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Rabbi Lauren Grabelle Herrmann

Lauren Grabelle Herrmann did not necessarily expect to become a rabbi when she was growing up in an assimilated Jewish home, with a strong sense of Jewish identity and history but little connection to ritual or spirituality. The Universe had other plans. When Lauren was in high school, she joined NFTY, a Reform Jewish youth movement, and discovered a sense of belonging and meaning that transformed the trajectory of her life. At 17, she decided to become a rabbi. A few years later, she discovered the Reconstructionist approach to Judaism and was deeply moved by its commitment to tradition, radical egalitarianism and inclusivity, and its embrace of both particularism and universalism. Every day, Rabbi Lauren marvels at sitting in the seat of Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, whose ideas have had a profound impact on American Judaism and whose positive formulation of Judaism in a modern world remains a model for us as we shape what the next generation of Judaism looks like.

Rabbi Lauren’s rabbinate has been driven by a desire to create inclusive Jewish communities of meaning, where a sense of belonging and community commitment is palpable. Rabbi Lauren joined as SAJ’s Rabbi in 2015 and set a vision for the next iteration of SAJ, to make SAJ a place where the values of Life-Long Learning, Tzedek (Justice), Kehilah (Community), Arts, and Spirituality flourish and impact those inside the tent of SAJ and beyond. Rabbi Lauren brings to SAJ her passion for Judaism and for justice and a firm belief that we cannot separate one from the other. Rabbi Lauren is a proud member of T’ruah: the Rabbinic call for Human Rights and Tirdof: New York Jewish Clergy for Justice, and JFREJ (Jews for Racial and Economic Justice.) 

Rabbi Lauren has participated several times in civil disobedience in support of immigrant rights and has organized successful community responses and prayer vigils in response to attacks on the Jewish community and our democracy. In 2017, Rabbi Lauren organized the “Yes to Love, No to Hate: Interfaith Solidarity, Hope and Action” in response to the white supremacist march in Charlottesville, VA that gathered more than 600 New Yorkers and brought together more than 70 sponsoring organizations. In 2020, Rabbi Lauren organized local clergy to stand with the men of the Lucerne, a group of houseless men who were staying in an Upper West Side hotel during the pandemic who were being targeted by Upper West Siders advocating for their removal from the neighborhood. In 2022, Rabbi Lauren led SAJ in a celebration of its Centennial year, bringing together the entire SAJ community, local and national politicians, and fellow clergy and religious institutions to celebrate SAJ’s 100 Years. Under her leadership, Rabbi Lauren partnered with Jewish Women’s Archive to create Rise Up/Bat Mitzvah at 100 to celebrate the first American bat mitzvah, which took place at SAJ in 1922. Rise Up Shabbat included a National Shabbat in which all major Jewish denominations participated, a social media educational campaign @JudithKaplan1922, a website which included educational materials and new liturgy, and a kickoff event that brought the first female Governor of New York, Kathy Hochul, among other noted rabbis and elected officials, to speak at SAJ. 

Before coming to SAJ, Rabbi Lauren was the founding rabbi of Kol Tzedek, a radically inclusive, justice-oriented synagogue in West Philadelphia. She was also a founding member and former co-chair of the Clergy Caucus of POWER (Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild). She graduated from The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 2006. She is a proud Alumna of JOIN, the Jewish Organizing Initiative and Network, the AJWS Global Justice Fellowship and Rabbis Without Borders.

Her sermons and writings have been published in several anthologies and on Ritualwell, and she recently wrote the chapter “Social Justice” in Warm and Welcoming: How the Jewish Community Can Become Truly Diverse and Inclusive in the 21st Century (2022). She was recently named one of the “Faith Power 100: New York’s Most Influential Religious Leaders” by City and State NY. In 2023, Rabbi Lauren was celebrated as a “Rabbinic Human Rights Hero” by T’ruah. 

Rabbi Lauren lives in NYC with her husband Jon and her children, Mint and Nadiv, and their poodle Blaze.

Follow @rabbilauren on Twitter or on Medium/@rabbilauren

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