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May 18, 2012

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PAGE 2A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MAY 18, 2012 America's first female rabbi reflects By Michele Alperin JointMedia News Service Rabbi Sally Priesand, America's first seminary- ordained female rabbi, decided at age 16 to pursue her calling. "I always wanted to be a teacher of whatever was my favorite subject," she tells JointMedia News Service. "In the end, I decided to become a teacher of Judaism." June 3 will mark the 40th anniversary of Priesand's historic ordination at the Reform movement's Hebrew Union College (HUC). Fortu- nately, her parents were firmly behind her four decades ago. "I feel that my parents gave me one of the greatest gifts a parent can give to a child: the courage to dare and to dream," Priesand says. As an undergraduate in By Mati Wagner JERUSALEM (JTA)--Is- raelis went to sleep the night of May 7 expecting early elections in September for the 19th Knesset. They woke up tothe news that elections would take place as planned in October 2013. A behind-the-scenes deal clinched overnight between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and oppositi0n leader Shaul Mofaz created Israel's broadest coalition government ever. According to the surprise agreement finalized early morning May 8, right before a plenum vote to disperse the Knesset ahead of early elec- tions, Mofaz's Kadima Party will join Netanyahu's gov- ernment coalition, boosting its numbers from 66 of the 120 Knesset members to an unprecedented 94. Courtesy Joel Gerard Rabbi Sally Priesand with her Boston Terrier, Shadow. a joint program between the University of Cincinnati and HUC, Priesand studied enough Hebrew to skip the first year of rabbinical school. Supporting her admission and on four decades since ordination ordination--something no woman had ever been granted by the school before--was HUC President Rabbi Nelson Glick, and when he died, the subsequent president, Dr. Fred Gottschalk, took up her cause despite opposition from some faculty members. Looking back, Priesand says, "It wasn't until recent years that I realized how much courage it took for him to accept someone else's vision and move forward with it." Priesand was interviewed by some synagogues "for my public value, so they could say they were first," but others would not speak to her. The last person in her class of 36 to get a job, she ended upwith the best one, at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in New York City, but adds that she probably got the position be- cause all her classmates were already employed when the job was posted. She served there for seven years under Rabbi Ed Klein, who she says loved "to be introduced as the first equal opportunity employer in the American rabbinate." However, Priesand was not given the opportunity to be senior rabbi after Klein retired. Finding it hard to find another position, she ended up working part time at Temple Beth E1 in Elizabeth, N J, while serving as chaplain at Manhattan's Lenox Hill Hospital. But in 1981 she was hired as rabbi at Monmouth Reform Temple in Tinton Falls, N.J., where she stayed for 25 years, leaving in 2006 as rabbi emerita. "I felt here like I was their rabbi and not the first woman rabbi," she says. Neither Priesand nor her congregation thought she would stay that long. "I always felt my obligation was to get a bigger congregation," she says. However, her partner- ship with her congregation taught her that the drive to be first in everything would not lead to fulfillment. "My congregation really taught me that is not the meaning of success," she says. "Suc- cess just means you are doing better today than yesterday." After 25 years of being allowed to be creative, have ideas, and experiment with a congregation willing to accept her vision, she says, "I retired voluntarily because I believe you should leave when people still like you. I worship at my temple, but I sit in the pews, in the last row, and I'm enjoying the view from the pew." One early challenge Likud and Kadima form Israel's broadest government coalition Mofaz agreed not to at- tempt to topple the govern- ment until the official end of its term. In exchange he will be appointed vice premier. Mofaz also will participate in the meetings of the select ministerial security Cabinet. The Kadima chief, who hadvowed on his Facebook page that he would never join Netanyahu's "bad" government and publicly called Netanyahu a "liar," may have had a change of heart in part after seeing polls that predicted his party was headed for a major crash in early elections. Kadima, which managed to garner a plurality of votes in the last elections with 28 Knesset seats, had fallen to fewer than half that number, according to recent polls. Netanyahu, who in recent months has said repeatedly Miriam Alster/Flash90/JTA Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (1) and