America’s Most Inspiring Rabbis of 2016

An Inside Look

JOIN for Justice was proud to learn that six alumni of our clergy training programs were listed in The Jewish Daily Forward’s list of 32 of America’s Most Inspiring Rabbis of 2016. The six alumni are: Rabbi Noah Zvi Farkas, Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt, Rabbi Avram Mlotek, Rabbi Rachel Bregman, Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, and Rabbi Justin Goldstein.

We reached out to our alumni to ask: How did your trainings and learning with JOIN’s Seminary Leadership Project and other JOIN clergy programs impact the inspiring work you’re doing as a rabbi? We’re excited to share several of their answers below. Click on their names to learn more about their work!

lauren holtzblattRabbi Lauren Holtzblatt: “I have loved being a part of the JOIN rabbinic cohort. Jeannie and Meir have helped me think and act on power differently, cultivate and support lay leaders and pay attention to where I spend the most time. This year has been critical for my development as a rabbi.”

From The Forward: “Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt is one of the most important and inspiring reasons why Adas Israel has evolved in so many positive, meaningful ways over the past several years…Rabbi Lauren isn’t just about doing. She is also very much about being. She is so able to access and share her knowledge of Jewish and secular life and thought — in one-on-one discussions, committee meetings and services for hundreds people.”

farkasRabbi Noah Zvi Farkas: “JOIN for Justice is the organization that is uniquely situated for the Jewish landscape of the 21st Century.  Contemporary Jews want to know that their Judaism has immediate relevancy to them and to the world of around them.  JOIN takes a bottom-up approach placing stories of real people and their experiences at the center of changing the world for the better. JOIN’s training enabled me to have a greater impact in my rabbinate by creating partnerships with my community members to make lasting social change. All of Judaism is relational by nature.  The very idea of covenant means to be in an accountable relationship.  JOIN for Justice taught how to activate the covenant we have with each others as Jews to lift each other up, lean into our own power, and change the world for better.  I could not be the effective rabbi and activist today without JOIN’s training and mentorship. I can draw a straight line from JOIN’s training and programs to our work to end homelessness. Through story telling, relational conversations, and analyzing political power, JOIN gave me and my congregation the skills to leverage billions of dollars to fight homelessness in California.”

From The Forward: “In 2013, Rabbi Farkas gave a High Holiday sermon asking us to look around our community and take stock of the overwhelming number of homeless people living on the streets in southern California… Through his inspiring, loving and humanistic approach to life, Rabbi Farkas has made a difference in the lives of his congregants by helping us understand that we improve our own circumstances by reaching out to the world around us.”

RachaelBregmanRabbi Rachael Bregman: “I learned many powerful skills through JOIN like relationship building, finding and naming the shared narrative of a community and leadership cultivation. These days I am most drawn to multifaith work and creating relationships among people of different faiths but one home. We have so many shared values and concerns and we are so much more powerful together.”

From The Forward: “When Rabbi Rachael came, the synagogue became alive with people and ruach…Her services are inspiring and her Torah study on Shabbat mornings is spiritual and fun..She is truly a rabbi ‘of the people.’…She has created a community where only a shadow of one existed before. She’s a rabbinic delight. She embodies what an inspirational clergy person should be.”

Justin GoldsteinRabbi Justin Goldstein: “I first participated in the Seminary Leadership Program as a rabbinical student around 2007. At the time, I had imagined pursuing  a rabbinical career as an organizer or, at the very least, in non-profit work; little did I know that I would one day be serving as a pulpit rabbi. Having had a good grounding in cause-based activism and organizing for many years prior to entering rabbinical school or JOIN’s program, learning specifically about Congregational Broad Based Organizing through JOIN was an exciting experience that has since provided incredible value for my rabbinate beyond what I could understand at the time. Even when not necessarily pursuing justice in the greater community, I find myself utilizing the theories and principles of broad based organizing in building community in my synagogue – in finding common ground and connection points with my congregants and helping others find common ground with one another. The JOIN for Justice training I participated in years ago has proven to be invaluable in influencing both my congregational and political organizing. Further, it has influenced how I relate to others in a very significant manner. I do not mean it lightly when I say that this training was completely transformative in many ways.”

From The Forward: “For the first time in my life, and in the nine years of my Jewish professional life, I find myself yearning to go to shul. Rabbi Justin has figured out how to encourage Jewish learning in a way that is relevant and important, while also being accessible for the ‘lay learner.’…Our shul is stronger, the greater Jewish community is stronger and my personal Jewish identity is stronger — all because of Rabbi Justin.”



Photo Sources (in order): Adas IsraelValley Beth ShalomTemple Beth TefillohBeth Israel Congregation


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