Elli Tikvah Sarah, studied Sociology at the London School of Economics (1974-77) and Rabbinics at the Leo Baeck College in London (1984-89), where she received s’michah (ordination), becoming Rabbi of Brighton and Hove Progressive Synagogue since December 2000. The first ordained lesbian Rabbi to lead a mainstream synagogue in Britain, she has been making trouble for as long as she can remember. In May 2021 Elli became Emeritus Rabbi.
She has been a pioneer in the area of lesbian and gay inclusion, initiating a process within Liberal Judaism, which culminated in a new policy on lesbian and gay individuals and relationships in 2002, and the creation of an anthology of ceremonies, which was published by Liberal Judaism to coincide with the Civil Partnership law coming into force in December 2005. Subsequently, in March 2006, she married her partner, Jess Wood (founder and Director of Allsorts, a project that works with LGBT young people in Brighton) at her synagogue, Brighton and Hove Progressive.
Prior to the rabbinate she engaged in feminist activism, research, writing and editing. A member of Lesbian Line (1979-1982) and the Women’s Research and Resources Centre collective (1979-1984), she was Assistant Editor of Women’s Studies International Forum (1979-1984), edited Reassessments of ‘First Wave’ Feminism (Pergamon Press, 1982), and co-edited, Learning to Lose – Sexism and Education (with Dale Spender, Women’s Press, 1980) and On the Problem of Men (with Scarlet Friedman, Women’s Press, 1982). She was also a member of the Jewish feminist collective that created the Jewish feminist magazine, Shifra, in 1984.
Since she became a rabbi she has worked as: Rabbi of Buckhurst Hill Reform Synagogue (1989-94), Director of Programmes for the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain and Deputy Director of the Sternberg Centre (1994-97), a Rabbinic Tutor at the Leo Baeck College (1994-2009), Chair of the Leo Baeck College Rabbinic In-Service Training Team (1996-2002), a Lecturer at Leo Baeck College, teaching ‘Classical Hebrew’ and ‘Spirituality’ (1997-2002), Rabbi of Leicester Progressive Jewish Congregation (1998-2000) and Rabbi of Brighton & Hove Progressive Synagogue (2000-current). In addition to her role as Rabbi of BHPS, she is also Liberal Jewish Chaplain at Sussex and Brighton Universities. She has also continued to write, and in addition to writing a monthly article for Sussex Jewish News (2001-current), has contributed four dozen articles and several poems to various journals and anthologies.