Kadima Party chairman Shaul Mofaz at a joint news conference May 8 in the Knesset announcing that Kadima has joined the coalition government. in public statements that he preferred not to initiate early elections, may have been tempted by the chance to bring back former Likud politicians such as Ronnie Bar-On, Tzahi Hanegbi and Meir Sheetrit, who defected with Ariel Sharon in 2005 to form Kadima. "'Repatriating' these MKs so to speak would serve two purposes," said Amotz Asa-El, a Hartman Institute fellow. "It would strengthen the Likud. But it would also dilute the influence of more right-wing elements in the Likud aligned with Moshe Feiglin." The formation of a na- tional unity government may also have positive diplomatic ramifications with regard to Iran's nuclear program, "A stable government strengthens Israel's deter- rence capabilities vis-a-vis Iran and improves its ability to put pressure on the U.N. Security Council and on Germany not to compromise too much with Tehran," wrote Ron Ben Yisai, Ynet's military affairs commenta- tor. "The deal also improves the government's ability to carry out surprise moves, which also strengthens deterrence." Netanyahu and Mofaz said Priesand faced was being ac- cepted to officiate funerals. "Very often people would say, 'My father was traditional-- how can I have awoman rabbi at his funeral,'" she recalls. In cases like these, Rabbi Klein's firm stance helped people adjust; he told congregants, "Rabbi Priesand is the rabbi, and she will do the funeral. If you don't take her, you're not going to get anybody from this synagogue." Looking back on the 40 years since her ordination, Priesand notes several ways women have changed the rabbinate. First, women have a different style of leadership that emphasizes networking and partner- ship, and this has initiated a rethinking of the top- Rabbi on page 18A during a news conference May 8 before the signing of the coalition agreement that there were four central issues that would be ad- vanced by the national unity government: legislation that will obligate haredi Or- thodox yeshiva students to perform military or national service; amendments to the electoral process; passage of a two-year fiscal budget; and advancing "responsible" peace negotiations with the Palestinians. Kadima's Knesset mem- bers will lead a committee tasked with drafting legis- lation aimed at replacing the Tal Law, which permits haredi yeshiva students to defer military service indefi- nitely in order to pursue re- ligious studies unhindered. The Supreme Court ruled Coalition on page 18A In Jewish election season, old themes and new concerns about Iran By Ron Kampeas WASHINGTON (JTA) Simmering beneath the presidential season's famil- iar refrains of support for Israel is a passionate parti- san argument over how best to confront Iran and deal with the new Middle East. The Jewish election de- bate season was launched informally on May 4 at the annual American Jewish Committee global forum when longtime U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Weekly Standard edi- tor William Kristol made the case for their preferred presidential candidates. Kristol vs. Frank was lively, friendly and covered familiar territory about the Jewish tendency to vote Democrat and the com- mitment of both parties to Israel. An encounter the next day between two top former Iran officials in the Obama and George W. Bush ad- ministrations, speaking at Ron Sachs/CNP U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, left, and Weekly Standard editor William Kristol engage in The Great Debate: Election 2012 at the American Jewish Committee's Global Forum at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, May 4, 2012. a Washington Institute for Near East Policy retreat. highlighted deep fault lines over Iran and the Middle East. not just between the campaigns but also between liberals and con- servatives and the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government. At issue were whether sanctions and diplomacy would keep Iran from ac- quiring nuclear weapons, what circumstances would merit a military strike and whether the Arab Spring promised stability or chaos for the region. The AJC debate between Frank, who this year is end- ing his 32-year run in the House of Representatives, and Kristol, the scion of a leading neoconservative family, was replete with the familiar, almost affection- ate banter that character- izes much debate between Jewish Republicans and Democrats. Kristol joked about how unlikely it was he would sway the audience, which he presumed to be predomi- nantly made up of support- ers of President Obama. "It's always a pathetic scene," Krist01 said of his appearances before Jewish audiences, noting that he has acted as a surrogate for GOP presidential can- didates since 1996. Frank needled Kristol for affiliating with a party that he said has moved sharply to the right on social issues. "Whether or not the fact Themes on page 18A