Naamah Kelman-Ezrachi (first name also spelled in English as Naama; born January 25, 1955) is an American-born Rabbi who was named as Dean of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion campus in Jerusalem starting in July 2009. In 1992, Kelman made history as the first woman in Israel to become a rabbi when she received her rabbinic ordination from Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk.
Kelman was born in New York City, the daughter of Rabbi Wolfe Kelman, a leader in the Conservative Judaism movement who had served nearly four decades as executive vice president of its Rabbinical Assembly, where he led efforts to professionalize the rabbinate and to prepare the steps for the ordination of women in the Conservative movement. The descendant of rabbis on both sides of her family, her paternal grandfather was a rabbi and community leader in Toronto who descended from a multi-generational line of Hasidic rabbis from Poland. Her maternal grandfather, Rabbi Felix Levy, also received his ordination from HUC and helped pass the Columbus Platform of 1937 that undid many of the anti-Zionist aspects of the 1885 Pittsburgh Platform. Her brother, also a rabbi, leads a congregation in Jerusalem.
As a student at the University of Pennsylvania, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree. After moving to Israel in 1976, she earned a Master of Arts degree in Social Work from the Institute of Contemporary Jewry at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. As of 2009[update], Kelman is pursuing a Ph.D. at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, with a focus on "The Construction of Meaning for Young Israelis: Examining Non-Orthodox Weddings."
Her husband, Dr. Elan Ezrachi, is a former Israeli Air Force pilot, who specializes in Israeli relations with Jewish communities in the Diaspora. As of 2009[update] they have two daughters, Leora and Daphna and a son, Mikey.
Hebrew Union College named her to serve as the first female Dean of the HUC campus in Jerusalem effective July 1, 2009, when she succeeded Dr. Michael Marmur.
- Staff. "Rabbi David Ellenson Announces Appointment of Rabbi Naamah Kelman as Dean of HUC-JIR/Jerusalem", Hebrew Union College press release. Accessed September 26, 2009.
- Goldman, Ari L. "Religion Notes", The New York Times, July 11, 1992. Accessed September 20, 2009. "In what Reform Judaism says is the first time in history, a woman will be ordained to the rabbinate in Israel this month. Naamah Kelman, a 37-year-old scion of a rabbinical family, will become a rabbi on July 23 at the Jerusalem campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk, president of the college, called the ordination 'historic and symbolic,' and said it was taking place at 'a hopeful time' for Reform Judaism in Israel."
- Staff. "REFORM JUDAISM TO GET FIRST WOMAN RABBI IN ISRAEL", Los Angeles Daily News, July 18, 1992. Accessed September 20, 2009. "In what Reform Judaism says is the first time in history, a woman will be ordained to the rabbinate in Israel. Naamah Kelman, 37, a scion of a rabbinical family, will become a rabbi Thursday at the Jerusalem campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk, president of the college, called the ordination 'historic and symbolic,' and said it was taking place at "a hopeful time" for Reform Judaism.
- Stoner, Margaret. "Judaism gets in touch with its feminine side", The Jerusalem Post, June 25, 2009. Accessed September 20, 2009. "Naama Kelman, the newly appointed dean of the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem, is the first woman to be appointed to this position in Israel. She was also the first woman to be ordained in Israel."
- Hirshel Jaffe. "The Message of the Sacred Calling: Our Journey to True Equality | RavBlog". Ravblog.ccarnet.org. Retrieved 2016-05-26.
- 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.