Sharon Brous founded IKAR (essence), a community blending innovative spirituality and strong social justice values to reengage disaffected Jews. Brous graduated from Columbia in 1995 before earning both ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary and a master’s degree in human rights from Columbia in 2001. The first student to enroll in Columbia’s program to study human rights through a religious lens, she wrote her thesis on applying Jewish ideas of forgiveness to international problems. She was a rabbinic fellow at Congregation B’nai Jeshrun in New York City after her ordination and co-founded IKAR upon her move to Los Angeles in 2004. Since then, Brous has regularly been honored as one of the Forward 50 and Newsweek/The Daily Beast’s 50 most influential rabbis, becoming the youngest rabbi to earn the top slot on The Daily Beast’s list in 2013. Earlier that year, she had offered a prayer at President Obama’s Inaugural National Prayer Service. She did the same for President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in 2021 and, alongside Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, presided over the White House Seder that year. A charismatic speaker, she serves on the faculty of the think tank REBOOT and of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, as well as the international council of the New Israel Fund and the rabbinic advisory council of the American Jewish World Service. Brous has contributed to several books: The Women’s Torah Commentary (2000), The Modern Jewish Girl’s Guide to Guilt (2005), and A Dream of Zion (2007). She was also a member of the inaugural class of Auburn Seminary Senior Fellows in 2015. In 2016 IKAR joined six other experimental Jewish communities across the country to form the Jewish Emergent Network. In that same year, Brous gave a TED Talk called “Reclaiming Religion,” which garnered over a million views. In 2022 she was featured in the Holy Sparks Exhibition at the Dr. Bernard Heller Museum in New York City, which celebrated 50 years of women in the rabbinate by pairing pioneering rabbis with Jewish women artists. Photographer Penny Wolin created a piece inspired by Brous.
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Jewish Women's Archive. "Sharon Brous." (Viewed on December 5, 2023) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/brous-sharon>.