28 Men and Women Who Move Us

In the year since the Forward published the first profiles of America’s Most Inspiring Rabbis, the road signs along the path of Jewish continuity have grown more menacing. The Pew Research Center’s survey of American Jews codified what many feared: A shrinking number of Jews belong to synagogues, care about religious life and identify strongly with the larger Jewish community. The rabbinate as a whole continues to struggle, as synagogues close or merge and expectations of clergy grow too exaggerated to fulfill.

That’s why I love this project. It is a powerful, authentic antidote to the troubling signs, an affirmation that despite the worrying mega-trends, our spiritual leaders are connecting with Jews and strengthening communities across America.

This year we received hundreds of nominations from readers everywhere. After a careful process of reading, sifting, tabulating and fact-checking, we chose 28 men and women whose stories are most telling and compelling. These rabbis range in age from 28 to 81 years old, encompassing all major denominations and then some; they work in established synagogues and in new ones; in hospitals, universities and day schools, and one served in the military.

Forward staffers were prohibited from offering nominations, but two of our writers had their own inspiring story to tell. Their sidebars are included here, along with a profile written by one of last year’s most inspiring rabbis.

A few themes emerged from the mass of submissions: Readers seemed to be especially moved by rabbis who taught them about spirituality and meditation, who reached out to interfaith couples and led them through painful moments — the birth of a stillborn child, the death of a parent, the death of a marriage.

We see in these leaders not just men and women who care about Judaism — they care about Jews. It is a privilege to share their stories.

— Jane Eisner

These excerpts from nominating letters have been edited for style and length.

Rabbi Jeffrey Arnowitz Congregation Beth El Virginia Rabbi Rena Arshinoff Toronto Western Hospital — University Health Network Ontario Rabbi Olivier BenHaim Bet Alef Meditative Synagogue Washington Rabbi E. Daniel Danson Mt. Sinai Congregation Wisconsin Rabbi Ted Falcon Works with Interfaith Amigos, Paths to Awakening and Blakeley Wellness Center Washington Rabbi Aviva Fellman Oceanside Jewish Center New York Rabbi Jeremy Fine Temple of Aaron Minnesota Rabbi Eliyahu Fink Pacific Jewish Center California Rabbi Adam Greenwald American Jewish University California Rabbi Naftali Harcsztark SAR Academy High School New York Rabbi Herschel Hartz Inwood Jews New York Rabbi Rachel Isaacs Beth Israel Congregation; Colby College Maine Rabbi Benzion Klatzko Shabbat.com New York Rabbi Jamie Korngold Adventure Rabbi: Synagogue Without Walls Colorado Rabbi Benay Lappe Svara (Yeshiva) Illinois Rabbi Michael Adam Latz Shir Tikvah Congregation Minnesota Rabbi Yael Levy Mishkan Shalom Synagogue Pennsylvania Rabbi Andrea London Beth Emet The Free Synagogue Illinois Rabbi Moshe Moskowitz Brown University MEOR Rhode Island Rabbi Fred Natkin Congregation Mateh Chaim Florida Rabbi Jesse Olitzky Jacksonville Jewish Center Florida Rabbi Debra Orenstein Congregation B’nai Israel New Jersey Rabbi Peter J. Rubinstein Central Synagogue New York Rabbi David Segal Aspen Jewish Congregation Colorado Rabbi Marc Soloway Congregation Bonai Shalom Colorado Rabbi Susan Talve Central Reform Congregation Missouri Rabbi Elie Weinstock Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun New York Rabbi Harold S. White Interfaith Families Project D.C.

The Jewish Daily 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 Jewish Daily Forwardrequires 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. 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 Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.