The future rabbi, who has been reported by the New York City media as being openly gay, is an environmental lawyer by profession and has left behind his academic career in the United States to study toward rabbinical ordination in Israel. He will graduate alongside classmates who include a Catholic-born Brazilian and a British songwriter.
However, none of the graduating class has ever met in person. They have all studied via an online program led by Rabbi Steven Blane of the Jewish Spiritual Leaders Institute (JSLI).
Blane himself left his previous rabbinical position to pursue a more progressive mission.
“I don’t believe that Jewish people were uniquely chosen for a relationship with God – God doesn’t choose a favorite child,” the newspaper reported Blane as saying.
“Nearly 50 percent of the Jewish population finds deep significance in observing holiday and life-cycle rituals, but doesn’t feel like any traditional denomination reflects their views. There’s a huge need for rabbis who can provide spiritual leadership that serves this large and important group.”
In 2009, Blane resigned from the highly regarded Cantors Assembly when he was threatened with expulsion for officiating at interfaith weddings.
He now trains rabbis and runs an online synagogue, Sim Shalom, which holds services for a global congregation every week.