I want to share with you this exciting report from an historic meeting that was held today at City Hall. It was a watershed moment for NYJA. We brought together 55 women rabbis and cantors, representing all the major denominations; all five boroughs; Jews of Color and LGBTQ+ Jews for what we believe was the first-ever, and certainly the largest ever meeting of Jewish women clergy with the Mayor of New York City.
NYJA organized the meeting, which was reported in this morning’s NY Jewish Week before it happened. Rabbi Rachel Timoner and Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, NYJA Board Members and Co-Founders and I worked hard to pull it all together with a few days’ notice. Rachel and Sharon took to heart the opportunity provided by the Mayor’s Office to invite “all” the women rabbis of New York, so that is exactly what they did, and 55 rabbis and cantors accepted the invitation! NYJA Board Chair Nancy Kaufman and I also attended the meeting, along with a number of the Mayor’s top advisers.
Women Rabbis and Cantors are the Faces of the Jews of NYC
At today’s meeting, we made the point that the women rabbis and cantors attending today are the faces of the Jews of New York City, who share common values and priorities, and represent the pluralistic and diverse Jewish community of New York that constitutes the majority of Jews in the City. The rabbis and cantors attending represent tens of thousands of New Yorkers — the city’s largest and most well-known congregations. Thirty-eight (38) percent of Jewish New Yorkers identify as Orthodox, while a majority, 62%, do not. The Mayor and women rabbis and cantors who attended the meeting agreed that it is essential to work together to address the many problems facing the City in an inclusive and humane way.
Mayor Adams Listened Intently to our Community Voices
The Mayor spent close to an hour listening intently to representative voices from the group. They included, in addition to Rabbis Kleinbaum and Timoner, NYJA Leaders Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, Rabbi Ayelet Cohen, Rabbi Stephani Kolin, and Rabbi Felicia Sol; as well as Rabba Wendy Amsellem, Rabbi Rachel Goldenberg, Rabbi Margo Hughes-Robinson, and Rabbi Lauren Grabelle Herrmann. We raised a series of issues with the Mayor, including preventing antisemitism and other forms of hate violence; climate change and clean energy, closing Rikers and criminal justice reform, mental health care and abortion access, and affordable housing for all New Yorkers.
Women Clergy Held Joint Press Conference with the Mayor
Following the meeting, the women clergy held a joint press conference with the Mayor in the City Hall Rotunda. Mayor Adams stood with all 55 women rabbis and cantors and fielded questions.
Summarizing the meeting, NYJA Board Member and Co-Founder Rabbi Rachel Timoner, who serves as the Senior Rabbi at Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn, said, “We were able to bring our concerns which are about making sure that the Adams Administration and the City of New York recognizes the full diversity and pluralism of the Jewish community, said Added Timoner, “This is the face of Jewish leadership in New York City.”
“We are here to . . . give voice to the vast majority of New York [Jews] who are not ultra-Orthodox,” said NYJA Co-Founder and Board Member Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, who also serves as Senior Rabbi at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in Manhattan. “We want to work with the entire Jewish community, but we want the vision of what a Jewish leader is in New York to be expanded to include these faces. This is critical to our going forward as a city,” added Kleinbaum.
See this Twitter post by JTA’s Jacob Henry for a video clip from the meeting. At the press conference the Mayor said, “These women leaders are fielding the concerns of their constituency. So in the spirit of Tikkun Olam, we are coming together to repair our world.”
New York City Mayor Eric Adams
Mayor Adams said that progressive and Orthodox Jews in New York share similar concerns. “There may be different ways in accomplishing that, but we all want to get to the same destination.”
“This is the face of Jewish leadership in New York City”
Rabbi Timoner said that this is the largest and first ever meeting of women rabbis and cantors with a mayor of NYC.
Jewish people are “a diverse and pluralistic community”
Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum said the Jewish people of NYC include LGBTQ people, converted Jewish people, Jews of color and other groups.
View More Photos From The Event
Below are a few additional photos from the event. It has taken a lot of work to get to this point where NYJA is looked to by New York leaders as the bridge to the pluralistic and diverse Jewish community of New York. You all have helped us to get here one way or another, and by bringing together such a powerful group of Jewish community leaders, we took a big step across that bridge today. This meeting is only the beginning.
All Photos by NYJA Leader Gili Getz.