In Historic First, Woman to Lead Conservative-Masorti Movement in Israel

The trailblazing appointment will take place during a period of significant growth for Israel's branch of Conservative Judaism

Judy Maltz
Judy Maltz
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Rakefet Ginsburg, who has filled several senior positions in the Conservative-Masorti movement, will become the first female executive director of Israel's branch of the movement. 

She will replace Yizhar Hess, who will assume his new position as vice-chairman of the World Zionist Organization following the agreement signed late last week with the organization. Under his leadership for the past 17 years, the Conservative movement in Israel has expanded significantly and now includes more than 85 congregations and minyans, though not all meet regularly.

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Hess was actively engaged in the negotiations that led to the Western Wall deal, which was supposed to have created a new and upgraded space for egalitarian prayer at the Jewish holy site. The deal was suspended before it was implemented in response to pressure from the ultra-Orthodox parties in Israel, which do not recognize Conservative or Reform Judaism.

For the past four years, Ginsburg, 51, has served as deputy director for community outreach at NATAL, the Israeli trauma center. In her most recent position with the Conservative movement, she served as deputy director-general under Hess. Before that, she headed its community development department. Ginsburg is a longstanding executive board member of the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary in Jerusalem.

A former Jewish Agency envoy in the United States, she holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in social work from Tel Aviv University. She and her family are members of Yedid Nefesh, a congregation in Hod Hasharon.  Ginsburg, who has three sons, will continue to serve in her voluntary role as chairwoman of the Counseling Center for Women.