Newspaper clipping highlights one of world’s first female rabbis

In 1972, Sally Priesand became the spiritual leader for Temple B’nai Israel in Hattiesburg, MS. At the time, she served at Sinai Temple in Illinois and flew to Hattiesburg each weekend to deliver sermons. She attended rabbinical school in Cleveland, OH, and was on the verge of becoming one of the first female rabbis in the world. Historically, women largely were not allowed to become rabbis until the last 40 years. In Orthodox Judaism, women are still prohibited from becoming rabbis.

While the article claims that Sally Priesand was the first ordained female rabbi in the world, it is incorrect. The first female rabbi was Regina Jonas, formally ordained in Germany in 1935. In 1972, Sally Priesand became the second female to be ordained as a rabbi, but the first female rabbi for Reform Judaism. As of 2008, there have been 552 ordained female rabbis in Reform Judaism.

This newspaper clipping was found in a scrapbook in the Temple B’nai Israel’s Papers (AM 98-59). To view this item, visit Special Collections on the 3rd floor of McCain Library. The clipping is on display there until August 2013. For more information on this item, contact Jennifer Brannock at or 601.266.4347. To see more Items of the Month, click here.

Text by Cole Smith, Graduate Assistant, School of Library & Information Science