Reform Jewish Rabbinate Elects New Leader

Rabbi Ellen W. Dreyfus of Chicago to Be Installed as President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the World's Largest Group of Jewish Clergy

NEW YORK, NY and CHICAGO, IL and JERUSALEM--(Marketwire - February 11, 2009) - Today, the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) announced that Rabbi Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus, DD, 57, Rabbi of B'nai Yehuda Beth Sholom in Homewood, IL, will be installed as the new President of the CCAR, the organization that represents nearly 2,000 Reform Rabbis, the world's oldest and largest group of Jewish clergy.

Rabbi Dreyfus will be installed on February 28, 2009 in Jerusalem during the CCAR's 120th Annual Convention. She is the second female Rabbi to be elected to this position and the first female leader of a major rabbinic organization to begin her tenure in Israel. She succeeds Rabbi Peter S. Knobel, 66, Rabbi of Beth Emet in Evanston, IL, who will complete his two-year term as CCAR President.

As rabbi of a small congregation, Rabbi Dreyfus has an intimate sense of Reform Judaism's essential role in communities with relatively small Jewish populations, according to her colleagues.

Said Rabbi Peter Knobel, "Most of our leaders have come from large cities and congregations, but Rabbi Dreyfus has served a small community in a south suburb of Chicago and she has become an international leader. This is a tribute to her immense leadership capabilities. She is a deep thinker and is committed to her colleagues and the Jewish people as a whole, and I have no doubt she will be a great leader to the CCAR."

Among the themes Rabbi Dreyfus plans to emphasize during her tenure:

  • Thinking about the rabbinate and Jewish community in the context of the times, a new generation of Jewish individuals and technology.

  • "As Rabbis, we need to look at what is happening around us and be agile enough to make changes to serve and nurture a new generation of Jewish individuals. Many of them are very involved in religion and their Jewish lives but do not belong to congregations. Some are involved in their own groups and online communities. We need to embrace and adapt to this young generation, as they are potentially the future of the Reform movement."

  • Strengthen the rabbinic network.

  • "Now, more than ever, with the economic threats and challenges people are facing today, Rabbis need to be available to one another for advice and assurance. It's important that we care for each other," she said.

  • Upholding and strengthening the core mission of the CCAR -- to promote effective, fulfilling rabbinic lives.

  • "Our organization exists to help our fellow rabbis fulfill their rabbinic potential and aspirations, wherever and however they serve; we exist to help make the lives of rabbis and their families satisfying and fulfilling; we exist to amplify the voice of the rabbinate in our Reform movement, in Jewish life and in the world at large," she said.

Rabbi Dreyfus was the rabbi of Congregation Beth Sholom in Park Forest, Illinois from 1987 through 1998 and has been at the merged B'nai Yehuda Beth Sholom in Homewood since 1998.

She received a B.A. in History from Fairhaven College in Bellingham, Washington in 1974. She was ordained by the Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion, where she spent her first year in Jerusalem and then at the New York campus.

Rabbi Dreyfus is a Senior Rabbinic Fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, Israel, and is one of a select group of rabbis from North America to have completed a 3-year program of study called "The Rabbinic Leadership Institute." In 2004, the Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion awarded her the degree of Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa, for 25 years of service to the Jewish people.

Rabbi Dreyfus is married to James N. Dreyfus, MD. They have 3 children. Her brother, Michael Weinberg, is a Rabbi at Temple Beth Israel in Skokie, Illinois.

About the Central Conference of American Rabbis 2009 Convention

The 120th annual Central Conference American Rabbis convention will take place in Jerusalem, Israel, from February 24 - March 1, 2009. More than 300 Reform Rabbis will gather together to install a new board, strengthen the CCAR's bond with Israel's Reform Jewish community and participate in various programs in order to take an in-depth look at Israel. Highlights include a pluralistic Judaic-study session with the CCAR's Reform Rabbis and members of Israel's secular, Conservative, Reform and Orthodox Jewish communities.

The Central Conference of American Rabbis, founded in 1889, is the oldest and largest rabbinic organization in North America. As the professional organization for Reform Rabbis of North America, the CCAR projects a powerful voice in the religious life of the American and international Jewish communities. Since its establishment, the CCAR has a rich history of giving professional and personal support to Reform rabbis, providing them opportunities for study, professional development and spiritual growth beginning while they are still in seminary, through mid-careers, and into retirement. The CCAR is uniquely positioned to meet the ongoing needs of its 1,850 member rabbis (virtually the entire Reform rabbinate) and the entire Reform Jewish community.

More information may be found at the CCAR Web site: To speak with Rabbi Dreyfus, obtain photos or for additional information about the CCAR, please contact Itay Engelman at Sommerfield Communications, Inc. at (212) 255-8386 or

Contact Information: Contact: Itay Engelman Sommerfield Communications, Inc. 212-255-8386