US Reform Jewish rabbis installing 1st openly lesbian leader

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — An openly lesbian rabbi is about to become the leader of the largest branch of American Judaism.

Rabbi Denise Eger (EH’-gur) will be installed Monday as president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the rabbinical arm of Reform Judaism.

The 55-year-old Eger won’t be the first openly gay or lesbian rabbi to lead an American rabbinic group. In 2007, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association chose Rabbi Toba Spitzer, a lesbian, as its national president. But Reform Jews, with 2,000 rabbis and 862 American congregations, have a broader role in the Jewish world.

Reform Judaism was the earliest of the major Jewish movements to take formal steps toward recognizing same-sex relationships. In 1977, the Reform movement called for civil rights protections for gays. By 1996, Reform rabbis backed same-sex civil marriage.

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