Rabbi Fights Intolerance With Love

Lesbian Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum spreaded light this Hanukkah, not with a menorah, but with love.

The firebrand lesbian rabbi of New York City’s Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, the country’s largest LGBTQ synagogue, is bringing Jews and Muslims together to fight a rise in hate crime, which the F.B.I. reported has surged 6 percent in the U.S., particularly against Muslims. Kleinbaum said she is especially frightened over images of swastikas that have appeared on buildings and playgrounds throughout New York City, where she lives, since the presidential election in November.

“It’s absolutely horrifying, and that’s why we need each other more than ever,” Kleinbaum told NBC Out. “This is a global phenomenon we’re facing and as a religious person I need to join with those other religious groups who share my basic values of justice and God’s call to us to act in moral ways. And it goes across religious lines and it goes across countries.”

Under Kleinbaum’s leadership, the synagogue is combating the rise in hate crimes by uniting with the Islamic Society of New York University. In November, Kleinbaum and her clergy staff showed up to the group’s Friday prayer service to show their support.

“We handed out red roses, and we had signs [that said] ‘Jews stand with our Muslim neighbors,'” she said. Kleinbaum added that many in the prayer group shared their fears over President-elect Donald Trump’s proposals to create a Muslim registry and temporarily ban Muslim immigrants from entering the U.S.

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