Rabbi Samantha Natov
(She, her, hers)
Office: (212) 877-4050, ext. 244
Rabbi Samantha Natov grew up in Dundas, Ontario. She holds a bachelor’s from McGill University and a master’s in musicology and ethnomusicology from the University of Virginia. Following her time as a cantorial soloist in Toronto, Rabbi Natov came to New York to earn her degree in sacred music from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. After working as a cantor at congregations in New Jersey and Brooklyn, she decided to become a rabbi. Rabbi Natov was ordained by HUC-JIR in 2015 and joined Stephen Wise Free Synagogue a few months later in July 2015.
As associate rabbi at Stephen Wise, she oversees the congregation’s adult education programming and social justice work.
“Why do bad things happen to good people? Or good things to bad people?” asks Rabbi Samantha Natov. “Ultimately, we are born into circumstances that are not of our making. The Torah teaches that it is only through the grace of God that we experience good things.”
Our Words Matter
“I almost never make a promise. When I do, it’s only with absolute confidence that I can keep my word,” says Rabbi Samantha Natov, reflecting on this week’s parashah, in which Moses discusses the laws governing vows. “God said, ‘Let there be light…’ Words shape our world; may we weigh them with care.”
Who Is Left Out?
“The census in week’s parasha, Pinchas, is noteworthy because it mentions the names of people who would’ve been counted, but their actions disqualified them,” says Rabbi Samantha Natov. “Whom do we leave out of our stories? Whom do we name and then discount? Who is forgotten?”
“Sometimes things are right in front of us, but we don’t see them. It takes something to help us change our perspective,” says Rabbi Sam Natov. In this week’s Torah portion, an angel helps Balaam see what’s hidden from his view. “What personal ‘angel’ can we call upon for clarity, for honesty, for presence in the moment?”
Confronting Hate With Healing
“In the past days I have been hearing from people of all ages who are distraught at the barrage of ugly words written about Israel and Jews,” says Rabbi Samantha Natov. “How do we not collaborate with evil? By refusing to engage in a dialogue of hate. May we react as Moses did — not confronting hate with hate, but seeing it for what it is and working towards healing.”
Ready Or Not, Here I Come!
“Pressure to be perfect is not new. It’s biblical; it’s biblical. The priests and even their sacrifices had to be perfect,” says Rabbi Samantha Natov. With all that pressure, “there are aspects of ourselves we learn to tuck away. But sometimes we need to stop hiding — and be found.”
Living With Uncertainty
This week’s Torah portion deals with leprosy — “and the quest to understand why people became afflicted,” says Rabbi Sam Natov. “In the face of uncertainty, how can we gain a sense of control? But a much better question is: what will do now that we know that we can be struck at any moment — how will we live?”
Working On Ourselves
“What would you need to move forward from mitzrayim — which means ‘narrowness,’ and is our word for Egypt?” asks Rabbi Samantha Natov on this Shabbat and the last day of Passover. “Working on ourselves means we’ll be able to put our very best out into the world.”
As we live through Passover in a plague of our own, Rabbi Samantha Natov says: “I think it’s more important than ever to ask the theological and existential questions we often push to the backs of our minds — and open ourselves to the wonder we ignore. May this season offer you spiritual nourishment.”
“I think about moments in Jewish history of reemergence. The greatest of which is when the Israelites were freed from slavery,” says Rabbi Samantha Natov. Going from slavery to freedom is a process, so our ancestors “had to shift their perception in order to find true liberation. All we can do is put one foot in front of the other towards that which tugs at our heart.”
Recent Commentaries and Op-Eds
NY1: Why Two Women’s March Events This Weekend Have Caused a Rift
Jan 18, 2019
With concerns still growing over this year’s Women’s March, leaders within Women’s March Alliance are working to distance themselves from the national organization whose leaders have been accused of anti-Semitism. A local offshoot of the national organization is holding a competing event. “It’s really a shame because it stands in the way of so much unity between us,” said Rabbi Samantha Natov of the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, which held a meeting ahead of the march and where members of the Women’s March Alliance tried to ease fears about the march.
Associated Press: Schism leads to dueling women’s march events in NYC
Jan 18, 2019
Conflicts over control, inclusivity, and alleged anti-Semitism meant that women protesting on the second anniversary of the Women’s March on Washington were faced with competing demonstrations in New York City. Some Jewish groups pulled support for Women’s March Inc. and a Washington state chapter disbanded in protest. The leaders of the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue urged its members to take part in the uptown march, affiliated with Women’s March Alliance. Rabbi Samantha Natov said she still has problems with the Women’s March Inc.’s reaction to allegations of anti-Semitism: “The leadership has not assuaged our most serious concerns,” she said. This story was picked up by The New York Times and The Washington Post, among other outlets.
YNET (Hebrew): American holiday, Jewish values
Nov 23, 2018
YNET spoke to our Rabbi Samantha Natov about how Thanksgiving — a secular holiday — incorporates Jewish values, like tikkun olam, which our volunteers embraced at a Thanksgiving dinner for guests of our on-site Next Step Men’s Shelter.
Kveller: Thanksgiving Is Basically a Jewish Holiday. Here’s Why.
Nov 21, 2018
Our Rabbi Samantha Natov explains how Thanksgiving is profoundly Jewish for a secular holiday, incorporating central Jewish values. “Thanksgiving offers us a chance to replenish ourselves with a sense of gratitude, well-being, and connection. And this is at the heart of Jewish life and practice.”