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.
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.”
The Moment of Becoming
During the Israelites’ 40-year journey through the desert “it’s the moment of becoming: of potential, of life unfolding,” says Rabbi Samantha Natov. “Liminal space is where change happens. For us, perhaps this difficult time gives us an opportunity to contemplate how to create a new narrative. We can’t go back to where we were or who we were.”
“I am haunted by the moment when Esau learns of all that transpired behind his back,” says Rabbi Samantha Natov. “This cry of Esau is heartbreaking. Because it is not just his cry. It’s all of us who have been taken advantage of, or are not seen,” but Jewish history teaches us about resilience when we’re faced with inequality and injustice when we act as God’s partner in tikkun olam.
What Comes Next?
“When I think about this current historical moment and these two biblical narratives of destruction, the story of the Tower of Babel feels particularly relevant,” says Rabbi Samantha Natov. “So many in positions of power are spending their time aggressively building their own towers, only looking at others for what they can do for them. So what comes next?”
Happiness in the Time of COVID
“We are told that Sukkot is z’man simchateinu — the time of our joy. But in many ways, this does not feel like a joyful time… So how do we stay hopeful and maybe even find joy in this time?” Rabbi Samantha Natov investigates how our sources can shed light on finding joy, wholeness and a sense of wellbeing.
Choosing Our Path
“This Shabbat Shuva is named for the words of the prophet Hosea: ‘Return, O Israel, to Adonai your God,’” says Rabbi Samantha Natov. “Between last Yom Kippur and now, some of us have been spiritually asleep. Together, this year, may we find our inner path that aligns with our deepest truths.”
“We’d like to start fresh, but that is impossible,” says Rabbi Samantha Natov. “During these High Holy Days, we can learn from our mistakes and rebuild out of regret. Our regrets give us raw material to start with as we move towards a sense of wholeness.”
Bridging Past, Present and Future
“Today marks 19 years since 9/11 and, in ways, the pandemic has brought us closer to the memories of how we felt back in 2001,” says Rabbi Samantha Natov. “Above all, the Torah teaches that we are in partnership with God and God remembers us. May we use this time to forgive others, ask for forgiveness, and forgive ourselves.”
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.”