In 60 essays collected throughout a five-year period by the National Association of Retired Reform Rabbis, rabbis’ spouses share memories and insights about their lives. The pieces vary in length, tone, and writing style, even including poetry – but all add to the fascinating discussion.
Except for the one male contribution (set after 1972, when women were first ordained as Reform rabbis), these memoirs were written by women whose spouses are either retired or deceased. Anyone who grew up in this time and under these conditions will respond to the memories these women share – and those who cannot relate will still surely find them fascinating.
The essays in Married to the Rabbi: Sixty Spouses of Retired Reform Rabbis in Their Own Words portray a certain time period of American Reform Judaism preceding or at the start of the feminist movement, both Jewish and at-large. Therefore, most of the writers adhered – willingly or grudgingly – to “traditional” supportive roles of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, their own career ambitions and life trajectories put on the back burner or abandoned to support their husbands’ professional journeys.
When asked to contribute their stories, many used the opportunity to reflect deeply on their lives and marriages. Some composed life histories to pass on and transmit their personal values, in a manner similar to writing ethical wills.