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Rabbi of New York City LGBTQ synagogue to rejoin US religious freedom commission

Biden picks Sharon Kleinbaum, long-time leader of Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, for panel that works advance international freedom of belief

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of Congregation Beth Simchat Torah joined others at a 2016 press conference condemning the appearance of Smith & Wesson's CEO at a conference. (Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images/JTA)
Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of Congregation Beth Simchat Torah joined others at a 2016 press conference condemning the appearance of Smith & Wesson's CEO at a conference. (Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images/JTA)

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, who has led New York City’s Congregation Beth Simchat Torah since 1992, is one of US President Joe Biden’s choices to join the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Kleinbaum has served previously on the commission, which monitors religious freedom abroad, according to the Biden administration’s announcement Friday.

Biden also announced the appointment of Khizr Khan, who rose to prominence as a moral voice after his son, a US Army captain, was killed in Iraq.

Kleinbaum is known for her advocacy on behalf of LGBTQ and human rights, including in Israel.

Her support for the liberal pro-Israel lobby J Street led to a right-wing political action committee running an ad last year that called her an “antisemite,” drawing condemnation from the Anti-Defamation League and others.

Praise for Kleinbaum poured in after the announcement, including from New York City politicians and from her wife, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.

The development came after the White House on Friday announced its appointment of Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt to serve as US Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.

Lipstadt was a favorite for the role, and pressure had mounted on the Biden administration to fill the position amid an uptick in antisemitic incidents in recent months.

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