Sharon Kleinbaum

b. 1959

by JWA Staff
Our work to expand the Encyclopedia is ongoing. We are providing this brief biography for Sharon Kleinbaum until we are able to commission a full entry.

Rabbi and activist Sharon Kleinbaum.

Sharon Kleinbaum’s longtime leadership of New York’s Congregation Beth Simchat Torah (CBST) and her outspoken activism have made her a powerful voice for LGBTQ rights and human rights in the United States and around the world. Kleinbaum’s activism began in college, protesting for divestment against South Africa. Ordained as a Reconstructionist rabbi in 1990, Kleinbaum became senior rabbi of CBST, the largest gay and lesbian synagogue in the country, in 1992 at the peak of the AIDS epidemic. Speaking out for the rights of gays and lesbians, immigrants, Palestinians, women, and people of color, Kleinbaum was repeatedly arrested and jailed for her beliefs, but she was also hailed by the Huffington Post, Newsweek, the Forward, and the Jewish Week in their annual lists of the most influential rabbis in the country. She was part of Mayor Bloomberg’s Commission on LGBTQ Runaway and Homeless Youth, the NYPD’s LGBT Advisory Committee, and Mayor de Blasio’s Transition Committee and serves on the New York City Commission of Human Rights. When New York ruled in favor of gay marriage, Kleinbaum set up just across the street from the courthouse to offer couples the chance for a religious marriage ceremony. In 2020 she co-founded the New York Jewish Agenda, on whose board she serves, and she is a member of the Legacy Society of the New Israel Fund. Kleinbaum has served twice on the United States Commission of International Religious Freedom, from 2019 to 2020 and August 2021 to May 2023. On December 16, 2022, she announced that she would step down from her position as CBST’s senior rabbi on July 31, 2024, after over 30 years of leadership.  


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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Sharon Kleinbaum." (Viewed on February 29, 2024) <>.