Reflections On 50 Years Since Ordination.

Photo by Jordan Steranka on Unsplash
Photo by Jordan Steranka on Unsplash

It is hard to believe that this Shabbat marks the 50th anniversary of my Ordination. With my classmates we set out for our own spiritual journeys knowing that, after so many years of study and preparation, we were ready. In a matter of a few years many of us understood that old Yiddish expression that “mankind plans and God laughs”.

So much has changed in these 50 years. The Judaism that greeted me as a new assistant rabbi has very little resemblance to the Judaism of today. Our rabbinic generation has been witness to and shaper of some of the most profound changes in American Jewish life. One of those changes took place at Ordination. Sally Priesand was in my class (HUC-1972) and as she walked to the bimah for her blessing the entire class rose as if to understand that we were part of history. The revolution that began that day has re-shaped our Jewish life. Now, in liberal seminaries at least half of those enrolled are women. In just the span of my rabbinic tenure this revolution has opened the door to so much significant change. One of the accompanying revolutions that was a direct result of this move was a spiritual revolution.

The worship service today is a reflection of that spiritual change. The way we pray. the prayer books, the music, have undergone substantive change. Technology, in many ways helped by Covid, is also impacting worship and education. The revolution in worship and prayer and ritual has been, in many ways, led by my rabbinic generation. Again, within a relatively short time period significant change.

Likewise, another revolution that emerged in our era has been the change in the acceptance and role of inter-faith families in our congregations and communities. With the launch of the Reform Movement’s Outreach Program by Rabbi Alex Schindler (z’l) in the late 1970s, the groundwork was set in place for this major shift in our community. This opened the door to the on-going revolution in diversity that we see now. The LGBTQ revolution, once also considered radical, is now another accepted reality in our liberal Jewish world; just look at who occupies our pulpits and positions of community leadership. Likewise we have seen the growth of awareness and welcoming to issues of disabilities and Jews of color.

So many of my classmates have been part of these, and other, changes. Some of us moved more slowly than others to embrace these changes, but embrace them we did. Our rabbinic generation has helped pave the way for these revolutions and, in doing so, has opened the door to the continuing surge of creativity that is the mark of so much of our contemporary Jewish life; creativity that, in many instances, is emerging outside of traditional institutional venues. And this is all for the good! These fundamental changes have kept the tradition of adaptation and innovation alive which has been a foundation of Jewish survival. I am proud that our rabbinic era has been so much a part of this evolution and revolution. It has been a wonderful ride, a ride that continues to inspire. In all these years I have never been bored or regretted that decision to enter HUC. It has been a blessing to have been called to the rabbinate and so here’s to a future that continues to unfold. Sh’hech’yanu!

Shalom and Todah

Rabbi Richard F Address




  1. Congratulations on your journey that has inspired and helped to heal so many! You have been a great part of paving the way for a renewed Reform Judaism! Thank you for always being my Rabbi for 45 years ✡️

  2. Mazeltov! I recall when Rabbi Priesand officiated at the marriage of my friend and her fiancé. It was quite an experience for all attending. I believe it was a first for Rabbi Priesand. I thank you for this wonderful email.

  3. What a wonderful thing to be able to say….that your chosen service still brings you pride and pleasure after 50+ years! Your classes are always a joy. Intellectually challenging, religiously instructive, and connected to the social issues of the day. You managed to inject your own brand of humor as well as sports commentary as a bonus! For me, what was especially important was that I was able to participate even though my Jewish education was non existent. I wonder if you stop to think how many lives you have impacted over the years…not just directly but indirectly as well.I am sure so many of us took a bit of each class back with us to share with family and friends. And of course there is your activism as well.

    You have inspired my writing and given me a voice for which I am ever grateful. You have provided me with food for thought and challenged my world views. I am a stronger woman as a result. And now, given the startling realization that I will not live forever, your life lessons and your faith are part of what propels me forward when I want to give up.

    Imagine how many people over your 50 year span are saying the same thing! I hope you can hear them.

    Another 50 years? Maybe. But regardless of the time frame, I hope every day continues to bring you satisfaction. “Jewish Sacred Aging”. The perfect description for your half century journey.

  4. Mazeltov on fifty years of being a rabbi, a seeker of meaning, and most of all, a true mensch. May you continue to go from strength to strength.

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