SANDY EISENBERG SASSO
Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso has served, along with her husband Rabbi Dennis C. Sasso, as spiritual leader of Congregation Beth-El Zedeck since 1977. In June 2013 she became Rabbi Emerita and is the Director of the Religion, Spirituality and the Arts Initiative at Butler University and Christian Theological Seminary. After receiving her B.A. and M.A. from Temple University, in 1974 she was the first woman ordained from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. In addition to being the first woman to serve a Conservative congregation, she and her husband are the first practicing rabbinical couple in world Jewish history. Rabbi Sandy earned her Doctorate of Ministry from Christian Theological Seminary. The recipient of several honorary doctorates (Reconstructionist Rabbinical College; DePauw University; Butler University; Franklin College; and Christian Theological Seminary), in June 2013 she received a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.
In addition to her extensive contributions to the needs of her congregation, Rabbi Sandy has been active in the arts, civic and interfaith communities of Indianapolis and beyond. She has been president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association and the Indianapolis Board of Rabbis. She is a past president of Gleaners Food Bank, and has served on the board of Planned Parenthood. She received the Spirit of the Prairie Award from Conner Prairie Interactive History Park, and in 2014, was honored with the Heritage Keepers Award from the Indiana State Museum for her leadership and work in the arts and humanities in Indiana.
Rabbi Sandy has written and lectured on women and spirituality, and the discovery of the religious imagination in children. She is the author of several nationally acclaimed children’s books, including God’s Paintbrush, Adam and Eve’s First Sunset and In God’s Name, and Creation’s First Light. Publisher’s Weekly selected two of her books, But God Remembered and Noah’s Wife; The Story of Na’amah as Best Books of the Year. And Abuelita’s Secret Matzahs is the winner of the 2005 Sugarman Family Children’s Book Award and the 2006 Best Books of Indiana Award. Rabbi Sandy also writes adult literature including, Midrash: Reading the Bible with Question Marks, which was recently reprinted in 2013. In 2004, she received the Helen Keating Ott Award for Outstanding Contribution to Children’s Literature and, in 2012 took home the National Jewish Book Award for Best Illustrated Children’s Book for The Shemah in the Mezuzah. She recently co-edited the Winter 2014 CCAR Journal entitled, A Symposium on Sacred Teaching and Spiritual Learning and released both a new children’s book, Anne Frank and the Remembering Tree, and a new adult piece, Jewish Stories of Love and Marriage—Folktales, Legends and Letters, co-authored with Peninnah Schram.
Rabbi Sandy teaches Religion and Judaism at Butler University and Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. She serves on the board of advisors of Indiana University Purdue University at Indianapolis; the board of directors for the Julian Center, an agency providing support and counseling services to victims of domestic violence; the Indiana Humanities Council; and the Patachou Foundation. She is a member of the Lake Family Institute Advisory Board and past chair of the Spirit and Place Advisory Board—the annual festival celebrating the Arts, Religion, and Humanities. Rabbi Sandy also edited Urban Tapestry, Indianapolis Stories, and she and her husband, Dennis write a monthly column in The Indianapolis Star.
Rabbi Sandy has been honored as one of the “Influential Women in Indiana” by the Indianapolis Business Journal and was featured among “Indy’s Most Influential Clergy” by NUVO News Weekly. She is the recipient of the “Sagamore of the Wabash”, the highest civilian honor awarded by the Governor of the State of Indiana. Rabbi Sandy is also the recipient of the 2013 Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association Lifetime Rabbinic Service Award.
She and Dennis are parents of David and Debbie and grandparents of Darwin, Ari and Levi.