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Rabbi/Rabba Panel - A "First" Night!

On Monday evening, December 6th, 2010, the Synagogue Council of Massachusetts featured "Raising Up the Light: A Hanukkah Celebration of the First Lights of Women Rabbis". The evening featured a panel of the first-ever ordained North American female rabbis (Sally Priesand, Sandy Sasso & Amy Eilberg, and the first Open Orthodox rabba, Sara Hurwitz), with more than 500 people in attendance.

With a generous grant from the Gimprich Family Foundation, "Raising Up the Light" was the kick-off for the creation of SCM's new Women's Learning Institute (WLI), consolidating and enhancing all of SCM's offerings for women under one umbrella. In addition to an incredibly moving panel discussion, "Raising Up the Light" featured a Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony with 50 female rabbis from throughout New England and upbeat music performed by the all female group "Singers in Joy", led by Lorel Zar-Kessler, Cantor of Congregation Beth El of Sudbury.

The audio portion of the evening is available right here...

Here are a few of the dozens of comments we've already received extolling the magnificent evening of joy and camaraderie... not to mention history in the making:

From one of the planning committee members:

I cannot easily recall in recent times when so many Jews were gathered together in a single place, drawn to a spot from our (more than) 4 corners and exhibited such JOY! And ENTHUSIASM & yes, GOOD WILL towards one another! The building was fairly giddy with glee. I thought at one point the roof might actually peel back from its walls, lifting clean away due to all the smiling & huge grinning that was infectiously circulating round & round.

I kept looking around all night long, watching for reactions, glancing more than once in the direction of some of us who I know might also have needed "a new shirt" to say the Shehechiyanu but all I saw were beaming faces, engaged & thoughtful faces, row after row after row of wide awake faces, leaning in "towards the light." Indeed it will be said, "Nes gadol haya po!" And we can respond, "Yes, I was there; I saw it with my own eyes, my own soul was present."

Thank you, thank you. Mazel tov and hazak, hazak, v'nithazak. What a raising up this evening was for all of us; what an honor & privilege to be in our midst tonight ~-to witness & feel the rekindling of that sense of feeling joyous about being Jewish. With great admiration, affection, & commitment to this profoundly holy purpose...

From one of the "first lights" pioneering rabbis:

How can I thank you for the extraordinary program you orchestrated Monday evening. Seeing all the woman rabbis lighting the Hanukiyah moved me to tears. So much has been achieved in so short a time. You had the vision and the skill to bring us all together to remember the past and celebrate the future. I was honored to be on the panel and to have had the opportunity to speak to the Board of Rabbis on Tuesday.

I have been in touch with the American Jewish History Museum in Philadelphia and the curators have asked me if the event was recorded and how they can learn more about what happened in Boston. I am taking the liberty of forwarding your email address to them. In gratitude and appreciation...

From a member of the female musical group, "Singers in Joy":

I don't know how it was for folks in the audience but to make music with you and each person in the group tonight felt like a privilege and perfect way to express my joy in honoring these "first lights". Part of the joy I think was the sense that each of the hundreds of women in that room had challenged barriers and extended freedom in unique and difficult ways. Thank you for your solid and soaring leadership that enabled us to truly be "singers in joy."

From an audience member:

I just wanted to thank you and Synagogue Council for the wonderful symposium that was held on Monday night at Temple Reyim. I'm sure you've already heard from many others about how interesting and informative it was - not to mention the wonderful spirit and camaraderie that seemed to prevail everywhere - and I just wanted to be among those who've already expressed their appreciation...