Steven Blane

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Rabbi Steven Blane
Position Spiritual leader
Synagogue Sim Shalom Synagogue
Position Dean
Organisation Jewish Spiritual Leaders Institute
Began 2010
Other Cantor, Congregation Beth Israel of Northern Valley, Bergenfield, New Jersey
Personal details
Birth name Steven Blane
Born Jersey City, New Jersey
Nationality American
Denomination Jewish Universalism[1]
Residence Manhattan
Alma mater Jersey City State College
Semicha Rabbinical Seminary International

Steven Blane is an American Universalist rabbi and cantor who conducts all his teaching and pastoral work online. He is the founder and dean of the Jewish Spiritual Leaders Institute, an online, one-year rabbinical school, and founder and spiritual leader of Sim Shalom Synagogue, an interactive Universalist cyber-synagogue that offers live weeknight and Shabbat synagogue services to an international community via computer hookup.


Blane was raised in a Orthodox family in Jersey City, New Jersey. He attended elementary and junior high school at the Yeshiva of Hudson County and had an Orthodox bar mitzvah. He attended the Rogosin Yeshiva High School run by the Lubavitch movement in Jersey City. He earned a B.A. in music education from Jersey City State College.[1][2]

After graduation he worked as an actor and singer on and off-Broadway. He wrote and produced Benjamin Poe, a 1981 off-off-Broadway musical thriller.[2][3] He also produced audiobooks for the Scholastic Corporation.[1]

At age 30 Blane undertook private studies to become a cantor and was accepted into the Cantors Assembly, the association of Conservative cantors.[1] From 1994 to 1998 he served as the cantor of the First Hebrew Congregation of Peekskill, New York, a Conservative congregation, and also served as that congregation's spiritual leader from 1997 to 1998. In 1996 he was the cantor of Temple Beth Haverim of Mahwah, New Jersey, a Reform congregation. From 1999 to 2006 he was the cantor of Congregation Beth Israel of Northern Valley, Bergenfield, New Jersey, a Conservative congregation. From 2006 to 2009 he officiated as rabbi and cantor at Congregation Beth Tikvah/New Milford Jewish Center.[2]

Blane received his rabbinic ordination in June 2001 from Rabbi Joseph Gelberman of the Rabbinical Seminary International in New York City.[2] He chose this trans-denominational seminary for its short ordination time (two years) as opposed to five years at the Reform Hebrew Union College and four years at the nondenominational Academy for Jewish Religion. His experience pursuing his ordination influenced his development of the Jewish Spiritual Leaders Institute, whose graduates are "not necessarily trying to minister to mainstream communities ... [and] are not likely to be accepted by much of the organized Jewish world, either".[1] Blane is also a member of the non-denominational International Federation of Rabbis.[2]

Jewish Spiritual Leaders Institute[edit]

Blane founded the Jewish Spiritual Leaders Institute in New York City in 2010.[4] The one-year rabbinical school is student-driven, with Blane serving as moderator for student online chats.[4] Blane conducts a once-weekly, 2-hour videoconferencing session which teaches "traditional davening and praying"[4] followed by student-led discussions on subjects such as Jewish law, holidays, or festivals. Each student also prepares a weekly D’var Torah (talk on a topic in the weekly Torah portion).[1] Rabbinical candidates are required to participate in online chats and submit "a 2,000-word research paper in a Jewish area of their choice".[5] Students meet each other in person for the first time at their ordination.[1]

In line with his belief in Jewish Universalism and religious pluralism, Blane actively courts students from Jewish and non-Jewish backgrounds. "I don't believe that Jewish people were uniquely chosen for a relationship with God – God doesn't choose a favorite child", he is quoted as saying.[6] He believes that converts in particular are able to establish an affinity with the estimated 50% of Jews who are unaffiliated or intermarried. One-third of his rabbinical school students are converts. In 2012 Blane ordained an openly gay man born to a Muslim father and African American mother, and a former Catholic from Brazil.[6][7]

As of December 2012, Blane has ordained a total of 35 rabbis.[5] Graduates of the school are not recognized by the Conservative Rabbinical Assembly or the Reform Central Conference of American Rabbis; however, they do conduct their own weddings, funerals, and High Holy Day services.[5]

Sim Shalom Online Synagogue[edit]

Blane is also the founder and dean of Sim Shalom Synagogue, an interactive Universalist cyber-synagogue, which offers live weeknight and Sabbath synagogue services to an international community via computer hookup.[4][6]

The liturgy of the synagogue is fully participatory in that everything is viewable on the computer screen of the worshiper.[8] The Synagogue's siddurim (prayerbooks) and prayers are transliterated into English.[4] The Sim Shalom Synagogue is a USA not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation.[4]


Blane has expressed repugnance for the traditional brit milah (ritual circumcision) ceremony, and instead advocates the brit shalom, a non-invasive naming ceremony for Jewish male infants.[9]

Blane is listed as the officiating rabbi at various types of wedding ceremonies, including interfaith weddings between Jews and Christians.[10][11]


Blane had previously lived in Haworth, New Jersey and lives with his wife and children in Manhattan.[1] He plays piano and guitar.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Palmer, Joanne (24 August 2012). "A new way to become a rabbi?: Former local cantor Steven Blane opens controversial one-year online seminary". Jewish Standard. Retrieved 11 April 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "New York, NY: Premium Member". Retrieved 16 April 2013. 
  3. ^ "Off-Off Broadway". New York 14 (22): 73. 1 June 1981. Retrieved 16 April 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Lipowsky, Josh (31 August 2012). "School is back in session". Jewish Standard. Retrieved 16 April 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c Nathan-Kazis, Josh (7 December 2012). "Online-Ordained Rabbis Grab Pulpits: With Money Tight, Some Congregations Avoid Seminary Grads". The Forward. Retrieved 11 April 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c "NYC: Ex-Muslim to be ordained as rabbi". Ynetnews. 7 July 2012. Retrieved 11 April 2013. 
  7. ^ "Muslim-born American to be ordained as rabbi in New York". Al Arabiya. 7 July 2012. Retrieved 11 April 2013. 
  8. ^ The Radio Rabbi, 13th November 2011
  9. ^ "Progressive Rabbis On Creating A Jewish Covenant Without Circumcision". Intact News. 27 January 2012. Retrieved 16 April 2013. 
  10. ^ Weddings/Celebrations (July 15, 2011). "Melissa Wilder, Alexander Levine". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 April 2013. 
  11. ^ Weddings/Celebrations. "Sarah Seltzer, Craig Blackburn". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 April 2013. 

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