Denise Eger

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Denise Eger
Denise Eger (5106017412).jpg
Eger in 2010
Born (1960-03-14) March 14, 1960 (age 58)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Nationality USA
Occupation Rabbi

Denise Leese (Davida)[1] Eger (born March 14, 1960)[2] is an American Reform rabbi. In March 2015 she became president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the largest and oldest rabbinical organization in North America; she is the first openly gay person to hold that position.[3][4]

Eger was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania[5] and raised in Memphis, Tennessee. She studied voice at Memphis State University, then transferred to the University of Southern California, where she majored in religion and graduated in 1982. She then studied at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, from which she earned a master's degree in 1985, and went on to pursue rabbinic studies.[3] Prior to ordination, Eger served a rabbinic internship in 1985-86 under Rabbi Solomon F. Kleinman at Temple Ahavat Shalom Northridge in Southern California. Rabbi Eger was ordained in 1988 at the New York campus of Hebrew Union College,[6] following which she served as the first full-time rabbi of Beth Chayim Chadashim in Los Angeles, the world's first gay and lesbian synagogue recognized by Reform Judaism.[7] She came out as gay in 1990 in a story in the Los Angeles Times.[8] In 1992, she and 35 other people founded Congregation Kol Ami, a synagogue intended to serve both gay and non-gay Jews in West Hollywood, California.

She previously served as the chair of the Search Alliance Institutional Review Board and Treasurer of the Women's Rabbinic Network, and is a past president of the Pacific Association of Reform Rabbis. She chaired the Gay and Lesbian Rabbinic Network of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and is past chair of the Task Force on Gays and Lesbians in the Rabbinate. She is a founding member of the Religion and Faith Council of the Human Rights Campaign and a founding executive committee member of California Faith for Equality. She is a Senior Rabbinic Fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute.[9]

Eger has worked extensively with people with HIV/AIDS and is widely known as an expert on Judaism and LGBT civil rights. She is a noted author contributing to anthologies such as Torah Queeries, Lesbian Rabbis, Twice Blessed, and Conflicting Visions: Contemporary Debates in Reform Judaism. She wrote the piece "Creating Opportunities for the 'Other': The Ordination of Women as a Turning Point for LGBT Jews", which appears in the book The Sacred Calling: Four Decades of Women in the Rabbinate, published in 2016.[10][11][12]

Rabbi Eger won the Morris Kight Lifetime Achievement Award from Christopher Street West/LA Pride.[13] In 2008 she was named one of the Forward 50; one of the fifty most influential Jews in North America for her work in LGBT rights. She officiated at the wedding of activists Robin Tyler and Diane Olson, on June 16, 2008.[14]

In 2009, she became the first female and the first openly gay President of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California.[7] She was also the founding President of the Lesbian, Gay, & Bisexual Interfaith Clergy Association.[6] In the summer of 2010 she was named one of the fifty most influential women rabbis.

In March 2015 she became president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the largest and oldest rabbinical organization in North America; she is the first openly gay person to hold that position.[3][4]


  1. ^ A Bar Mitzva Brochure with Rabbi Eger's Hebrew name (p. 3).
  2. ^ Denise Eger, LGBT history month.
  3. ^ a b c Tess Cutler, "Rabbi Denise Eger seeks to open doors wider to all Jews", The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, March 4, 2015.
  4. ^ a b "Reform rabbis install first openly gay president, Denise Eger | Jewish Telegraphic Agency". Retrieved 2015-03-16.
  5. ^ Los-Angeles-Tagebuch: Am Schabbat fährt Frau Rabbi zum Baseball. Der Spiegel, 1 June 2004.
  6. ^ a b "Board of Rabbis - Home". Retrieved 29 October 2014.
  7. ^ a b Fax, Julie Gruenbaum (May 6, 2009). "Glass Ceiling Twice Shattered at Board of Rabbis". The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles.
  8. ^ Zoll, Rachel. "Reform Jewish rabbis in U.S. install first openly lesbian president". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2015-03-16.
  9. ^ "Rabbinic Leadership Initiative (RLI) IV". Shalom Hartman Institute. Retrieved 22 February 2016.
  10. ^ Hirshel Jaffe. "The Message of the Sacred Calling: Our Journey to True Equality | RavBlog". Retrieved 2016-05-26.
  11. ^ Zauzmer, Julie (2012-12-14). "'I not only envisioned it. I fought for it': The first female rabbi isn't done yet". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2016-05-26.
  12. ^
  13. ^ [1] Archived September 17, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ "Finally, the ritual is legally theirs". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 29 October 2014.

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