Shmuly Yanklowitz

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Rabbi Shmuly

Shmuly Yanklowitz (also known as Rav Shmuly), born on June 29, 1981, is a modern Orthodox Rabbi, activist, educator, author, motivational speaker, social entrepreneur, the Executive Director of Valley Beit Midrash[1] the founder and president of Uri L'Tzedek, the Orthodox Jewish social justice organization,[2] and the founder and CEO of The Shamayim V'Aretz Institute.[3] In March 2012 and in March 2013,[4] Newsweek called Yanklowitz one of the most influential rabbis in America.[5]

Educational and professional background[edit]

Yanklowitz was ordained as a rabbi at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and he received a second rabbinic ordination from Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the chief rabbi of Efrat, and a third rabbinic ordination from Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo of Jerusalem. As an undergraduate, he studied business and communications at the University of Texas at Austin. He earned a master's degree at Harvard University in Leadership and Psychology, and a second master's degree in Jewish Philosophy at Yeshiva University. Yanklowitz earned his Doctorate in Moral Development and Epistemology at Columbia University and has taught at UCLA Law School and Barnard College.

Yanklowitz worked in corporate and non-profit consulting and was the Director of Panim JAM in Washington D.C. training others in leadership and advocacy. While in rabbinical school, Yanklowitz served at four different Orthodox congregations in Montreal, Canada; Norwich, CT; Newton, MA; and Boca Raton, FL and was a Wexner Graduate Fellow. Following his rabbinic ordination at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, Yanklowitz served as Senior Jewish Educator and Director of Jewish Life at UCLA Hillel from 2010 to 2012.[6] While in Los Angeles, he also taught a Senior Honors Talmud class at Shalhevet High School in 2011[7] From August 2012 to May 2013, Yanklowitz served as the Senior Rabbi of Kehilath Israel Synagogue in Overland Park, Kansas. In July 2013,Yanklowitz became Executive Director of Valley Beit Midrash, a "collaborative organization that brings new, exciting, and relevant Jewish programming to the Greater Phoenix Jewish community in a diverse, welcoming, engaging, and pluralistic setting."[8][9] Yanklowitz, through the Valley Beit Midrash, leads the Start Me Up Fellowship, an incubator that trains and funds Jewish social entrepreneurs to launch innovative social ventures.[10] Yanklowitz also founded the Jewish Leadership Corps.[11]


Yanklowitz founded Uri L'Tzedek, the Orthodox social justice movement, in the spring of 2007 and serves as the President. Uri L’Tzedek has been featured in the Slingshot Guide for five consecutive years (2009-2013) honouring the top 50 most innovative Jewish non-profits recognized for innovation, impact, strong leadership, and organizational effectiveness.[12] He is also the Founder and CEO of the Shamayim V'Aretz Institute, a spiritual activist center, where he promotes animal welfare and Jewish veganism. Yanklowitz has been a global activist volunteering, teaching, and staffing missions in countries such as Haiti, Thailand, Israel, Ghana, India, France, El Salvador, Guatemala, Britain, Senegal, Germany, Switzerland, Argentina, South Africa, and Ukraine.

In 2010, Yanklowitz flew to Haiti after the earthquake to sing with refugees[13] and has since been an advocate for greater transparency in disaster relief work.[14] In 2012,[15] Yanklowitz co-founded “Jews for Human Rights in Syria[16]” and he led petitions,[17] wrote national op-eds,[18] and was interviewed on the humanitarian crisis.[19]

Yanklowitz is vegan and promotes veganism because of his personal belief that there is cruelty involved in slaughtering animals for human consumption. He has been a public opponent of the kapporos ritual.[20]


In 2008, the Jewish Week recognized Yanklowitz as one of "36 under 36" (one of 36 of the most influential Jewish leaders under the age of 36) and in 2009 he was recognized as a top 5 finalist Jewish Community Hero.[21] Yanklowitz serves as a rabbinic representative at the World Economic Forum[22] in Davos, Switzerland.[23] Yanklowitz has become a regular at the annual White House Chanukah party.[24] In March 2012 and in March 2013,[25] Newsweek called Yanklowitz one of the most influential rabbis in America.[26]

Emmy Award Nominee Actress Mayim Bialik wrote about Yanklowitz: "This guy is like me times 100: he has a hand in everything, he is a social justice crusader, an observant vegan, a young hip well-dressed down-to-earth Modern Orthodox rabbi and teacher with connections in so many areas; he is a really brilliant and inspiring guy."[27]


A film crew followed Yanklowitz for over a year to produce a PBS documentary named The Calling about the training of religious leadership, which aired nationally in December 2010.[28] "The Calling" is a four-hour documentary series that follows seven Muslims, Catholics, Evangelical Christians, and Jews as they train to become professional clergy.[29] Yanklowitz is followed through his activism, rabbinic studies, travel, and personal faith journeys.[30] Yanklowitz has been involved with interfaith work, written on issues of pluralism[31] and been an advocate for religious epistemic pluralism[32] arguing that religious communities must evolve from tolerance to pluralism.[33]


Yanklowitz uses his columns the "Social Justice Rav" in the Jewish Journal[34] and "Street Torah" in the Jewish Week[35] to educate others on different issues of social justice. He also blogs at the Times of Israel,[36] the Huffington Post,[37] and the Jewish Press.[38] Yanklowitz has also written for the Wall Street Journal,[39] the New York Times [40] the Washington Post,[41] the Forward,[42] the JTA,[43] Sh'ma,[44] Haaretz,[45] and many others. Many of his articles relate to the prison system in America,[46] animal welfare,[47] religion in the public sphere,[48] health issues,[49] and issues in the Jewish community.[50]

Yanklowitz has argued that the primary purpose of the Torah is social justice. Jewish law is the vehicle for cultivating the ethical personality with the aim of social progress that improves society and the world. He demonstrates that each law, tradition, ritual and theology has the ultimate aim of fostering a more just and equitable society. He has also been a strong advocate for "Open Orthodoxy" [51] and for Epistemic Pluralism.[52] Yanklowitz has been a consistent voice for labor rights,[53] immigrant rights,[54] and prison reform.[55] In April 2012, Yanklowitz emerged as an ally of those of LGBT orientation,[56] and in December 2013, Yanklowitz argued five points for his support of gay marriage.[57] In November 2014, Yanklowitz called for more inclusiveness for those pursuing conversion to Judaism.[58]

Brandeis History Professor Jonathan Sarna wrote: "Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz’s name has become synonymous with the call for ethical renewal and social justice within the American Jewish community. A modern Orthodox rabbi, he fuses ancient teachings with progressive sensibilities."[59]

Published Books[edit]

Yanklowitz has written six books.

  • Jewish Ethics & Social Justice. Derusha Publishing LLC, 2012.
  • Epistemic Development in Talmud Study. ProQuest LLC, 2013.
  • The Soul of Jewish Social Justice. URIM Publishing LLC, 2014.
  • Spiritual Courage: Vignettes on Jewish Leadership for the 21st Century. Indie Publishing LLC, 2014.
  • Bringing Heaven Down To Earth: Jewish Ethics for an Evolving and Complex World. Indie Publishing LLC, 2014.
  • Soul Searching: A Jewish Workbook for Spiritual Exploration and Growth”. Indie Publishing LLC, 2014.
  • ’’SPARKS! Bringing Light Back to the World”. Indie Publishing LLC, 2014.

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