Rabbi Carole Meyers, who became the first female rabbi to lead a congregation in the Los Angeles area, has died. She was 50.
Meyers died of bone cancer Thursday at her home, 10 weeks after being diagnosed with the disease, said her husband, US Magistrate Judge Ralph Zarefsky.
Meyers took over the Temple Sinai of Glendale in 1986. The appointment of a 29-year-old single woman as solo rabbi was uncommon at the time.
"What was unusual, to my mind, was what an unusual person Carole was," said Rabbi Richard Levy, director of the School of Rabbinic Studies at Hebrew Union College. "Just a very thoughtful, wise person who listened unbelievably well, was just very intelligent."
Reform Judaism ordained its first female rabbi in 1972, and the Conservative movement followed in 1985. Orthodox Jews oppose the ordination of women. By 1987 there were 101 female Reform rabbis in the United States.
But few of those women led their own congregations. Most worked in social services, on college campuses or as assistant rabbis.
Meyers, ordained in 1983 after graduating from Hebrew Union College in New York, was an assistant rabbi in Houston when Temple Sinai selected her.
Women in the pulpit are no longer so rare. Rabbi Richard Schechter, who leads Temple Sinai, said at least half of all graduating Reform seminary students today are women.
Meyers "was at the forefront of what was to come in Reform Judaism, where women were taking spiritual roles in leadership," he said.
Meyers resigned in 2001 to devote more time to her husband and two children.
She was born June 12, 1957, in Washington, DC She considered studying to be a rabbi after her father died when she was 13, and felt comforted by the spirituality of the grief rituals at her family's Reform synagogue.
She met her husband, then a lawyer, at Temple Sinai. They married in 1990 and had two sons.