The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College inaugurated Deborah Waxman as president, saying that she's the first woman to run a Jewish movement and seminary.
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Waxman, who is 47, grew up in West Hartford, Connecticut. She was ordained at the college in 1999 and has been a faculty member there since 2002. She holds a Ph.D. in American Jewish history from Temple University.
In an e-mail to Haaretz, the rabbi said she faces a number of challenges.
"In North America, a big challenge is making the case for being religious, especially from a progressive perspective, and offering a compelling alternative to fundamentalism or secularism.
"Another is making the case for being Jewish in this open and embracing environment. Finally, we are working to create structures and institutions that facilitate meaningful membership and opportunities to contribute to a vital future for the Jewish people."
The RRC, founded in 1968, is located in Wycote, Pennsylvania, half an hour north of Philadelphia. It offers a five- to six-year rabbinical-ordination program and a program for an M.A. in Jewish studies.
The Reconstructionist movement has more than 100 affiliated congregations.