Rabbi Steven Greenberg, JCRC Board Member
Rabbi Steven Greenberg received his B.A. in philosophy from Yeshiva University and his rabbinical ordination from Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. Since 1985 Steve has served as a senior educator for CLAL, a think tank, leadership training institute and resource center dedicated to building a Jewish life that is spiritually vibrant and engaged with the intellectual and ethical challenges of the wider world. Steve has conducted hundreds of leadership training programs for communal lay and professional leaders of Jewish Federations, synagogues and philanthropic institutions in over fifty cities in North America.
In 1993, while still in the closet, Rabbi Greenberg wrote a ground-breaking article entitled, Gayness and God: Wrestlings of a Gay Orthodox Rabbi, published in Tikkun Magazine. In response to this article, Greenberg received many supportive letters from Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews, gay and straight, and was encouraged to begin the outline of a more serious treatment of the issue.
As a master educator Greenberg was awarded a prestigious Jerusalem Fellowship and spent two years in Jerusalem (1996-98) studying educational policy issues and researching rabbinic attitudes toward homosexuality. Once settled in Jerusalem, Rabbi Greenberg founded a gay men’s study group, Moah Gavra. Through it, he met filmmaker/director Sandi Simcha DuBowski in the beginning of his efforts to create a documentary film about Orthodox gay Jews, and so began their collaboration. During this time also he served on the curriculum development team of KOLOT, a new organization that empowers Israeli economic, political, educational and cultural leaders to meet the challenges of contemporary Israeli society. As well, while in Jerusalem, Steve helped a group of Israeli gay activists realize a dream, the founding of the Jerusalem Open House, Jerusalem's first gay and lesbian community center advancing the cause of social tolerance in the Holy City. Amid these active involvements Rabbi Greenberg began writing, what would eventually become a book.
Upon his return to the US in March of 1999, Greenberg came out publicly as the first openly gay Orthodox rabbi. After coming out publicly Rabbi Greenberg appeared in the film, Trembling Before G-d, a documentary about gay and lesbian Orthodox Jews. Following the film’s release in October 2001 Steve joined the film maker, Sandi Simcha DuBowski, in an outreach project carrying the film across the globe as a tool for spiritual renewal, social change and community dialogue. The duo conducted over 500 post-screening community dialogues in the US, Canada, Israel, UK, Germany, Mexico and South America. Under the direction of Rabbi Greenberg and Tanya Zion, the outreach project conducted screenings and dialogues in Israel’s religious school system, reaching over 2,000 principals, educators and school counselors in Israel’s religious school system, opening up a conversation that had not been previously entertained.
In November, 2003, Dubowski and Greenberg partnered with therapist Naomi Mark to organize the first Orthodox Mental Health Conference on Homosexuality. The Conference brought together for the first time forty Orthodox therapists from all over North America to address the issues faced by gay and lesbian clients and their families.
Toward the end of 2003 Rabbi Greenberg finished his book, the product of his ten-year struggle to reconcile his two “wrestling” identities entitled, Wrestling with God and Men: Homosexuality in the Jewish Tradition (University of Wisconsin Press, February 2004). Employing traditional rabbinic resources, Greenberg presents readers with surprising biblical interpretations of the creation story, the love of David and Jonathan, the destruction of Sodom, and the condemnatory verses of Leviticus. Drawing on a wide array of religious texts, Greenberg introduces readers to occasions of same-sex love in Talmudic narratives, medieval Jewish poetry and prose, and traditional Jewish case law literature. In this compelling and groundbreaking work, Greenberg marks a path that is both responsible to human realities and deeply committed to God and Torah.
In January of 2004 CLAL created the CLAL Diversity Project to send CLAL’s message of diversity and tolerance into the community at large on the issues of gay and lesbian inclusion. Heading this project, Rabbi Greenberg will continue his work to open hearts and minds in regard to homosexuality and to engender dialogue and learning aimed at helping communities of all sorts become more vigorously inclusive. Wrestling with God and Men won the 2005 Koret Jewish Book Award for Philosophy and Thought and is being used by a wide audience of readers to explore the ways that an ancient wisdom tradition can meet the challenges of a new era. In 2007 Steve was in a new documentary on Christianity and Homosexuality entitled: For the Bible Tells me So. He serves as scholar in residence for two cutting edge organizations, Hazon, a Jewish Environmental organization, and Keshet, an organization dedicated to GLBT inclusion in the larger Jewish community.