Rabbi Larry Bach serves Temple Mount Sinai of El Paso, Texas. He works passionately on issues of interfaith understanding and social justice. He is among the founders of Border Interfaith, a broad-based community organization affiliated with the Industrial Areas Foundation. He serves on the board of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, a non-profit provider of low-cost legal aid for immigrants. Rabbi Bach is committed to cultivating the inner life as well. He is an alumnus of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality’s Rabbinical Leadership Program, where he developed a passion for the study of Hasidic Torah commentary. In 2010-11, he was a member of the second cohort of Rabbis Without Borders. He is also an alumnus of the Shalom Hartman Rabbinic Leadership Institute. Larry composed and performed the songs on the 2008 album Kivvunim. Rabbi Bach currently serves on the Editorial Board of the CCAR Journal.
Vision | “I seek out opportunities to share Jewish wisdom with people who might not otherwise connect with it, whether those people are Jewish or not. I am particularly drawn to Judaism’s prophetic tradition, and feel most authentic and alive when I am standing with the underdog in a fight for justice. I seek out opportunities for spiritual growth as well, and love to connect people with Jewish mindfulness practice. I am a creative person for whom music and writing are essential vehicles of my rabbinate.”
Rabbi Sharon Brous is the founding rabbi of IKAR, a spiritual community dedicated to reanimating Jewish life by standing at the intersection of soulful, inventive religious practice and a deep commitment to social justice. Since starting IKAR in 2004, Brous has been recognized as one of the nation’s leading rabbis by Newsweek/The Daily Beast and as one of the 50 most influential American Jews by the Forward. In 2013 she blessed the President and Vice President at the Inaugural National Prayer Service. She sits on the faculty of the Hartman Institute- North America, Wexner Heritage and REBOOT, and serves on the board of T’ruah-The Rabbinic Call to Human Rights and rabbinic advisory council to American Jewish World Service and Bend the Arc. Brous lives in Los Angeles with her husband, David, and their three children.
Vision | “I see the rabbinate as an opportunity to bring imagination and creativity into a very old idea – the idea that human beings ought to live in full dignity, driven by a profound sense of purpose and grounded in holy community. Rabbi David Hartman was right when he said that as rabbis we should be judged not by the size of our shuls but by the power of our ideas. I am motivated every day by a desire to re-animate Jewish ritual, tradition and learning and make them accessible and inspiring to people on all sides of the religious spectrum – from the unschooled to the jaded insiders to the diehards. To my mind, Jewish spiritual and ritual depth is wed inextricably to social responsibility and the mandate for social change – so my davening on Friday night is directly linked to our ability to pass decent gun laws that Wednesday. And I consider a fluid and experimental culture to be essential to the future of our organizations and synagogues, and critical to the spiritual vitality of a religious leader.”
Rabbi Ed Feinstein is Senior Rabbi of Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, California. He serves on the faculty of the Ziegler Rabbinical School of the American Jewish University, the Wexner Heritage Program, and the Shalom Hartman Institute. Formerly, he served as the founding Head of the Solomon Schechter Academy of Dallas and Executive Director of Camp Ramah in California. Ed has authored four books. Tough Questions Jews Ask (Jewish Lights, 2003) and Jews and Judaism in the Twenty-First Century (Jewish Lights, 2007), were finalists for the National Jewish Book Award. Capturing the Moon (Behrman House, 2008) retells the best of classic and modern Jewish folktales. His latest, The Chutzpah Imperative (Jewish Lights, 2014), traces the history of Jewish theistic humanism. Ed shares life with Rabbi Nina Bieber Feinstein and three grown-up kids. And every Friday afternoon, he bakes brownies from a recipe revealed to his ancestors at Mount Sinai.
Vision | According to an ancient tradition, when the Israelites stood at Mt Sinai, God appeared to them as a mirror. A mirror reflects back to us the truth about ourselves; a truth we’ve forgotten, or hidden from. The gift of Judaism is an understanding of what it means to be a human being — what we can do, what we can hope for, how we can live with purpose, what is expected of us. It is a celebration of human freedom, human possibility, and human responsibility. Judaism is a way to live a heroic life, a life of ultimate significance. The reward of a Jewish life is the profound faith that we matter, our lives matters, our dreams matter.
