Our Search for America's Most Inspiring Rabbis

Image: Union for Reform Judaism

Two weeks ago, when the Forward launched its special editorial project America’s Most Inspiring Rabbis, we had no idea what to expect. We asked people of all ages, denominations and backgrounds to nominate a rabbi who has inspired them or who had a profound effect on their lives or in their communities. But would readers respond? Would they take the time to write 200 words about a rabbi? Would we receive stories from a cross-section of American Jews — and would those stories move us? The answer to all of these questions is a resounding YES!

America’s Most Inspiring Rabbis marks the first phase of our year-long investigation into the challenges and changing roles of the American rabbinate. Editor-in-Chief Jane Eisner launched this initiative in a recent editorial, in which she addressed the effect our stalled economy has had on job opportunities for both young and old rabbis, as well as the difficulties women face breaking into the all-male Orthodox world — and the difficulties the Reform movement faces attracting men to its synagogues. As she concluded, “defining and sustaining the role of the modern rabbi is one of the most vital challenges before the American Jewish community today.”

After two short weeks, we have received an overwhelming number of responses from Jews across America. We have heard moving stories about rabbis from every denomination doing important work in Venice, Calif., Greensboro, N.C., Swampscott, Mass., Kansas City and New York City. We heard about people moving to new places and discovering thriving Jewish communities they never knew existed. We heard stories of remarkable strength — of a rabbi reaching out across denominational lines to help a woman say Kaddish for her mother when no one else in her Jewish community would. We heard stories about family, education, kindness and religious teaching.

If you have not yet shared your story with the Forward, we hope you will take a few moments to do so. Click here to nominate your rabbi by February 28, 2013. We will publish the most compelling submissions next month as part of our larger look at the 21st century American rabbinate. In the meantime, enjoy these moving excerpts from some of the submissions we’ve received thus far.

Making a difference during Hurricane Sandy:

Offering guidance in times of need:

Making a difference, one person at a time:

Teaching the next generation:

Opening arms to new Jewish communities:

Have you been deeply inspired by a rabbi? Click here to share your story with the Forward.

Written by

Abigail Jones

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Our Search for America's Most Inspiring Rabbis

Thank you!

This article has been sent!