Sharon Brous: On honors and journeys
There’s been a lot of press about Rabbi Sharon Brous lately, since she became the first woman to crack the top 5 on the Newsweek America’s Top 50 Rabbis list. Of course, this wasn’t the first recognition of Brous for her work building IKAR, a vital and exciting Jewish community in Los Angeles; she’s already been recognized by the Forward, Jewish Women International, the Jewish Community Foundation of LA, and others, who herald her as a leader in reimagining Jewish life for the 21st century.
Next month she’ll be honored by Auburn Theological Seminary at their annual Lives of Commitment Breakfast, which recognizes the contributions of women of different faiths and generations as leaders who “trouble the waters and heal the world.” (JWA’s own Gail Twersky Reimer was an honoree last year.)
While all honors are nice, of course, this one seems particularly fitting for Brous because the mission of Auburn is so closely aligned with Brous’ own vision: that religion and spirituality can be powerful catalysts for creating a new world, that they serve to shake us out of our complacency and help us connect our lives to a larger pursuit of justice and dignity for all people. The Lives of Commitment Breakfast honors women for their specific accomplishments, but emphasizes their work building communities, thereby pointing out that the most important accomplishments are the ones that change the world by creating partnerships and bringing others into the collective work of justice.
In an interview about the holiday of Passover and the role of ritual in Jewish life, Sharon Brous reflected: “So much of Jewish ritual and Jewish life is about putting the brakes on, so that we don’t let one day roll into another day roll into a year roll into a decade and all of a sudden say where did my life go? But actually creating signposts along the way, where we can say a week has ended, let me reflect on the past week and think about the coming week; a month has ended, who do I want to be in the month that comes? Another year has gone by. Who am I?”
At their best, awards can do the same, in the most positive way. Being honored is an opportunity to celebrate one’s success, of course, and also a chance to stop and reflect on where one is going next, who are the best partners for the journey, what it means to live a life of commitment. Rabbi Brous has inspired many with her message that it is always possible to move toward greater freedom, from fear to empathy, from despair to hope, and that, in fact, we have a responsibility to move in this direction. We at the Jewish Women’s Archive join with Auburn Theological Seminary, Sharon, and her fellow impressive honorees on this journey, imagining and working toward a better world.