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Rabbi Lynne Landsberg, z"l

 Lynne Landsberg Headshot

Rabbi Lynne F. Landsberg z"l was the associate director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism from 1988-96 and later served as its senior advisor on disability issues. She also served as regional director for the Union for Reform Judaism’s Mid Atlantic Region (1996-99). 

Rabbi Landsberg co-founded and co-chaired the Jewish Disability Network, a coalition of national Jewish movements and organizations advocating for the civil and human rights of people with disabilities; founded and co-chaired the Central Conference of American Rabbis’ (CCAR) Committee on Disability Awareness and Inclusion; and served on the steering committee of the Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition, a coalition of representatives from national denominations and faith groups (Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and more).

She also co-founded and co-chaired and Hineinu: Jewish Community for People of All Abilities, an historic and innovative collaboration of the Orthodox, Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist Movements, as well as Chabad. Disability professionals from each stream share resources, support and direction in order to increase the inclusion of people with disabilities in synagogues and the Jewish community at large.

Rabbi Landsberg was a survivor of a Traumatic Brain Injury, the result of an auto accident in January 1999. She spoke across the country at synagogues, churches, and interfaith programs and secular events advocating for the civil and human rights of people with disabilities to ensure all have equal access to religious and civic life.

She received her Masters of Theological Studies (MTS-1976) from Harvard Divinity School and was a graduate of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, ordained in 1981. She served as associate rabbi of Central Synagogue in New York City (1981-84) and then as rabbi of Temple House of Israel in Staunton, VA, and Beth El Congregation in Harrisonburg, VA, before coming to Washington, D.C. 

Starting at the Religious Action Center in Washington, D.C. in the fall of 1988, she assumed leadership roles in interreligious affairs and in Black-Jewish relations. She served as the vice-chair for the Interfaith Coalition on Justice and Peace, a coalition of national religious bodies influencing public policy, and served on the board of directors and was a national spokesperson for the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, an interreligious organization dedicated to safeguarding the constitutional guarantee for reproductive freedom. 

Rabbi Landsberg was director of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (now URJ)'s Commission on Interreligious Affairs and served on the board of directors of the U.S. Interreligious Committee for Peace in the Middle East. She traveled with the committee’s leadership to the capitals of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Israel.

Rabbi Landsberg was the 2009 recipient of the Rabbi Martin Katzenstein Award given by the Harvard Divinity School (HDS) Alumni/ae Association to an HDS graduate who “exhibits a passionate and helpful interest in the lives of other people, an informed and realistic faithfulness, an embodiment of the idea that love is not so much a feeling as a way of acting, and a reliable sense of humor." She was the 2012 recipient of the Jewish Foundation of Group Homes S. Robert Cohen award and the 2015 inaugural recipient of the Thornburgh Family Award from the Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition, a program of the American Association of People with Disabilities. The Thornburgh Family Award recognizes a religious leader who exemplifies the spirit of the ADA as demonstrated by former US Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and former AAPD Interfaith Program Director Ginny Thornburgh and their efforts to expand opportunities for people with disabilities. 

Rabbi Landsberg is featured in Amazing Gifts: Stories of Faith, Disability and Inclusion by Mark I. Pinsky as well as Managing Brain Injury: A Guide to Living Well with Brain Injury edited by Michael Yochelson, M.D. and Penny Wolfe, Ph.D. With with Shelly Christensen, she co-authored “Judaism and Disability: R’fuat Hanefesh—The Healing of Our Souls, Individual and Communal,” in Judaism and Health: A Handbook of Practical, Professional and Scholarly Resources (Jewish Lights). 

Rabbi Landsberg, who died in February 2018, leaves behind her husband, Dennis Ward, and their son, Jesse L. Ward. To learn more about Rabbi Landsberg's lasting impact, read Rabbi Daniel G. Zemel's eulogy for her and this tribut by one of her many mentees from the Religious Action Center