“The Sacred Calling” is a fascinating collection of essays tracing the history of women in the rabbinate, focusing on both their personal and professional lives. The book is divided into seven (7) broad sections including “Those Who Came Before Us”, “Reform Ordination of Women”, “Ripple Effects: The Impact of Ordaining Women”, “Women Rabbis and Feminism”, “Jewish Life”, “Congregational Culture and Community Life” and finally “image”. Each section contains numerous essays dealing with different aspects of each topic.

History of women in the rabbinate is fascinating, not unlike the history of any other field where women pioneers have paved the way for the future generation. I enjoyed learning about the very first women who were ordained, the challenges they faced and how they overcame them.

One of my favorite quotes from the book states:

"Women’s stories are particularly vulnerable since, until recently, we were not the keepers of these stories. What will happen to our stories, the stories of women breaking through the barriers at the admissions office of HUC-JIR, coping with an institution built for only male students, professors who were not used to women students, and the barriers of congregations who didn’t want women rabbis as their leaders, once we, who experienced these things, pass from the world?" (Who Controls the Narrative? P. 7)

What makes this book really special is not the fact that it tells the story of these women, but that the story is told by some of the very same women who lived through the challenges of becoming rabbi’s in a male oriented religious structure. We hear firsthand from these women the challenges they faced and how they persevered.

I particularly enjoyed the essay “Women Rabbis in Israel” which dealt with professional experiences unique to female clergy, and the way these women confronted such experiences including overt sexism with humor, confidence and zeal.

This book is a must read not only for those in the Jewish faith, but for anyone interested in learning about how historically marginalized groups, challenges they faced and how they managed to overcome the barriers and succeed.

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