Lighting the Way

Rabbi's Message - May 17, 2022

Rabbi Karen Bodney-Halasz

During the time of the Omer, many Jews partially observe rituals of mourning in memory of a plague that took place during the time of Rabbi Akiba.  However, on the 33rd day of the Omer the mourning practices are lifted, commemorating a break in the plague.  This day, Lag B’Omer, is now a minor holiday.  Many will be celebrating with picnics and bonfires.  I, however, will be celebrating with Holy Sparks, rather than flames.   

May 19th marks the beginning of the “Holy Sparks” exhibition located at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s Cincinnati campus.  It correlates with the 50th anniversary of the ordination of Rabbi Sally J. Priesand, who was ordained at Plum Street Temple in May of 1972.  Rabbi Priesand was the first woman rabbi in North America.  The promotional information shares that: “As 'holy sparks,' women in the rabbinate are builders of a vital Jewish future, kindling the Jewish engagement, education, and identity of communities far and wide, today and for the generations to come.” 

According to Jean Bloch Rosensaft: "Our shared goal was to honor the transformational contributions of women in the Rabbinate whose struggles and successes set in motion the first steps toward inclusion, diversity, equity and empowerment of new leaders for the Jewish people over the past 50 years."

“Holy Sparks” features the works of 24 leading contemporary Jewish women artists evoking the identities and consecrated paths of 24 women rabbis who were “firsts” in their time.  This art exhibition is a collaboration between HUC-JIR’s Dr. Bernard Heller and Skirball Museums and The Braid, and a culmination of The Braid’s documentation of 200 pioneering women rabbis’ stories, shared online in partnership with the Jewish Women’s Archive. 

On Thursday, from 4:00-5:30 pm, guests are invited to view this exhibit and to hear from special guest speakers. Following this, from 5:45-7:30 pm, The American Jewish Archives will open the “Sally Priesand Leads the Way” Exhibition, featuring Rabbi Priesand as the keynote speaker.  This exhibit shares Sally’s journey both before and after her ordination, her struggles and triumphs, and how she becomes a cultural icon, all highlighted and revealed through a unique collection of documents, photographs, and material culture.  Registration is required for both of these events

If you are unable to make these events, I invite you to join me and our Adult Education Committee for a guided tour of the exhibit on July 14. For those who wish to carpool to Cincinnati for this special summer event, meet in the Temple parking by 10:00AM. You may RSVP for the tour to the Temple office 937.496.0050.   Additionally, you may view the exhibition catalogue online.

For further information, visit or contact  The exhibition will be in Cincinnati through Sept 4. 

For those of you with children who may be interested in sharing some accomplishments of Jewish women, I encourage you to check out these wonderful books by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso: Regina Persisted, Judy Led the Way and Sally Opened Doors

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