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Rabbi Sandy Sasso

Lawrence Bush
May 18, 2017

Sandy Eisenberg Sasso became the first woman ordained as rabbi by the Reconstructionist movement on this date in 1974. She was also the first woman to serve as rabbi in a Conservative congregation (Indianapolis’ Beth-El Zedeck), and she and her husband Rabbi Dennis Sasso were likely the first rabbinical couple in Jewish history and certainly the first to share a pulpit. Sasso is the author of fifteen award-winning children’s books that transmit the texts, spirituality, and ethical values of Judaism in an accessible and vivid way, including God’s Paintbrush, Adam and Eve’s First Sunset, and In God’s Name. Recipient of several honorary doctorates, she has been deeply involved in issues of women’s equality, education, hunger, and the arts. Sasso spoke to a crowd of 7,500 at Indianapolis’s Women’s March after the inauguration of Trump, on the theme, “We are not going back.” “We who have gathered here are from many faiths, cultural and ethnic traditions, and walks of life,” she declared. “We have come as Americans, especially as American women. In our diversity, we are the face of America.”

“In 1960, women could not purchase contraceptive devices and medications to control their own pregnancy and could not receive comprehensive sex education in the school. We are not going back. In 1960, women made up less than 1 percent of medical and law schools, and many job opportunities were closed to them. I know; I entered a profession in which there were no women. We are not going back. In 1960, homosexuality was considered a psychiatric disorder, discrimination was rampant, and marriage between people of the same sex was prohibited. We are not going back.” —Rabbi Sandy Sasso

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.