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Gay rabbi gets second chance to be US adviser on religious freedom

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Published: 13 August 2021

Last updated: 4 March 2024

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum says she can’t wait to get started on her new job, balancing the new role with her day job running the world’s largest LGBTQ Jewish congregation

FOR RABBI SHARON Kleinbaum, the announcement of her appointment to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom represented a second chance to do the job she reluctantly walked away from more than a year ago.

The Biden White House announced last week that she had been named to the panel responsible for monitoring and reporting on religious freedom overseas. Back in December 2019, Kleinbaum had been “very excited” when she was named to the bipartisan commission – whose members are selected by both the president and Congress – by Senator Chuck Schumer.

But soon afterward, the coronavirus hit and Kleinbaum, the longtime spiritual leader of New York’s Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST) – the world’s largest LGBTQ synagogue – knew her focus needed to change.

“I immediately felt like I just couldn’t responsibly fulfil my duties to the commission,” she recalled. “As the lockdown began, we watched the terrible conditions here in New York City and we had many, many people in my congregation get sick. … I had to prioritise taking care of my congregation and helping us navigate through it.

"So I spoke to Senator Schumer and reluctantly said that I just didn’t feel I could continue. It was sad for me to step down, but I felt like we had no choice, really. We were in such a crisis.”

FULL STORY Why Biden tapped a pioneering queer rabbi to advise him on religious freedom (Haaretz)

Photo: Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum (Moti Milrod)

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