Rabbi Tracy Kaplowitz
(She, her, hers)
Marilyn G. and Joseph B. Schwartz Israel Fellow
Office: (212) 877-4050, ext. 225
Rabbi Tracy J. Kaplowitz, Ph.D., is our inaugural Marilyn G. and Joseph B. Schwartz Israel Fellow. She came to Stephen Wise from JWB Jewish Chaplains Council, which ensures the quality of Jewish life for Jews in the U.S. military and the Veterans Administration. An experienced spiritual leader and educator, Rabbi Kaplowitz served as a reserve chaplain in the U.S. Air Force and on the professional staff of both the Schechter School of Long Island and the Jewish Education Project. She was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and earned her doctorate in the sociology of education from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Rabbi Kaplowitz is a member of both the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the Rabbinical Assembly.
Have you ever wondered why Jews were famously mercantile during the Middle Ages? Traders had difficulty communicating, explains Rabbi Tracy Kaplowitz, but Jews “have always maintained a facility in Hebrew.” Amid modern challenges to the idea of Jewish peoplehood, she argues we must rediscover — and teach the next generation — the ways we are all “bound to our God, to our Torah, to Israel and to one another.”
Distress, Uncertainty and Hope in Israel
Rabbi Tracy Kaplowitz reflects on her week in Israel at the head of a delegation of nine early-career rabbis during the war with Hamas. Her time there included meeting with Israelis experiencing distress and uncertainty. But there was also hope…
The Art of Transmission
Walking through Amsterdam’s cobblestone streets and looking up at its majestic buildings, “all senses are awakened to the history and memory surrounding you,” says Rabbi Tracy Kaplowitz. But what could Moses, in the absence of such material marvels, she wonders, leave as a legacy to our people? She finds her answer in an art exhibit in The Hague…
The First Diaspora
The diaspora began before the Israelites even set foot in the Promised Land, says Rabbi Tracy Kaplowitz, and they contended with some of the same Israel-diaspora issues we face today. “May our role as diaspora Jews committed to and seeking a strong future for the Jewish people be blessed by God and world Jewry alike.”
Reclaiming The Menorah
Welcoming elite officers from the Israel National Defense College, Rabbi Tracy Kaplowitz explains that the version of the menorah we all know is a Roman adaptation. Why then did the founders of Israel choose that reminder of our degradation as the symbol of our independence and sovereignty? “By reclaiming the menorah, Israel embraces her past and the many ways the diaspora and exile have shaped the Jewish people.”
The Amplify Israel Fellowship
Stephen Wise Free Synagogue’s Rabbi Tracy Kaplowitz, Ph.D., announces the Amplify Israel Rabbinic Fellowship, a highly selective yearlong professional development program for early-career Reform rabbis to provide the tools and resources to incorporate Israel and Jewish peoplehood more fully into their practice. This fellowship is made possible by the Lisa and Michael Leffell Foundation, the Maimonides Fund, and the Paul E. Singer Foundation. Learn more at rabbinicfellowship.com
“You can tell when a holiday is important based on the build up to it,” says Rabbi Tracy Kaplowitz, discussing the purification rituals traditionally performed on this Sabbath of the Cow. “As we begin our preparations for Passover, I pray that in Israel they are preparing as well and using the lessons of the red heifer — and 75 years of precedent — to guide them.”
The Jewish Peoplehood Perspective
In this week’s parashah, Jacob and Joseph leave the next generation “a roadmap for the establishment of the Jewish people,” says Rabbi Tracy Kaplowitz. “We learn that at no point in our long history were the Israelites homogenous.” Our diversity is a point of pride, she says, and our peoplehood a source of power.
Pundits, Prophets and Peoplehood
Israel went to the polls this week, and it’s very possible the new government will include ministers “who preach intolerance and hatred,” says Rabbi Tracy Kaplowitz. But no matter how we feel about the results, we don’t receive permission to abandon Israel. “If we don’t believe our bond is unbreakable, we risk forgoing our part in the continuity of our people.”
Diaspora-Israel Relations on Tisha b’Av
“The Second Temple’s destruction also marked the end of over 600 years of positive diaspora-Israel relations,” says Rabbi Tracy Kaplowitz on the Shabbat before Tisha b’Av. “It is important that we take this moment to reflect on our engagement with Israel because with rising antisemitism, the Jewish whisper has returned.”
Recent Commentaries and Op-Eds
Jewish Currents: (Opinion) Reform Judaism Needs an Identity Beyond Israel
May 30, 2023
A major conference proposes to “re-charge” the movement by strengthening ties to the Jewish state, neglecting an opportunity to develop its unique religious vision, writes retired Rabbi David Regenspan in an opinion piece for Jewish Currents ahead of the Re-CHARGING Reform Judaism conference to be hosted at Stephen Wise Free Synagogue May 31–June 1, 2023.
Hadassah Magazine: Celebrating the Miracle of Israel
May 1, 2023
Shortly after Yom Ha’atzmaut, Rabbi Tracy Kaplowitz marvels at the modern miracle of Israel for reviving Jewish peoplehood and providing a safe haven for Jews worldwide while also urging action to bridge the recent divides between Israel and North American Jewry.