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 1971.
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 rabbi.
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 rabbis.
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 ceremonies."
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 in 1981.
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 Judaism.
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.