When Rabbi Jill Jacobs, head of the rabbinic social justice group T’ruah, wanted to travel to Ferguson, Missouri to support protesters, she got in touch with Susan Talve.
Talve, 61, is rabbi and spiritual leader of Central Reform Congregation, located a few miles from Ferguson, in downtown St. Louis. Ever since the August death of black teenager Michael Brown, Talve has been the most visible Jewish religious presence in a movement led by local black youth.
A longtime activist on social justice issues, Talve was recognized as one of America’s Most Inspiring Rabbis by the Forward this year for her local work in St. Louis combating gun violence.
Talve has been a regular participant in the recent protests in Ferguson, but she describes her role as one of support rather than leadership. “I go pretty much every night,” she told Haaretz. “It’s young people protesting and clergy showing up to model nonviolence and to listen to what they have to say.”
Over the past several months, she and her colleagues have continued to put their bodies on the line. One day in October, after they tried and failed to get arrested at an action outside the Ferguson police station, the Forward reached Talve by phone as she rode to visit a group of jailed ministers. She described a young member of her synagogue who lives in Ferguson: “He just wants to go to school,” she said. “He also doesn’t want to be afraid that when he walks on the street at night, that he’s going to be provoked, profiled and harassed because of the color of his skin.”