Four Barnard alumnae named among America's Top 50 Rabbis for 2012
April 10, 2012
Newsweek/The Daily Beast's list of America's Top 50 Rabbis for 2012 includes four Barnard graduates:
Joy Levitt '75
The chief of the JCC in Manhattan is launching the Jewish Journey Project, a new paradigm for Hebrew schools, which Levitt believes strongly have generally been inadequate and uninspiring. Her alternative would recruit synagogues, summer camps, JCCs, museums, and those organizations that focus on bringing Torah to life to offer families a more personalized and flexible religious education for one umbrella fee. If her vision takes hold (she's already gathered participants and funding), it could have a revolutionary effect on how Jewish students learn for generations to come. Levitt told The Jewish Week that instead of the old concept of having to enroll in a shul to "pass Go" as a Jew, "the notion is it takes a village to create a Jewish adult."
Jacqueline Koch Ellenson '77
The director of the Women's Rabbinic Network (WRN), Ellenson advocates forcefully on behalf of women rabbis, with particular attention to what she considers the gender-based inequities affecting women in the rabbinate on issues of maternity and family leave and the disparities in salary, benefits, and advancement. Ellenson, married to HUC president David Ellenson (#9), remains a mentor to women in the Reform Rabbinate and this past year, started teaching courses on psalms as part of a spirituality initiative begun by Richard Jacobs (#7), called Shabbat Vayinafash, which includes text study and yoga.
Sharon Kleinbaum '81
This leader of the world's largest gay synagogue, Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST) in Manhattan, Kleinbaum, an openly lesbian rabbi, has changed the landscape for gay Jews. The only rabbi to make Newsweek's list of "150 Women Who Shake the World" this year, Kleinbaum is a frequent speaker and panelist at feminist and gay-rights conferences and has testified before Congress. This past year she was in the news for holding up a pro-gay-marriage sign in Albany amid a sea of Orthodox protestors. (She put her arm around one of the Orthodox men there, and he recoiled and spat on the ground, declaring she was not a Jew.) When the New York gay-marriage law took effect, she performed 10 marriages in one day.
Sara Hurwitz '99
Considered a full member of the clergy by her Modern Orthodox congregation, Hebrew Institute of Riverdale (her title is "Rabba" not "Rabbi"), Hurwitz continues to be outspoken on the value and legitimacy of women in Orthodox spiritual leadership. She recently joined the debate about modesty and gender segregation in Israel and America, writing, "Halakha [Jewish Law] should not be manipulated into a smokescreen shielding men and sidelining women who have the potential to enhance our community." She is the dean of the first seminary created expressly to train Orthodox women for leadership, Yeshivat Maharat. It remains to be seen what title will be given to women in the first graduating class when they go job hunting next year.
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