Rabbi Bradley Hirschfield is the president of Clal–The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership. Listed for many years by Newsweek as one of America’s “50 Most Influential Rabbis,” and recognized as one of our nation’s leading “Preachers & Teachers,” by Beliefnet.com. A regular contributor to WashingtonPost.com Brad is the author of You Don’t Have To Be Wrong For Me To Be Right: Finding Faith Without Fanaticism (Harmony, 2008). He is a co-author of Embracing Life & Facing Death: A Jewish Guide to Palliative Care (CLAL, 2003), and also conceived and hosted two groundbreaking series for Bridges TV− American Muslim TV Network, Building Bridges: Abrahamic Perspectives on the World Today, and American Pilgrimage. He consults with family foundations and Jewish institutions at both the local and national level.
Vision | “ I see ‘Jewish’ as a way of being human – of creating and nurturing meaningful, ethical and loving relationships with ourselves, others and God. For me, ‘Jewish’ refers simultaneously to a faith/wisdom tradition, a family, and a way of living – none of which share a central authority – even as each is animated by its connection to a 3,500 year old story which can be understood in as many ways as there are people who choose to engage it. I believe that there must be a place at the Jewish table for anyone who wants one, and that ‘Jewish’ must also be judged not only on the extent to which it serves those at the table, but how it contributes the lives of those not at that table and to the world which we share.”
Rabbi Irwin Kula is president of Clal – The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership. Called by Fast Company magazine and Religion and Ethics Newsweekly one of the leaders shaping the American spiritual landscape, Rabbi Kula received the 2008 Walter Cronkite Faith and Freedom Award and has been ranked by Newsweek as one of the Top 10 rabbis in America for the past three years. He has worked with leaders from the Dalai Lama to Queen Noor to promote religious pluralism and compassionate leadership. He has regularly appeared on The Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show and blogs for the Huffington Post and WashingtonPost.com’s “On Faith”. Rabbi Kula is author of the award-winning Yearnings: Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life (2006) and created the public television special The Hidden Wisdom of our Yearnings (2006) as well as the acclaimed documentary Time for a New God (2004) and the public television special Simple Wisdom with Irwin Kula (2003).
Vision | “The animating question of my life is whether Jewish wisdom and practice – Torah and mitzvot – can compete in the global marketplace of ideas to help people across of all backgrounds flourish as human beings. I see rabbis as more than Jewish tribal leaders. In an increasingly globalized world in which people mix, blend, bend, and switch identities and develop webs of relationships across all inherited boundaries I see rabbis as having to evolve and become global wisdom teachers able to use our particular tradition to help all people have happier, more satisfying lives of greater meaning, purpose.”
Rabbi Noa Kushner received her B.A. in Religious Studies from Brown University and was ordained in New York by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1998. She was the Rabbi for Hillel at Sarah Lawrence College and Stanford University. At Congregation Rodef Sholom she piloted NITA: Marin, which became a national model for engaging Gen X. She has been profiled in San Francicso Magazine’s “Who Runs SF” Power Issue and was recognized on the Newsweek / Daily Beast 2013: Rabbis to Watch list. Noa is married to Rabbi Michael Lezak and is the mother of three daughters: Zella, Bluma and Minna.
Vision | Akiva said it best: Without Torah, we cannot breathe. My work is to introduce and teach people Torah–defined broadly to include Jewish religious experiences, the building of a just world, learning and yirat shamayim–so we can build a different sort of reality together, so we can breathe. This reality prizes the way we treat one another and demands that we are each here to contribute to the larger world in significant ways (one’s shlichut). Simultaneously, this reality insists that even without our volition or action, we are inherently holy, a part of something profound. In bringing this vision to life in San Francisco, I take what I consider to be the powerful ‘software’ of Jewish life, the Torah, and then try to update the ‘hardware,’ the way Torah is currently transmitted through culture, physical place and design. My version of success does not necessarily include a building or a defined circle of people but can’t be without a Torah that lives and is transmitted in many places, and in many ways, a movement.
Rabbi Asher Lopatin is the incoming president of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, the leading Modern and Open Orthodox rabbinical school in America. For the past 18 years he has been the spiritual leader of Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation, a modern Orthodox synagogue in Chicago. He received his ordination from Rav Ahron Soloveichik and Yeshivas Brisk in Chicago, and from YeshivaUniversity in New York as a Wexner Graduate Fellow. Rabbi Lopatin holds an M.Phil. in Medieval Arabic Thought from OxfordUniversity and has done doctoral work, also at OxfordUniversity, on Islamic Fundamentalist attitudes toward Jews, while on a Rhodes Scholarship from Massachusetts. He is the author of numerous scholarly and popular articles in several books and journals and has been the co-chair of the Muslim-Jewish Community Building Initiative of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs.
