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Rabbi Dr Aviva Kipen

In 1991, Aviva Kipen was the first Australian woman to be ordained as a rabbi.

Honour Roll

Aviva Kipen was born in Melbourne and completed her Bachelor of Arts majoring in Jewish Studies and primary school teaching at Victoria College. She then worked for the Department of Education and in Jewish Day Schools. She was also a Sunday School religious program educator for the United Jewish Education Board. Aviva was secretary of a Jewish debating society for many years and the only Melbourne participant in the first international Young Leadership Mission to Israel.

Aviva moved to Brussels where she established a school of religion for expatriate English-speaking children and she became Vice-President of the European Board of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, the umbrella body of Progressive Judaism. She moved to the United States as a young mother and in New Jersey she became a Vice-President of the synagogue Sisterhood of Temple Sinai Bergen County.

In the United States she saw women serving their congregations as rabbis, a new phenomena. When her daughter began primary school, Aviva applied for Rabbinic studies and completed her MA in Rabbinics. The following year, July 1991, she received her Rabbinic Ordination (semicha) from Leo Baeck College, London. She was the first Australian woman to become a rabbi.

Aviva has served pulpits in England and New Zealand as well as her home town of Melbourne, Australia. She is the Rabbi of the Victorian Union for Progressive Judaism and served Temple Beth Israel, St Kilda before becoming the sole Rabbi (part-time) of Bentleigh Progressive Synagogue. She specialises in the area of grief and frequently conducts funerals for the progressive funeral director, Beit Olam Jewish Funerals. Aviva also has a private practice in couple and family counselling, specialising in bereavement and loss. Aviva has also been a teacher in the faculty of the Melton Adult Education Program, which is franchised from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and is now its co-ordinator.

Aviva has been involved in various interfaith dialogues and conferences and has been the Executive Secretary of the Australian branch of the World Conference on Religion and Peace and Honorary Secretary of the Leaders of Faith Communities Forum. In 2001, she was appointed Program Director of the 'Sense of Place - Victoria's Multifaith Celebration' which brings to the stage representatives of Indigenous and religious communities.

Aviva is presently conducting doctoral studies at the Melbourne College of Divinity as its first Jewish student, and is researching the nature of prayers offered in the two Federal houses of Parliament and the relevance of the Christian texts to a multicultural population.