Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum: A Voice for Justice

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, her life partner Randi Weingarten and many Jews praying for justice for all.

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, her life partner Randi Weingarten and many Jews praying for justice for all.

I am extremely proud of my Rabbi, Sharon Kleinbaum. On Thursday night she, three other Rabbis and many other Jewish leaders joined in protesting the death of Eric Garner, and condemning a system of justice which needs to be fixed and fixed quickly. Lives depend on that. Rabbi Kleinbaum and the others were arrested. Yes, arrested for praying, saying the Mourners Kaddish and singing psalms for social justice. Rabbi Kleinbaum and her life partner Randi Weingarten had been at an awards dinner of the organization Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, where the Rabbi had received the prestigious Marshall T. Mayer Risk Taker Award.

At the ceremony, participants took turns reciting the names of black men killed by police. After each name was read aloud by an individual, all present said “I Am Responsible”. This is reminiscent of a prayer said during the High Holy Days when Jews call out the sins they had committed the previous. After the ceremony they joined a massive protest against injustice. At 96th Street and Broadway they sat in the street, sang songs and recited psalms and prayers. They recited the Kaddish which is the Hebrew prayer for those who have died.

Rabbi Kleinbaum has been the Senior Rabbi at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah for over twenty years. She has been one of the most prominent advocates for human rights and for social justice. As a lesbian, her strong advocacy goes way beyond her fight for LGBT rights. This past summer during the war in Gaza, Rabbi Kleinbaum spoke up sympathizing for the children killed in Gaza and for the lives lost in Israel. At a Shabbat service in August, she read the names of Gazan youth and Israeli youth who died during the conflict. She has condemned what she sees as discrimination against Palestinians living in Israel. She condemns Hamas and all terrorism. Her demonstration of sympathy for the civilians killed in Gaza drew extreme criticism from some other Rabbis, and even members of CBST. One Board member quit.

If all clergy, if all leaders, if all people were to be as sensitive to the life of each and every human being we would not have the senseless death of people we now have. As was stated above, Rabbi Kleinbaum and the others recited Kaddish, the prayer for the dead, during the protest.

This is the video of the protestors saying Kaddish.

Today is the Jewish Sabbath. I would like to suggest that all who read my columns recite the Kaddish today as we memorialize not only Eric Garner, Amadou Diallo, Eleanor Bumbers, Anthony Baez and others killed unjustly but also for those police officers who have been killed in the line of duty. All of us, Jew, Christian, Muslim, Hindi, Buddhist, non-believer, etc. will hopefully take a minute to view the video,

remember and mourn all who have died by violence.

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