Rachel Isaacs

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Rachel Isaacs was the first openly lesbian rabbi ordained by the Conservative movement's Jewish Theological Seminary ("JTS"), which occurred in May 2011.[1] She transferred to JTS from the Reform movement's Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in her third year of rabbinical school.[2] Isaacs previously earned her B.A. from Wellesley College in 2005, where she was the Hillel Co-President.[3] [4] She is now the rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel in Waterville, Maine, which is a Conservative synagogue,[3][5] as well as the Dorothy "Bibby" Levine Alfond Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies at Colby College.[6] She's also the director of the Center for Small Town Jewish Life, also at Colby.[7] Isaacs was born in 1983 in New Jersey.

Isaacs was mentored at JTS by Rabbi Carie Carter, who placed the tallit across Isaacs' shoulders at her ordination.[2] Rabbi Carter was a closeted lesbian during her time at JTS, and wrote the originally-anonymous chapter "In Hiding" about lesbian Conservative rabbis in the 2001 book Lesbian Rabbis: The First Generation.[1] Rabbi Carter is now openly lesbian, and works at Brooklyn's Park Slope Jewish Center, which Rachel Isaacs interned at.[1]

In 2014 Isaacs was named one of "America's Most Inspiring Rabbis" by the Jewish Daily Forward.[5] In 2016, she delivered the evening Hanukkah benediction at the White House. [8]


  1. ^ a b c Amy Stone (Summer 2011). "Out and Ordained" (PDF). Lilith. Retrieved 2011-11-19. 
  2. ^ a b "JTS Ordains Its First Openly Gay Rabbi – The Sisterhood – Forward.com". Blogs.forward.com. 2011-05-25. Retrieved 2011-11-19. 
  3. ^ a b "Beth Israel Congregation". Beth Israel Congregation, Waterville, ME. Retrieved 19 November 2011. 
  4. ^ "Jewish Studies at Colby College » Blog Archive » Welcome, Rachel Isaacs and Linda Maizels!". Jewish Studies at Colby College. Colby College. 2011-08-19. Retrieved 2011-11-19. 
  5. ^ a b "Rabbi at Waterville synagogue named one of America's 'Most Inspiring' Jewish clergy". The Bangor Daily News. Retrieved 29 October 2014. 
  6. ^ College, Colby. "Dorothy "Bibby" Levine Alfond Professorship of Jewish Studies Inaugural Lecture and a Celebration of the Center for Small Town Jewish Life, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015". Colby.edu. 
  7. ^ College, Colby. "Center for Small Town Jewish Life". Colby.edu. 
  8. ^ http://www.centralmaine.com/2016/12/15/waterville-rabbi-says-delivering-hanukkah-remarks-at-white-house-was-surreal/