Though 50 years may sound like a long time, I reflect that when I was in school and university there was not yet one female rabbi, so though I enjoyed going to synagogue, it never occurred to me that I could be the one on the pulpit. Now, there are hundreds of female rabbis in every type of rabbinical position, and we bring our own sensitivity, style and points of view to our congregations and organizations.
Women rabbis still often get less pay for doing more than the duties in their contract or compared to what a male rabbi would receive for a similar position.
As a married woman with grown children, and after having served in other careers, I am freer to break with traditional "decorum" in certain situations than a male rabbi would likely feel. I have yodeled for a Swiss hospice patient and made him smile; I wore cowboy boots at a western themed wedding; I match my tallit to the color scheme of a bride's wedding décor; I have danced around the room to classical music to cheer up a chair-bound woman who used to have great physical flexibility and who was angry at her limitations. I bring who I am to each encounter, and don't feel so bound by the image of "rabbi."
I became ordained as a rabbi when our children were already college age so I did not have the challenge of juggling the duties of the rabbinate with raising small children. My daughter actually said to me that she is very glad that I was home for all the holidays and was seen as kind of a" home rabbi" leading Shabbat dinners, Passover Seders, Sukkah parties and so many Jewish ceremonies and celebrations for our circle of family and friends during all those years when our children were growing up.
I'm so very grateful that I live at this time of history when all my talents and learning can be channeled into being useful and helpful as a rabbi. I think that as a child of Holocaust Survivors, I wanted my life to have meaning, and in this role I'm able to give back to our Jewish extended community, mishpacha, in a way that would have been harder or impossible at an earlier time.
Rabbi Alicia Magal is the spiritual leader of the Jewish Community of Sedona and the Verde Valley.