Avodah Presents: Speak Torah to Power

Speak Torah to Power is a transformational speaker series, in which top Jewish educators from around the country address the most pressing issues of our time to offer us the Jewish thinking most needed in today’s world. These talks are available below, with discussion guides to support your communities in exploring the connection between activism, service, spirituality, community, and Jewish wisdom in their own lives.

Click here to download a discussion guide.

“Creating New Narratives of Empathy”

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum tells the story of how it became an essential part of Muslim prayer in one community to be surrounded by the love of gay Jews, and how one straight Imam found himself as a featured speaker at New York’s GLBT Pride parade.

Resiliance Through the Practice of Lament

Racial justice activist and rabbinical student, Dr. Koach Frazier, speaks on spiritual resilience through the practice of lament and shows how to use it on our journey to liberation.

Justice In the City

Author, academic, and activist, Rabbi Aryeh Cohen, Ph.D, explores what we owe the economically vulnerable and/or marginalized members of our urban communities.

Breaking the Antisemitism Cycle Through Solidarity

Organizer and educator Dove Kent explores how learning historical stories of non-Jews risking themselves to care for vulnerable Jewish populations might help us to forge a future of solidarity between Jewish and non-Jewish communities today.

Intersectionality as a Jewish Practice

Activist and teacher Yavilah McCoy invites us to consider how experiences of inclusion and exclusion can shape our identities and worldview–and how building Jewish communities that honor these experiences and identities can help in the work of dismantling systems of oppression.

Radical Humanity: Inalienable Dignity and American Public Policy

Rabbi Rachel Timoner teaches the Torah that each life has infinite value, and explores the revolutionary implications of this value for our own Jewish practices, as well as for American public policy at large.

Speak Torah to Power Featured Speakers:

Rabbi Sharon Klainbaum

Sharon Kleinbaum has been Senior Rabbi of New York City’s Congregation Beth Simchat Torah (CBST) since 1992. Under her leadership, CBST has become an important voice in Judaism, in the world-wide discourse on the nature of religious community, and in the movement to secure basic civil rights for gay people everywhere. Rabbi Kleinbaum’s education and experience cut across all varieties of contemporary Judaism: Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, and secular activist. She received her ordination from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 1990. Raised in a family of social activists, Rabbi Kleinbaum’s own social action career began in college. She led protests against Barnard’s investments in South Africa and against the proliferation of nuclear weapons. As a human rights advocate – for blacks, women, gays and lesbians, immigrants – she has been jailed, arrested, vilified, and lauded. 

Koach Baruch Frazier, Au.D.

Koach Baruch Frazier, Au.D. is a healer and musician who is working towards the day everyone experiences liberation. He spent 14 years helping people reconnect with the world around them through better hearing and the last several years providing love and support through revolutionary listening and spiritual leadership, traveling the country facilitating healing and transformation through music and workshops at the intersection of antisemitism and antiblackness. He earned his undergraduate degree from Saint Louis University and his doctorate from Central Michigan University. Dr. Frazier has served on the boards of the Missouri GSA Network and Central Reform Congregation (CRC), where he was also a cantorial soloist and is a co-convenor of the Tzedek Lab. He currently lives in Philadelphia with his fiance, LaJuana, where he attends the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. Koach’s heart beats to the rhythm of tikvah, t’shuvah and tzedek.

Rabbi Aryeh Cohen, Ph.D.

Rabbi Aryeh Cohen, Ph.D. is Professor of Rabbinic Literature at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies of the American Jewish University, where he teaches courses in all things Talmud. He is also Rabbi in Residence for Bend the Arc: Jewish Action in Southern California, and a senior fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America. Additionally, Aryeh is on the editorial board of Tikkun Magazine. Aryeh received his PhD from Brandeis University and his rabbinic ordination from Ziegler. His academic work focuses on the intersection of Talmudic discussions and contemporary issues of justice. He has written two books, Justice in the City: An Argument from the Sources of Rabbinic Judaism (2012) and Rereading Talmud: Gender, Law, and the Poetics of Sugyot (1998). Over the past two years Aryeh has helped organize five major nonviolent direct actions which helped to pass California’s state sanctuary law (SB54) and moved the city of Los Angeles away from any involvement with immigration enforcement. He has been arrested five times for civil disobedience. Aryeh also writes topical essays on domestic social justice issues such as Islamophobia, racism and racial justice, immigration, housing and homelessness, as well as on Israel/Palestine.

Dove Kent

Dove Kent has over 15 years of experience in grassroots organizing, political education, and movement building. As the outgoing executive director of Jews for Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ), 2011 through 2016, Dove supported the organization to triple in size and win game-changing legislative victories for police accountability and worker’s rights through powerful local coalitions. Under Dove’s tenure, JFREJ grew into one of the strongest and most effective progressive Jewish organizations in the country, creating significant culture shifts within the Jewish community, New York and nationally. She has been published in What We Do Now: Standing Up for Your Values in Trump’s America (2017), Towards the “Other America”: Anti-racist Resources for White People Taking Action for Black Lives Matter (2015), Understanding Antisemitism: An Offering To Our Movement (2017), and in the Guardian, Ha’aretz, Tikkun, and the Forward, among many other media outlets. Dove teaches throughout the country and currently resides in Durham, North Carolina.

Yavilah McCoy

Yavilah McCoy is the CEO of DIMENSIONS Inc. in Boston.  She has spent the past 20 years working extensively in multi-faith communities and partnering specifically with the Jewish community to engage issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion.  Yavilah is an educator, activist, and spiritual teacher.  She is a Jewish woman and a person of color and has designed numerous tools and methods that enable students and educators to be better citizens of the world through exploring differences and reaching for tangible solutions in allied engagement.  Yavilah brings a wealth of wisdom and experience in DEI consulting, non-profit management, philanthropy and engagement to this project and has worked with numerous partners to build strong, healthy organizations with measurable commitments to racial justice, equity and anti-oppression strategies.  Yavilah is a certified trainer for ADL’s World of Difference Institute, National Conference for Community and Justice, and the National Coalition Building Institute. She is a certified coach for the Auburn Theological Seminary Pastoral Training program and is a renowned speaker, educator, and spiritual practitioner.  Yavilah is a pioneer of the Jewish diversity and equity movement and has been an activist and mentor for the empowerment of Jews of Color for most of her life. Yavilah looks forward to utilizing tools she has learned for enhancing the participation of people of color and their allies in broader movement circles to explore deeper opportunities within Jewish institutions for the engagement of Jews of Color.  In celebration of the musical traditions passed down to her from three generations of her African-American Jewish family, Yavilah is also the writer, producer and performer for the Jewish Gospel theatrical production “The Colors of Water.”

Rabbi Rachel Timoner

Rabbi Rachel Timoner is the Senior Rabbi Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope, Brooklyn and previously served as Associate Rabbi at Leo Baeck Temple in Los Angeles. She was born in Miami, Florida, received a B.A. from Yale University, and was ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. From 1991 to 2004 she worked with social justice non-profit organizations. She also served as a leader of Reform CA, a statewide movement of more than 120 rabbis and many lay leaders to serve as a powerful voice for social justice in California, winning protection for 1.5 million undocumented immigrants and more than a billion dollars in affordable housing.

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