I wanted to be a rabbi when I was 5," says Anat Moskowitz, "but I was told I couldn't, because I was a woman. So I thought I'd grow up to be a man."
Lucky for Moskowitz and her congregation at Colorado Springs' Temple Shalom, things have changed since then. Historically assigned inferior roles in the Judaic religious hierarchy, women today dominate the leadership of the 350-family synagogue. Not only does Rabbi Moskowitz head the congregation; its cantor and education director is also a woman, Hazzan Andrea Bankier; and the congregation has a female president, Trudy Taxman.
"There were a couple of congregation members that quit when I was hired," says Moskowitz, who came to Temple Shalom from Los Angeles last year. But other than that, the congregation -- which includes Jews of all convictions, from atheists to Orthodox believers -- has had no problems with being led by women.
Indeed, Moskowitz says children in the congregation seem more comfortable with her than they do with male rabbis. People in general also seem curious and interested in hearing what a female rabbi has to say, and she has frequent speaking engagements in the community.
"I'm still kind of a novelty," she says. "It's kind of fun."
The conservative movement of the Jewish religion, to which Moskowitz belongs, didn't ordain women until 1985. Previously a teacher, she was ordained in 1999 after attending a four-year seminary in Los Angeles.
Today, the conservative movement has some 120 women rabbis. At the movement's national convention in March, they plan to sponsor a resolution to eliminate the few remaining formal distinctions between male and female rabbis.