The Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis
The rules break like a thermometer,
quicksilver spills across the charted systems,
we’re out in a country that has no language
no laws, we’re chasing the raven and the wren
through gorges unexplored since dawn
whatever we do together is pure invention
the maps they gave us were out of date
by years…Adrienne Rich
Beginnings are often difficult and dark and the birth of a child, the seed breaking through cold ground, and a new idea. The following portraits are of women who, thanks to the latest feminist movement which began roughly twenty five years ago in America, have either assumed positions formally reserved for men or have broken new ground with institutions specifically intended to cultivate the presence of women in American spiritual life. Each one is a pioneer, explorer, and survivor.
Leontine Kelly, a Methodist minister, became the first African-American woman to be elected as a Bishop. Laura Geller, never having served a congregation in her twenty years as a rabbi, broke the “stained-glass steeple” by heading a congregation of more than a thousand families. Dr. Nahid Angha, an Iranian Sufi who lives in San Rafael, California, is the co-founder of the International Association of Sufism and the founder of Sufi Women Organization, an international classroom and community connected by the internet. Cheryl Kirk-Duggan, a Christian Methodist Episcopal minister, directs the Center for Women and Religion at UC Berkeley, a non-denominational, interfaithorganization devoted to promoting justice for women in religious institutions, provides women-oriented resources and academic programs on Issues of women’s spirituality for seminaries, and seeks to end religious and societal sexism. Rabbi Shohama Wiener, as President of the Academy for Jewish Religion, became the first woman in Jewish history to ordain rabbis.
These women have demonstrated the courage and faith to stand in a place no one of their gender has ever been before.