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Reform Rabbis Group Installs First Out President

Reform Rabbis Group Installs First Out President

Rabbi Denise Eger is the first openly gay or lesbian president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

The Central Conference of American Rabbis, the organization for rabbis in Reform Judaism, made history today by installing its first openly gay or lesbian president, Rabbi Denise Eger.

Eger is the founding rabbi of West Hollywood’s Congregation Kol Ami, a synagogue established in 1992, which has both LGBT and straight members. She has served on the conference’s board of trustees for four years. She was installed this morning at the conference’s annual convention in Philadelphia, succeeding Richard Block, reports the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

When Eger was ordained in 1988, one synagogue denied her a job because she’s lesbian — the Reform movement officially prohibited out gays and lesbians from serving as rabbis, she recalled in an interview with The [Philadelphia] Inquirer. Two years later, the CCAR passed a resolution formally calling for the ordination of gay and lesbian rabbis, and at the convention the conference will celebrate the 25th anniversary of that move.

“It is an amazing arc of history and speaks to the way Reform Judaism has encouraged the discernment and education that has made it possible to make the movement more inclusive,” Eger told The Inquirer.

In Reform Judaism, she added, “loving your neighbor as yourself remains an overriding moral value and reminds us that we engage with another from a place of love and kindness, which are antidotes to the hate and exclusiveness of this world.”

Other leaders of the conference praised Eger’s appointment. “On a basic level, she is the first openly gay president, and that’s a big deal historically,” Rabbi Hara E. Person, publisher and director of the CCAR Press, told The Inquirer. “But Denise brings so much more, including her commitment to Reform Judaism and our values, human rights, basic human dignity, and social activism.”

Among Eger’s other accomplishments, she was the first female and first openly gay president of the Southern California Board of Rabbis and the founding president of the Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Interfaith Clergy Association.

 

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Trudy Ring