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First Woman Rabbi of Major Conservative Synagogue Leads Services

August 3, 1986

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The first female rabbi of a major Conservative Jewish synagogue in the United States led her first Sabbath services Saturday.

Leslie Alexander, 31, who has wanted to be a rabbi since she was a teen- ager, wore the traditional prayer shawl and skull cap as she read from the Torah, the Jewish holy book, at Adat Ari El synagogue.

The first Conservative woman rabbi was ordained in 1985, said Rabbi Wolfe Kelman of the Conservative Rabbinical Assembly in New York. But Ms. Alexander is the first to become a pulpit rabbi of a major Conservative synagogue.

Ms. Alexander is a third-generation rabbi. Her father, Theodore Alexander, is a popular San Francisco rabbi who sang Hebrew songs and discussed the religion with his only child while she was growing up. Her grandfather also was a rabbi.

Rabbi Moshe Rothblum, senior rabbi at the 1,000-family Adat Ari El, one of Southern California’s oldest congregations, said having a woman lead a major Conservative congregation was long overdue.

″I can’t believe God would be opposed to having a woman serve as a rabbi,″ he said.

The decision last year by the Jewish Theological Seminary, the governing body of the Conservative branch of Judaism, to ordain woman rabbis followed a decade of study and debate.

″I respect them for taking women seriously and for taking 5,000 years of Jewish history seriously,″ said Ms. Alexander, who is married to a research chemist.

While the Reform branch of Judaism has ordained 115 women over the past 15 years, some Conservative theologians still oppose the idea. The Orthodox branch, the most traditional branch of American Judiasm, continues to forbid female rabbis.

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