(1949 - )
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb had a long and tough struggle before she was ordained as
a rabbi. She became a major mover in helping other women understand their Jewish
heritage so that they could attain a positive role as modern Jews.
Rabbi Gottlieb was born April 12, 1949, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to
Harriet and Abraham Gottlieb. Her father was a businessman and her mother was a
puppeteer and the director and teacher of a theater school until her death in
While attending high school in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in 1946, she went to
Israel as an exchange student at the Leo Beck High School in Haifa for a few
months. This visit to Israel rekindled her desire to become a rabbi. The Jewish
establishment still had their doors closed in allowing women to become ordained.
She decided that she would get herself educationally qualified to become a
After a brief stay as a student in the New York State University in Albany,
she enrolled at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where received her B.S.
Degree in 1972. For the next nine years, her main focus was preparing and
studying for the rabbinate. She studied at the Hebrew Union College in New York,
at the Jewish Theological Seminary and privately with various scholars and
Gottlieb became involved in working with the deaf. She was able to
communicate with the deaf through her knowledge and use of the sign language.
Her theatrical background enabled her to use pantomime for religious services,
story telling and teaching. She became the spiritual leader for a deaf
congregation in Hollis, New York.
Gottlieb traveled throughout the United States talking to women's groups on
Jewish feminism. She referred to these sessions as "life cycle
Because so many doors were closed to women, she looked for alternative ways
of celebrating Judaism. She became involved with the New Jewish Agenda, a
movement composed of mostly younger Jews seeking alternative ways to the more
conservative policies of organized American Jewry.
Gottlieb continued her struggle to be ordained which was thwarted by the
Conservative Jewish leaders. She made some progress when Rabbi Seymour Siegel, a
professor of theology and ethics at the Jewish Theological Seminary, came out
publicly in support of ordaining women as rabbis.
Gottlieb turned to Rabbis Zalman Schachter, Everett Gendler and Shlomo
Carlebach, who were leaders in alternative Judaism. They ordained her as a rabbi
Gottlieb still enjoys her reputation as being a Jewish storyteller. She
traveled to campuses, hospital, synagogues organizations, etc., across the
nation, Many times, she was with Bat Kol, a small troupe of feminist actors, who
portrayed biblical women or other heroines of ancient and recent history.
"God has a female presence," she once said, but noted, "the
female presence is in exile. It is not until we redeem Her and bring Her home to
rest in us that the entire world will be redeemed."
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb has been joined by other women rabbis like Melanie Aron
and Sally Priesand in helping to redeem the world. Her work and struggles are an
inspiration to other women who would want to have a more important role in
Sources: This is one of the 150 illustrated true stories of American heroism
included in Jewish Heroes & Heroines of America : 150 True Stories of American Jewish Heroism, © 1996,
written by Seymour "Sy" Brody of Delray Beach, Florida, illustrated
by Art Seiden of Woodmere, New York, and published by Lifetime
Books, Inc., Hollywood, FL.