Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, Senior Rabbi
Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum serves as the spiritual leader of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah and is a human rights activist. Rabbi Kleinbaum was installed as CBST's first rabbi in September of 1992. She arrived at the height of the AIDS crisis when the synagogue was in desperate need of pastoral care and spiritual leadership. Rabbi Kleinbaum quickly achieved notoriety both inside and outside the synagogue by guiding the congregation through a period of loss and change while addressing social issues of the day and building a community that is strong, vibrant and deeply spiritual. Rabbi Kleinbaum cares equally about creating a community with profound spiritual depth and with passionate commitment to social justice activism. Under her leadership, CBST has become an important voice in Judaism, in the movement to secure basic civil rights for LGBT people everywhere and in the struggle to create a vibrant progressive religious voice challenging the religious right wing.
Rabbi Kleinbaum's social activism began as a young child supporting the rights of farm workers to organize, demanding the rights of girls in her hometown to wear pants to elementary school (she won) and protesting the Vietnam War. Her activism continued through her years at Frisch Yeshiva High School and into her years at Barnard College leading protests against the school's investments in South Africa and against the proliferation of nuclear weapons. That spirit has continued nonstop ever since. As a human rights advocate - for blacks, women, LGBT people, immigrants, and Palestinians - she has been jailed, arrested, vilified, and lauded, all with equal aplomb.
Rabbi Kleinbaum's education and experience cut across all varieties of contemporary Judaism: she was raised in a Conservative synagogue, is a graduate of the Orthodox Frisch Yeshiva High School, she worked at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, DC and is a graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. A lover of Yiddish, she also worked at the National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts. The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College awarded her their highest honor, the Keter Shem Tov Award, in June 2012.
"An unusual rabbi with a unique congregation; a gifted teacher, a natural leader."
Rabbi Alexander Schindler, z''l, Past President
The Union of American Hebrew Congregations
"Rabbi Kleinbaum is a national treasure."
Elizabeth Birch, Executive Director
Human Rights Campaign
A video profile of Rabbi Kleinbaum was featured on AOL.com in September 2012. Rabbi Kleinbaum gives an overview of CBST and some of the things she's done during her 20 years as rabbi of CBST. Check out the video here!
Watch a tribute video by filmmaker David Sigal to honor the 20th anniversary of Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum as the spiritual leader of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in New York.