RABBI DENISE L. EGER
Denise L. Eger was raised in Memphis, TN.
She 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.
Rabbi Eger has served pulpits in Canada, New York and Los Angeles.
Following ordination, she served Congregation Beth Chayim Chadashim for four
years as its first full-time rabbi. She is the founding rabbi of Congregation
Kol Ami, West Hollywood's Reform Synagogue, now celebrating its twentieth year.
Rabbi Eger believes that activism is an important part of her
rabbinate. She has worked extensively with people with AIDS. She
served as co-chair of the Community Advisory Board of the Shanti Foundation and
is a past Chair of the Spiritual Advisory Committee of AIDS Project Los Angeles.
She is past Co-Chair of the Institutional Review Board for Search Alliance, an
AIDS drug research organization.
Rabbi Eger is the Vice President of Member Services of the Central
Conference of American Rabbis which serves more than 1800 Reform Rabbis in North
America. She is a trustee of the Union for Reform Judaism.
Rabbi Eger is Immediate past President of the Southern California Board
of Rabbis. She was the first woman and
first openly gay personever elected to the position which includes rabbis of
all denominations. She is a past President of the Pacific Association of Reform
She co-chaired the Gay and Lesbian Rabbinic Network for two years. She is a
past Treasurer of the Women's Rabbinic Network. She was the founding
President of the Lesbian, Gay, & Bisexual Interfaith Clergy
Association. She served on the Board of the No On Knight Campaign/No on
Proposition 22. and sat on the Board of the Equality for All/No on Prop 8. She was
a founder of the California Faith for Equality and helped to organize Jews for
She is a member of the Religion and
Faith Council of the Human Rights Campaign.
Rabbi Eger helped to organize the Southern California Gay and Lesbian Jewish
Professionals Group, which brings together gay and lesbian Rabbis, Cantor,
Jewish communal workers and educators in the L.A. area. She is a board
member of the Institute for Sexual Orientation and Judaism of Hebrew Union
Rabbi Eger was instrumental in helping pass the March 2000 CCAR resolution
in support of officiation and gay and lesbian commitment ceremonies. She is
co-author of the official Reform movement gay and lesbian wedding liturgy.
Rabbi Eger has written many articles that have appeared in magazines and
newspapers such as Compass, Reform Judaism, The Advocate, The Jewish Journal,
the Huffington Post, The Jewish Forward, KCET Blog and the Los Angeles Times
including contributions to the books, Twice Blessed: On Being Lesbian, Gay
and Jewish (Boston: Beacon Press, 1988) and an article on Judaism and
Homosexuality in the new edition of Positively Gay, edited by Betty
Berzon (Berkeley: Celestial Arts, 2001). Rabbi Eger's work is also
featured in a collection published by the Union of American Hebrew
Congregation, Jewish Question Our Children Ask, edited by Olitzky,
Roseman, and Kasakove. Rabbi Eger was featured in a book by Suzanne
Sherman, (Temple University Press) Gay and Lesbian Marriages. She
has been featured in the book UNCOMMON HEROES, as one of 150 prominent
gay and lesbian role models in the United States. She also authored a
chapter in the book entitled Conflicting Vision – Contemporary
Debates in Reform Judaism by Routledge Press. Rabbi Eger has contributions
to Breaking the Glass: A Spiritual Guide to Your Jewish Wedding (Weiner,
CCAR PRESS, 2001). Rabbi Eger wrote a chapter in the book, Lesbian Rabbis:
THE FIRST GENERATION by Elwell, Alpert, and Idelson (published by Routledge
Press, August 2001). And she was featured in the photographic collection, Rabbis:
The Many Faces of Judaism by George Kalinsky. (Rizolli Press, 2002).
Rabbi Eger has contributed articles to the Women’s Haftarah Commentary
and new Women’s Torah Commentary published by the Women of Reform
Judaism. Her work in her congregation on issues of Judaism and addiction recovery
was recently highlighted in an article in the Jerusalem Post (December,
05). Rabbi Eger was recently featured in articles by the Jewish Forward and the
Los Angeles Times on her leadership roles. Rabbi Eger’s latest work, a
commentary on Parshat Vayigash, appears in Torah Queeries: Reading the Bible
through a Bent Lens published by New York University Press.
Rabbi Eger has won numerous awards for her dedication and activism.
She was recognized for her Social Justice work in 1992 by Metropolitan Community
Church with the Pat Underwood Community Service Award. In 1996
she was given then Rainbow Key by the City of West Hollywood and the
West Hollywood Lesbian and Gay Advisory Council. In 1998 she was awarded the LACE
Spirituality award by the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. In
1999, Rabbi Eger was named Business Woman of the Year by the West
Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and the City of West Hollywood’s Women’s Advisory
Council. Rabbi Eger was honored in 1999 by the Freedom to Marry Coalition for
her work to support Gay and Lesbian Marriage Rights and Rites. In February 2000
Rabbi Eger was named as an ANGEL AMDIST by the City of West Hollywood
for improving the quality of life in the city. In October 2000 was awarded the PARTNER
IN FAITH award by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community
Churches for her outstanding work on the Reform Movement’s position on
officiation at Gay and Lesbian Ceremonies. She was given the Shomer Tzedek
award by Kol Ami on the occasion of the congregation’s tenth anniversary. Rabbi
Eger received Spirit of Hope Award for her AIDS activism from Being
Alive in 2004. She was featured in Los Angeles Weekly as one of the Persons
of 2006. Rabbi Eger received the Morris Kight Lifetime Achievement
Award from Christopher Street West/Los Angeles Gay Pride in June 2008. In
October of 2009 Rabbi Eger was named by National Women’s Political Caucus’ 12
Remarkable Women for 2010.
In March 2011, the Human Rights Campaign presented her with the Community
Equality Award at their Los Angeles Gala.
In June 2008 Eger had the honor of officiating at the first legal wedding
for a lesbian couple in California. Following the passage of Proposition 8
Rabbi Eger helped to work with LAPD and Sheriff’s Department to organize and
keep the peace with protest marchers in the streets of Los Angeles and was
recognized by the City of West Hollywood, the City of Los Angeles and the
California State Assembly.
In November 2008 Rabbi Eger was named one of the FORWARD FIFTY by the
national Jewish newspaper the Jewish Daily Forward as one of the 50 most
influential Jewish leaders of the year along with Rahm Emmanuel, Ruth Bader
Ginsberg and Sarah Silverman. In 2010 Rabbi Eger was named by the Jewish Daily
Forward as one of the Sisterhood 50. One of the fifty most influential
women rabbis in America.
She is a noted speaker on the topics of human sexuality, GLBT issues and
Judaism, AIDS, the changing Jewish Family, Spirituality and Health issues in
Judaism and Politics, Progressive Judaism and the Radical Right. Rabbi
Eger has appeared on numerous radio and television programs.
Rabbi Eger has a seventeen year old son, Benjamin who in the fall will be a
senior at Beverly Hills High School.