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Rabbi Denise L. Eger

Biography

Rabbi Denise L. Eger is an international Jewish leader, sought after speaker and social justice activist.  She is the founding rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami, in West Hollywood, CA.   She is Past President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the international organization of over 2300 Reform Rabbis. She served as the first openly gay or lesbian person in that position.  She also was the first woman ever elected as President of the Southern California Board of Rabbis which includes Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and Orthodox Rabbis.

Rabbi Eger is the co-author of 7 Principles for Living Bravely (TKG, 2023) with Rev. Neil Thomas.  Born of their shared experiences during the early years of the HIV/AIDS Pandemic and then again in during the height of the Covid-19 Pandemic, Eger and Thomas draw upon their friendship and religious traditions of Judaism and Christianity for spiritual principles to navigate difficult seasons of life.  It is available on Amazon. A companion study guide for Christian communities and a separate companion guide for Jewish communities is available. The book is also available in Spanish.

Rabbi Eger is also the editor of the groundbreaking book, Mishkan Ga’avah: Where Pride Dwells: A Celebration of LGBTQ Jewish Life and Ritual (CCAR PRESS, 2020). This collection of LGBTQ prayers, poems, liturgy, and rituals is both a spiritual resource and a celebratory affirmation of Jewish diversity. Giving voice to the private and public sectors of queer Jewish experience and allies.   She also wrote a companion study guide for this book which is available at https://pride.ccarpress.org.

Rabbi Eger is also a co-editor of Gender and Religious Leadership: Woman Rabbis Pastors and Ministers (Rowman and Littlfield, 2019). This volume analyzes historical and recent developments in female religious leadership and the larger issues shaping the scholarly debate at the intersection of gender and religious studies.

She has contributed to many books. Some include: The First Fifty Years (CCAR Press, 2023), Social Justice Torah Commentary (CCAR Press, 2021); The Sacred Calling (CCAR Press 2016), The Sacred Encounter (CCAR Press, 2014), Women’s Torah Commentary (URJ Press, 2007), Women’s Haftarah  Commentary  (Longhill Partners, 2004), Torah Queeries, (NYU Press, 2009) and Positively Gay (Celestial Arts, 2001).

Eger was named as one of the 50 most influential Jews by Forward and one of the 50 most influential women rabbis.  Huffington Post named her as the #1 LGBT Clergy Person in America. Recognized for her leadersjo[ by the City of Los Angeles as a trailblazer, she was featured in a special art exhibit about the first 50 years of women rabbis called “Holy Sparks.” She has won numerous awards for her leadership and activism from the Human Rights Campaign, A Wider Bridge, UFMCC, the City of West Hollywood, the California State Senate and California State Assembly. 

Currently, Rabbi Eger coaches non-profit executives and clergy through her company ReZilience Strategies. 

Raised in Memphis, TN, Rabbi Eger graduated with honors from the University of Southern California with a bachelor’s degree in Religion in 1982.  She received her master’s degree from Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion in 1985 and was ordained as Rabbi in 1988 at the New York campus of HUC. She received her Doctor of Divinity in 2013 from HUC-JIR. Eger is a Sr. Rabbinic Fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.  In 2022 Rabbi Eger received an honorary Doctorate from Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Israel. She holds a certificate in  Non-Profit Management from Kellog School at Northwestern University.

Rabbi Eger is married to Rabbi Eleanor Steinman who serves as the Sr. Rabbi of Temple Beth Shalom in Austin, Texas. Her son, Benjamin  is married to Rachael.

(This biographical statement provided by Denise L. Eger.)

Biography Date: April, 2004; rev August 2023

Additional Resources

Congregation Kol Ami produced this video honoring Rabbi Eger's retirement and the 30th anniversary of the synagogue:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxXzFNBWaf8

Rabbi Denise Eger was one of the honorees at LGBTQ-RAN's 2023 GALA:
https://lgbtqreligiousarchives.org/gala-2023

Tags

Jewish (Reform) | AIDS | Clergy Activist | California | Los Angeles | Author/editor

Citation

“Rabbi Denise L. Eger | Profile”, LGBTQ Religious Archives Network, accessed June 16, 2024, https://lgbtqreligiousarchives.org/profiles/denise-l-eger.

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