stained glass

The Persistent Stained-Glass Ceiling

Palau de la Musica Catalana skylight of stained glass, Barcelona. Photo via RNS/

Palau de la Musica Catalana skylight of stained glass, Barcelona. Photo via RNS/Vlad G/shutterstock.com

More than 40 years have passed since Sally Priesand was ordained as the first female rabbi in the U.S. Since then, more than 800 female rabbis — including 647 in the Reform movement — have graduated from several seminaries, including my daughter Eve.

Even so, Jewish and Christian clergywomen still face visible and invisible obstacles in their careers. Call it the persistent stained-glass ceiling. Some barriers are major in nature; some minor.

A male rabbi, minister or priest might be praised for being “assertive” and “ambitious” as he climbs the slippery ladder of success in American religious life.  But women who possess similar qualities are dubbed “brash” or “arrogant.” Male clergy can be “dynamic,” while women with the same qualities are often termed “strident.”

Subscribe