Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, who mourned Hamas terrorists and supports BDS, uses her pulpit to bash Israel.
By Pesach Benson, United With Israel
President Joe Biden appointed progressive Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, raising protests from American Jews.
Critics, including her own congregants, accuse Kleinbaum of abusing her pulpit at New York’s Beit Simchat Torah (CBST), the world’s largest LGBTQ congregation, to repeatedly demonize Israel.
Appointments to the bipartisan commission are made by the White House and Congress. Kleinbaum was originally tapped for the commission in 2019, but stepped aside during the Covid pandemic to prioritize the needs of CBST’s 1,000 members.
At services in 2014, during Operation Protective Edge, Kleinbaum read a list of Palestinian and Israeli casualties, including the names of Hamas terrorists, for special prayers. That prompted a number of members to quit CBST.
In 2011, Kleinbaum drew Jewish ire for her involvement in a Queers Against Israeli Apartheid event. Critics said her involvement “provided a fig leaf for Arab homphobia” and that her views didn’t represent gay Jews.
During that controversy, Michael Lucas, a Jewish columnist for a gay monthly magazine, said that Kleinbaum “bashes Israel all the time, making people get up and leave services. It’s not that she’s just anti-Israeli, it’s that she’s not neutral, as she should be. She is very vocal in her hatred towards Israel.”
On Twitter, Kleinbaum has shown support for Omar Shakir, a Human Rights Watch worker who was deported from Israel for supporting BDS and anti-Semitic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minn) as well as Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory, whose anti-Israel views overshadowed the January 2017 Women’s March that they co-chaired.
Kleinbaum is also a board member of the New Israel Fund, which funds non-governmental organizations that demonize Israel.
Kleinbaum is the spouse of American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, who has also stoked controversy. In April, she said American Jews were part of an “ownership class” in the United States who want to take opportunities away from others. Haaretz recently described Kleinbaum and Weingarten as a “liberal power couple.”
Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, slammed Kleinbaum’s appointment.
“Kleinbaum’s promotion of anti-Israel libels conjured up by anti-Israel NGOs makes Kleinbaum an especially unsuitable, dangerous choice for the U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom. We believe that it is likely that Kleinbaum will also rely on libels regarding religious worship promoted by anti-Israel NGOs when formulating the U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom’s recommendations and annual reports.”
He added, “Kleinbaum’s views on Israel also make her completely unsuitable to fulfill the Commission’s obligations to make recommendations about Palestinian Arabs’ and various Muslim majority countries’ violations of Jewish religious freedom to ‘assemble for peaceful religious activities such as worship, preaching and prayer.’”
Rabbi Yaakov Menken, managing director of the Coalition for Jewish Values, leveled separate criticisms of Kleinbaum. “A person’s sexual preferences should be a private matter, and certainly irrelevant to prayer. Kleinbaum, by contrast, leads a congregation that insists ‘LGBTQ’ is a matter of identity,” he told Fox News.
“At a time when religious people are persecuted worldwide for their personal, sincere beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman, and gender is permanent, biological, and determined at conception, placing Kleinbaum on a commission devoted to ensuring religious freedom sends precisely the wrong message and could hardly be more counter-productive,” he said.
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