Rabbi Richard Jacobs

Last year, Rabbi Eric Yoffie announced that after 16 years as the leader of the Union of Reform Judaism, he would retire. The white smoke has risen above their offices, and a new leader has been nominated. It is Rabbi Richard Jacobs.

Jacobs has led the Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale NY for two decades and is its Senior Rabbi. A board member of the New Israel Fund, the UJA Federation of NY, and the American Jewish World Service, Jacobs used to be a choreographer and dancer with the Avodah Dance Ensemble. He is also studying for a Ph.D. in ritual dance at New York University (most likely Jewish ritual dance).

As an ABD Doctor of Dance, I therefore assume Rabbi Jacobs is a leader who knows about physical movement. Jacobs sort of said, “Synagogues cannot wait for people to walk [or twirl?] into their buildings. The synagogue has to walk [or dance?] into the public square and engage [or waltz with?] people, particularly Jews in their 20s and 30s. People still crave and need a deep sense of community.”

Rabbi Jacobs was key member of an AJWS delegation to Haiti, assessing the impact of their grants and exploring future opportunities. Ruth Messinger, president of American Jewish World Service, said he is “a powerhouse — strong, calm, committed and effective…. He has been a powerful voice on international social and economic justice within the Reform Movement and the larger American Jewish community.” Rabbi Jacobs has studied for two decades at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, and currently is a senior rabbinic fellow at the Institute. The Union of Reform Judaism consists of over 900 synagogues in Jewish communities in North America, the Caribbean, and points elsewhere.

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  • How is it possible that you fail to mention all of Jacobs’ accomplishments? Like that one time, when he was in Jerusalem and spent his Friday afternoon at the Sheikh Jarah protest? He is also a member of the J Street Rabbinic Cabinet. His pronouncements on the situation in the Middle East are decidedly critical of Israel. He reflects a one sided view wherein all that’s wrong can be blamed on Israel and that Israel alone has the means to achieve peace and simply refuses to do what it takes. This view totally ignores the Palestinian and Arab role in the narrative. I’ve been a member of my Reform congregation for over 2 decades. I don’t ever recall voting for Rabbi Jacobs.