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Ray Frank’s Historic High Holy Day Sermons

One hundred and twenty years ago this week, Ray Frank delivered a historic sermon on what was the first night of Rosh Hashanah in Spokane, Wash. Ray Frank, featured in JWA’s History Makers exhibit, is one of those “complicated” heroines. She is a pioneer in that she is thought to be the first woman to preach formally from a synagogue pulpit, but despite her important “first,” Ray Frank does not fit the idea of a feminist heroine. In fact, she called herself “a stout opponent of what is commonly called ‘Women’s Rights.’” (This post about Ray Frank delves into this deeper.)

Ray Frank’s Rosh Hashanah sermon entreated her audience to overcome the differences between Reform and Orthodox ritual that had divided Spokane’s Jewish community. It was so moving that she was invited to deliver a second sermon on Yom Kippur. The original newspaper clipping of her Yom Kippur sermon is available to view on the Jewish Women’s Archive website.

Leah Berkenwald is the online communications specialist at the Jewish Women’s Archive, and a contributor to its Jewesses With Attitude blog, which cross-posts weekly with the Sisterhood.

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