Today is a significant anniversary for rabbis, especially female rabbis. On this day the first woman in North America worked as a rabbi. (Regina Jonas worked as a rabbi in Germany before she was murdered by the Nazis.)
On December 12, 1950, Paula Ackerman became the interim “spiritual leader” of Temple Beth Israel in Meridian, Mississippi after her husband, who was the congregation’s rabbi, passed away. In 1919, Paula Herskovitz had married Rabbi William Ackerman. As a rebbitzin, Paula Ackerman was an active partner, not only teaching in the Hebrew school and helping out with the sisterhood, but also taking her husband’s place in the pulpit whenever he was absent or ill. Ackerman was also a member of the board of the Reform movement’s National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods (NFTS) and chairman of NFTS’s National Committee on Religious Schools.
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Formal ordination of women as rabbis by accredited and recognized rabbinical schools began in 1972 when Hebrew Union College ordained Rabbi Sally Priesand. (Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 1973 and Jewish Theological Seminary in 1985.)