a Jewish presence in the City of St. Louis
Rabbi Susan Talve is the founding rabbi of Central Reform Congregation, the only Jewish congregation located within the City limits of St. Louis. When other congregations were leaving the city for the suburbs, Rabbi Talve joined with a small group to keep a vibrant presence in the city to be on the front line of fighting the racism and poverty plaguing the urban center. Today she performs life cycle events, leads worship services for the seven hundred fifty plus households that comprise the congregation, and is actively involved in the teaching of young and adult members. She also teaches courses on Jewish life and thought and in both the Jewish and non-Jewish communities.
Rabbi Talve has led her congregation in promoting radical inclusivity by developing ongoing relationships with African-American and Muslim congregations, and by fostering civil liberties for the LGBTQ community. Today CRC serves as a home to generations of LGBTQ families and to many Jews of color of all ages. She has performed same gender marriages since she arrived in St. Louis in 1981 and was on the first Marriage Equality bus to Iowa where she married her first legal couple and has since had the privilege of marrying more LGB& T couples than she can count! The core value of radical hospitality has made CRC a safe home for many individuals and groups that have been marginalized, including the opportunity to serve as a site for and support the ordination of Roman Catholic Womenpriests in 2007. As part of a committed pro-choice congregation, Rabbi Talve continues to stand on the front line of abortion and reproductive rights issues.
Access to quality affordable health care has always been a passion for Rabbi Talve. In 2007 she became a founding member and president of Missouri Health Care for All, a statewide grassroots advocacy organization that is building a strong coalition for groups and individuals working to bring health care access to all Missourians. Rabbi Talve attributes her success to the relationships she has built by showing up, from street corners where violent crime has taken lives to rallies for worker’s rights, gun control and access to health care to the bedside of the suffering regardless of religion or membership in her community.
Rabbi Talve was ordained by Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati in 1981, where she earned a Master’s Degree in Hebrew Letters and a Doctor of Divinity. She was honored with the college’s Stephen Levinson Award for Community Service after founding the Jewish Early Learning Cooperative, Ohio’s first licensed infant childcare program in the workplace. She was the first non-Christian to receive an honorary Doctorate from Eden Theological Seminary in 2011 for a career of visionary and bold leadership and supporting interfaith relations in the St. Louis community. She has received many awards for her efforts on behalf of the Jewish and non- Jewish communities.
She and husband, Rabbi James Stone Goodman of Neve Shalom Congregation, are proud parents of three wonderful adults.
Rabbi Randy Fleisher was born in the Chicago area and attended the University of Wisconsin for his undergraduate studies. In the years before he entered rabbinical school, Rabbi Fleisher worked for a citizen's action group in Washington, D.C., taught environmental education to inner-city children in Connecticut, and was the Associate Director of Camp Thunderbird in the north woods of Minnesota. At Hebrew Union College in New York City, Rabbi Fleisher directed the seminary's meal program for the homeless and for two years served as the student rabbi in Hickory, North Carolina.
Ordained in 2000, Rabbi Fleisher came to St. Louis to be the Assistant Rabbi at Central Reform Congregation where he takes on a variety of roles in that diverse, social justice minded, and spiritually vibrant urban congregation. Named Associate Rabbi in 2004, Rabbi Fleisher works alongside one of his rabbinic mentors, CRC’s founding rabbi, Susan Talve, and he is known to accompany his services with a guitar slung over his shoulders. “Rabbi Randy” as he is commonly known, is proud to officiate at same-gender and interfaith weddings and he also often co-officiates ceremonies with clergy of traditions other than Judaism.
He is also quite involved in the greater community, most notably with the Central West End Holy Ground Collaborative, a neighborhood-based interfaith and multi-racial grassroots organization working for urban justice and renewal. Rabbi Randy is the past chair of the Jewish Environmental Initiative and serves as the current Vice-President of Cultural Leadership, an organization bringing together teenagers of different racial and cultural backgrounds. He also serves on the Boards of Directors of Habitat for Humanity, M-SLICE (Metro St. Louis Coalition for Inclusion and Equity), and the Jewish Fund for Human Needs. He has served previous terms on boards for the Urban League, Lift for Life Charter School, and Doorways (housing for AIDS patients). With Rabbi James Stone Goodman, Rabbi Fleisher organizes the annual Heschel/King event. In 2005, Rabbi Fleisher was recognized by the Coro Leadership Center with an ‘Emerging Leader’ award, and in 2012 by St. Louis University for “Upholding the Life and Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.”
Rabbi Fleisher, his wife Amy, and their two children (Zoey Sky and Gabriel Shine) live in University City.
Rabbi Ed Harris has been involved with Central Reform Congregation since its inception. In 1984 Rabbi Harris and his wife Deborah, together with the vision and inspiration of 29 other families, founded Central Reform Congregation. As CRC’s second president, Rabbi Harris helped to guide the congregation in its early years and has served the congregation since that time. In the role of Hazzan, he provided liturgical leadership and Jewish music to this growing community, a position he holds to this day.
Rabbi Harris earned a Ph.D. from Washington University in 1976, and has worked as a psychologist in private practice for over 30 years. He offers individual, group, and couples psychotherapy, trains and supervises therapists, and consults with family businesses.
As Central Reform Congregation grew, so did Rabbi Harris' responsibilities. He continued to lead services, teach, and offer spiritual counseling to CRC members and, through this work, saw the healing potential of integrating the wisdom of Judaism with the practice of contemporary psychology. This led him to formal Jewish study.
Rabbi Harris was ordained as a Rabbinic Pastor through ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal in 2006, and continued his studies toward full rabbinic smicha (ordination) which he received in 2008 from Rabbis Susan Talve and Randy Fleisher of Central Reform Congregation and Rabbi James Goodman of Congregation Neve Shalom.
Rabbi Harris leads services and conducts life-cycle events, leads a monthly grief support group, teaches Torah study and the 9th grade “Politics and Peacemaking” class, and also teaches courses and workshops in CRC’s adult education program. His articles, “God, Buber, and the Practice of Gestalt Therapy” and “Working with Forgiveness in Gestalt Therapy,” reflect his ongoing interest in the integration of psychotherapy and Jewish spiritual practices. Rabbi Harris is Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Saint Louis University Medical School, and serves on the Ethics Committee for the Alliance for Jewish Renewal.
Rabbi Harris and his wife Deborah are the parents of Nick (married to Emily), Jacob (married to Hilary) and Eliana and the proud grandparents of Ava Rose.
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