Talve named one of nation’s ‘Most Inspiring Rabbis’

Rabbi Susan Talve of Central Reform Congregation was named one of the Jewish Daily Forward’s ‘Most Inspiring Rabbis.’ 

BY PATRICIA CORRIGAN, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

 No one was surprised last Friday when news leaked that the Jewish Daily Forward is naming Rabbi Susan Talve as one of America’s Most Inspiring Rabbis of 2014 – no one except perhaps Talve, the founding rabbi of Central Reform Congregation. 

“I had no idea I was even being considered,” said Talve, 60. “I was so honored, so humbled, when I saw the advance copy of the article. I am just grateful that I have a tradition, the Jewish tradition, that inspires me.”

This is the second year the publication has singled out rabbis in a project developed as “an affirmation that despite the worrying megatrends, our spiritual leaders are connecting with Jews and strengthening communities across America,” writes Jane Eisner, editor of the Forward. “It is a privilege to share their stories.”

The publication honored 28 rabbis, chosen from hundreds of nominations submitted by readers around the country. The rabbis range in age from 28 to 81 and work in “established synagogues and in new ones, in hospitals, universities and day schools.” One served in the military. 

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Over the years, Talve, who is married to Rabbi James Stone Goodman of Neve Shalom Congregation and is the mother of three grown children, has received many awards for work to make the world a better place, including the T’ruah Human Rights Hero Award in 2013.

“Susan has the ability to provide a venue for transformation where people can change their lives, learn how to walk the world in holy ways,” said Ken Goldman, president of CRC. “She is always increasing the size of the tent to make it a place for everybody, and asking all of us how we can transform how we look at the world around us.” 

On Monday, Talve also was asking how she came to be nominated for the honor from the Forward

“I think maybe my staff conspired to do this,” she said. 

That they did. Jennifer Bernstein, director of advocacy and communications at CRC,  approached Jennifer Fishering, assistant to the rabbis, with the idea, and the two put together a nomination. Here is an excerpt from their nomination letter: 

“On a recent Shabbat afternoon, in the shadow of disappointment surrounding the thwarted gun reform legislation, a group of concerned locals gathered on Red Bud Avenue, a street in St. Louis notorious for gun violence. They stood together by the middle school and the corner grocery and somberly named each of the 46 children who died from handguns on that very corner.

“They stood together with Rabbi Susan Talve. Having been there in the weeks prior, rallying for gun reform, she had come to be known affectionately by the neighbors as their ‘Jewish friend.’

“They marched, Rabbi Talve told me, arm-in-arm with the grocer, who is a Palestinian from East Jerusalem and opens his store up to the local kids as a safe haven from the violent streets just outside his door. They marched with the neighborhood minister, who was once a drug lord on Red Bud Avenue. They marched, during the count of the Omer, with Christians, Muslims and Jews, until they reached a lot that they are now turning into a community garden.”

There will be no time — nor would there be the inclination — for Talve to rest on any laurels. 

“At 7:45 tomorrow morning, I am protesting wages in front of McDonald’s, where the food workers are suffering. They work full time and still qualify for food stamps. That’s just wrong,” Talve said Monday. “Then, at 4 p.m., I will be at Clayton and Lindbergh, standing with other people who care about Medicaid expansion for the state of Missouri. And that’s just tomorrow.

“When you build relationships in a community, there are many social justice opportunities for all of us. When you know about these opportunities, you have to use your resources, show up and work for justice, to make it better. I am inspired by people who do that.”