatism and gender equality.