The newly elected leader of the Reconstructionist movement’s rabbinic association will be the first openly gay man to lead a national rabbinic association in the U.S.
Rabbi Jason Klein, a Hillel rabbi at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, was elected to lead the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association at the group’s annual meeting taking place this week in New Orleans.
According to the RRA, none of the national rabbinic associations of the other major Jewish denominations in the United States hasever been led by a gay man.
Reconstructionist and Reform seminaries have ordained gay rabbis for decades. The Conservative movement began to allow openly gay rabbis to attend their seminaries in 2006. Orthodox seminaries and rabbinic associations continue to bar gay rabbis.
The Reconstructionist movement is the smallest and newest of the non-Orthodox movements in the United States. Its ideas, however, have been particularly influential, and graduates of its seminary, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Seminary, fill a wide range of positions throughout the Jewish community.
Klein’s new role as president of the RRA is a board position. The group also has a staff executive director, Rabbi Richard Hirsh.
The selection of Klein comes at a turbulent moment for the Reconstructionist movement. Rabbi Dan Ehrenkrantz, the president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, announced in February that he would be resigning his position. Ehrenkrantz recently spearheaded a merger of the Reconstructionist movement’s synagogue association with the RRC. That combined organization will be searching for a new leader in the coming months.
Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.