Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb is no stranger to controversy. Dubbed the “Radical Rabbi” by some who view her peace work with Iran and Palestine to be anti-Israel, she most recently made headlines in the Jewish community when President Obama included her on his six hundred-strong list of rabbis who had signed on to support his campaign.
As one of the first ten women to become a rabbi and the first woman ordained as a rabbi in the Jewish Renewal Movement, she has long been an advocate for Jewish feminism. In 1974 she founded a Jewish feminist theater troupe called Bat Kol (literally, “daughter of a voice”), and in 1995 authored the book She Who Dwells Within: A Feminist Vision of a Renewed Judaism.
Rabbi Lynn is a committed peace activist who grounds her life in nonviolence. Her nonviolence, however, is anything but passive. Rabbi Lynn’s beliefs in interfaith and inter-nation dialogue run so deep that she led a Fellowship of Reconciliation delegation to Iran in 2008. She serves on the advisory board and rabbinical council of Jewish Voice for Peace, and founded the Jewish order Shomer Shalom, a peace-walking order whose disciples, like Rabbi Lynn, are committed to living a life of nonviolence.
Last week we shared with you an interview with Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield, who is co-leading a “Peace in the Middle East” silent Peace Walk in New York this Saturday that calls special attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As a representative of both Jewish and nonviolent activism, Rabbi Lynn is the perfect voice to illustrate the interfaith spirit running through the walk. Below, she speaks with Tricycle’s Emma Varvaloucas about what she calls the “Torah of nonviolence,” her views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and what leading a life of nonviolence really means.
You have a long history of peace walking all over the country for various issues, even eventually founding a Jewish order, Shomer Shalom, based on peace walking. How did you get your start? I’ve been a nonviolent activist all of my life, since the age of 21. But my teacher in peace walking specifically is the Myohoji Buddhist order, led by Nichidatsu Fuji. They are very involved in walks that give witness to the impact of the nuclear industry on Japan. Other teachers of mine are Rabbi Everett Gendler, who walked and sat in jail with Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rabbi Michael Robinson, who was a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. The first peace walk I participated in was the million-person march in New York City in 1981, when the United Nations was holding a conference on disarmament.
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