Thanks to hundreds of nominations by our readers, [the Forward] identified 33 of the most inspiring men and women from North America who are defining and redefining what it means to be a rabbi in the 21st century.
Jimenez Springs, New Mexico | 60 years old
“I completed a two-year chant leadership program called Kol Zimra with Rabbi Shefa Gold in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her unique style allowed me to connect with Hashem (God) and the divine essence within myself. Through repetition of sacred text, chanting took me to a place where I could reframe and recontextualize my life’s experiences so as to live a more balanced and rich life. Rabbi Gold’s ability to treat each student as an individual and want the best for them is a rare gift. Thanks to her, I have made chanting an ongoing part of my daily life and have shared it with others.”
Rimon Resource Center for Jewish Spirituality
Great Barrington, Massachusetts | 50 years old
Rabba Kaya Stern-Kaufman has brought inclusive, creative Jewish spirituality to a rural area in New England. The organization that she founded, Rimon Resource Center for Jewish Spirituality, has attracted many people who have never been affiliated with a synagogue, including non-Jews. She has offered classes in Talmud and Jewish mysticism. Rimon brings people together for musical Kabbalat Shabbat services and eco-tefillah hikes in the warm weather. Rabba Stern-Kaufman has collaborated with other clergy to present forums on death and dying and to gather people to chant for peace. Rimon has been instrumental in forming a hevrah kadisha, or Jewish burial society, and has offered Jewish burial rituals in an area where no such services had previously been available. Through Rabba Stern-Kaufman’s learning and embrace of diversity, many people who would not otherwise have a way to connect to Judaism are now exploring the richness of the tradition.
Arthur Ocean Waskow
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania | 81 years old
The Shalom Center is a national organization, so its community reaches across the U.S. But though the thousands who are inspired by Rabbi Arthur Waskow to fulfill the mitzvot of tzedakah and tikkun olam may live many miles apart, they form a community dedicated to core Jewish values of caring and healing. For that ever-growing community, Reb Waskow’s voice has been central: teaching, sharing, calling us to conscience — his impact is felt every day. To give just a few examples, Reb Waskow has been instrumental in engaging the Jewish community in climate action, and is a lead organizer in Jewish and interfaith environmental alliances. His Jewish environmental anthologies were powerfully influential in establishing Tu B’Shvat as an environmental holiday. He has done a tremendous amount to renew traditional liturgy through many books, new rituals, and classes that have brought thousands of Jews back to Jewish practice, starting with the first Freedom Seder in 1969. His book “Seasons of Our Joy” has become a beloved resource for Jewish practice in countless households, making the holidays deeply meaningful and accessible.
Meet them all: America's Most Inspiring Rabbis – Forward.com.