For the first time in more than a century of existence, the Vaad: The Board of Rabbis of Greater Philadelphia has elected a woman to lead the organization.
Rabbi Elisa Goldberg, formerly the board's vice president, has already begun her two-year term, taking over from Rabbi Jay Stein of Har Zion Temple. Goldberg, a Reconstructionist rabbi, is the director of Jewish Community Services for the Jewish Family and Children's Service of Greater Philadelphia.
She also serves as religious leader of Kesher Shalom, an unconventional "synagogue without walls" based in Abington.
As recently as the 1990s, the Vaad — which was founded after the Civil War — had three staff members, oversaw the communal hospital chaplaincy program and was considered a go-to address for interfaith relations.
The organization has scaled back significantly in recent years and is now run by a volunteer board.
Goldberg said that taking into account current economic realities and the limited time that most rabbis have to devote to the group, the organization will concentrate on sponsoring about a half-dozen programs for local rabbis.
The board will continue to be represented on Philadelphia's Religious Leaders Council and take part in some public events, such as the annual Holocaust memorial ceremony.
But Goldberg said it will primarily serve as a gathering and discussion forum for rabbinic colleagues, who often have little time to delve into study and discussion with other religious leaders.