Vision | “I believe that Judaism should be welcoming, accessible and meaningful. A rabbi’s role is to enable and facilitate connections between the people in his/her community with each other and with their Judaism. Ultimately, for people to fully connect with and show commitment to the Jewish community and Jewish practice and identity they have to feel a sense of ownership of their Judaism – they have to feel that they are full partners in the destiny of the Jewish people and Torah. The rabbi or community leader needs to model a passion and a love for Jews and for our tradition, but he or she must inspire others to walk, then run, in their own Jewish direction.”
Rabbi Or Rose is the founding director of the Center for Global Judaism, which provides educational programming and resources on issues of contemporary Jewish spirituality, Israel-Diaspora relations, religious pluralism and environmental responsibility. In addition to his duties at the center, Rose serves as co-director of the Center for Interreligious and Community Leadership Education, a joint venture of HebrewCollege and AndoverNewtonTheologicalSchool. Prior to taking this position, Rose was associate dean and director of informal education at the RabbinicalSchool, where he still teaches. He is co-editor of Jewish Mysticism and the Spiritual Life: Classical Texts, Contemporary Reflections (Jewish Lights, 2010), and My Neighbor’s Faith: Stories of Interreligious Encounter, Growth and Transformation (Orbis, 2012).
Vision | “I strive to transmit the wisdom of the Jewish tradition in a way that help Jews and people of other religious and secular commitments to live lives of purpose and meaning. In so doing, I encourage passionate engagement in study, prayer, and action that includes space for questioning and mystery. As a teacher and guide I try to express my care for people by inviting them into intentional conversation. I have benefited greatly from the mentorship of several outstanding rabbis and teachers in my life, and am honored to serve in such a role for the CLI program.”
Rabbi Gil Steinlauf is the Senior Rabbi at Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, DC. Rabbi Steinlauf previously served as the rabbi of TempleIsrael in New Jersey. He is a summa cum laude graduate of PrincetonUniversity, studied at the Pardes Institute in Jerusalem, received an M.H.L. from the University of Judaism in, and received rabbinic ordination as well as an M.A. from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. Currently, Rabbi Steinlauf is on the boards of the Washington Chapter of the American Jewish Committee, and the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. He also sits on the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. He is an alumnus of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, and CLAL’s Rabbis Without Borders program. Rabbi Steinlauf has three children, Elana, Noah and Meirav. When not functioning in his official capacity, Rabbi Steinlauf is an avid swimmer and runner, and together the Steinlauf family enjoys camping and hiking in the great outdoors.
Vision | “At Adas Israel, we are working on a paradigm shift in Jewish life. We are consciously evolving beyond an objectified Judaism: an approach where Jewish ideas and practices are reduced to religious and cultural artifacts to be visited in synagogues or at discrete moments in life. Our goal is both to transcend and include 20th century American Judaism in a Vision of Renewal at Adas Israel, one where Jewish life and community are lived experiences–deep, whole, and engaged. We seek to build a new kind of American synagogue, one that offers a mature, dynamic Judaism. We seek a synagogue culture that utilizes the enduring technologies of Judaism, Jewish learning, and Jewish tradition to channel our deepest human longings for connection with our authentic selves, with each other, and with God. Above all, we seek a living, breathing Judaism that helps us to celebrate not only our traditions, but the miracle of what it means to be human and alive in the presence of something greater.”
Rabbi Susan Talve is the founding rabbi of Central Reform Congregation, St. Louis, Missouri. Rabbi Talve has led her congregation in promoting radical inclusivity by developing ongoing relationships with African-American and Muslim congregations and by fostering civil liberties for the LGBTQ community. As part of a committed pro-choice congregation, Rabbi Talve continues to stand on the front line of pro-choice, reproductive rights and other women’s health issues. Access to quality affordable health care has always been a passion for Rabbi Talve. In 2007 she became a founding member and president of Missouri Health Care for All, a statewide grassroots advocacy organization that is building a strong coalition and growing a voice for groups and individuals working to bring health care access to all Missourians. Rabbi Talve was ordained by HebrewUnionCollege in Cincinnati in 1981, where she earned a Master’s Degree in Hebrew Letters and a Doctor of Divinity. She and husband, poet and musician Rabbi James Stone Goodman of Neve Shalom Congregation, are proud parents of three wonderful adults.
Vision | “I have been described as a spiritual nudge. I would add the adjectives Jewish and feminist to nudge. I hope that this means that I help my community respond in holy ways to the challenges of our lives and the life of the planet. I am grateful that I have been able to be a part of building a caring and conscious community that provides opportunities for meaningful relationships and opportunities to serve. My vision includes always being open to the next idea that will push us to be more inclusive, more compassionate and more generous. It also includes sharing a passion for the tools and stories and values of the Jewish tradition by building relationships and by showing up at every opportunity to respond to suffering and to share simchas.”