Rabbi Rick Jacobs

Rabbi Rick Jacobs

Inside Leadership
Photo of the late Rabbi Rachel Cowan with blond hair and bangs and her head cocked to the right side smiling at the camera

Rabbi Rachel Cowan, who died last week, was a spiritual master, a practitioner and teacher of contemplative Judaism, and my friend – and I cannot imagine contemporary Jewish life without her.

Her radiant soul awakened untold holiness, goodness, and justice in this world. Her loving and transformational teachings inspired countless individuals and will live on within us always. What a blessing that she forever changed our Jewish world for the better.

Synagogue transformation began with Rachel. By introducing Ron Wolfson and Rabbi Larry Hoffman and then, as director of Jewish...

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Campers sit on a bench with their arms around one another and their backs to the camera as they sit in a circle with camp in the background

Earlier this summer, I met your future synagogue president. I met your future congregational rabbi. I met your future Jewish educator, cantor, and youth professional. They were all there in the kahal (congregation) at URJ Kutz Camp, the flagship summer experience for Reform Jewish teens worldwide who are seeking deep learning, purposeful skill-building, and leadership development.

Kutz is the place where your teens are reimagining Jewish life in real time. They experiment, test, process the results, sometimes fail, and try again. And the groundbreaking programming this teen...

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Israeli flag image from Reuters

It’s impossible to pick up a Jewish newspaper without reading endless stories about the growing distance between Diaspora Jewry and the Jewish state. Yes, policies of the rightwing Israeli government are at odds with the core Jewish identities of a decidedly liberal North American Jewish community.

This is not hyperbolic rhetoric.

Real issues divide the world’s two largest Jewish communities: religious pluralism, preserving Israel’s Jewish democratic core and working toward two states for two peoples.

And yet, two weeks ago, at the Union for Reform Judaism’s North...

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Rabbi Rick Jacobs and Rabbi Aaron Panken, z"l

This past weekend, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), the Reform Movement’s seminary, announced that President Rabbi Aaron D. Panken, Ph.D., age 53, died tragically in the crash of a small plane he was piloting on Saturday, May 5. He served as the 12th president in HUC-JIR’s 143-year history. What follows is the eulogy Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, delivered at Rabbi Panken’s funeral earlier this week.

I first met Aaron Panken at HUC-JIR in the late 80s when I interviewed him to be my rabbinic intern at the Brooklyn Heights...

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Rabbi Rick Jacobs at Kotel

A week ago, we celebrated the extraordinary miracle of the modern state of Israel, 70 years young. But, now that the celebration is over, we must return to the hard work of resolving what appears to be intractable: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

I’m not naïve; we clearly are not close to a two-state solution. But, this is clear: There can be no legitimate Jewish state that is not a democracy. A one-state solution that would deny Palestinians any claim to sovereignty would result in the abandonment of either the Jewish or the democratic essence of modern Israel. I couldn’t...

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