Every year, T’ruah honors several leaders for their commitment to and activism in advancing human rights. Our 2020 honorees will be presented with their awards at our annual gala on June 1, 2020, in New York City. Meet previous honorees here.

Rabbi Aaron Brusso

Congregation Bet Torah, Mount Kisco, New York

Rabbinic Human Rights Hero Award

For his leadership on immigration, including mobilizing communal resources to support a synagogue staff member seized by ICE and deported, and standing with immigrants and refugees, and for his capacity to unite politically diverse communities around the common values of dignity and justice.

Aaron Brusso is the rabbi of Congregation Bet Torah in Mount Kisco, NY. Mount Kisco is home to many new immigrants from Latin America, and Rabbi Brusso has been a leading supporter and partner with local organizations such as Neighbors Link, which seeks to strengthen the community through the healthy integration of immigrants.

In 2017, he led a coalition of groups in organizing the Mount Kisco March and Rally for Our Immigrant Neighbors. In 2018, he led a communal effort to bring back Bet Torah’s deported custodian Armando Rojas. In addition to pastoring, preaching, teaching and leading in the Bet Torah community, Rabbi Brusso is also an officer and on the Executive Council of his professional organization, the Rabbinical Assembly.  He is a Senior Rabbinic Fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute.

Prior to moving to Mount Kisco, he was a rabbi at Adath Jeshurun Congregation in Minnetonka, Minnesota. He received his ordination and master’s degree in Jewish Philosophy from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and bachelor’s degree in Political Science from American University. He has written articles featured in The Forward, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Slate and been featured in the Washington Post.

He is married to Hana Gruenberg, who is the Managing Director of the Jewish Life Department at UJA-Federation of New York, and they have three children, Sari, Zoe, and Ilan. Originally from Chicago, Rabbi Brusso is a Bulls fan, a loyal reader of Marilynne Robinson, and appreciator of fine craft beer.

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Maharat Rori Picker Neiss

JCRC of St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri

Rabbinic Human Rights Hero Award 

For leading the St. Louis Jewish community in standing up for the human rights of all people in their community, including fighting racism and abuse of power, supporting immigrants and refugees, and working across lines of faith, race, and ethnicity.

Maharat Rori Picker Neiss is the Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of St Louis. She is one of the first graduates of Yeshivat Maharat, a pioneering institution training Orthodox Jewish women to be spiritual leaders and halakhic (Jewish legal) authorities. Previously, Rori worked as clergy at Bais Abraham Congregation, a modern Orthodox congregation in University City, MO, Assistant Director of Interreligious Affairs for the American Jewish Committee, and Secretariat for the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations, the formal Jewish representative in international, interreligious dialogue, as well as Program Coordinator for the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance and Acting Executive Director for Religions for Peace-USA. 

Rori chose to pursue her studies at Yeshivat Maharat to help break down the barriers to Torah learning and facilitate access for all to Judaism’s rich teachings and radical history. Rori’s work lies at the intersection of her passion for Judaism, feminism, interfaith dialogue, and social justice, which has led her to speak, teach, and facilitate programs internationally, including in Israel, Italy, Hungary, Malaysia, Costa Rica, and Vienna, in addition to cities across the United States. 

Rori is the vice chair of the Interfaith Partnership of Greater St. Louis Clergy Cabinet, a David Hartman Center Fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute, and co-editor of InterActive Faith: The Essential Interreligious Community-Building Handbook. She is the former co-chair of the North American Interfaith Youth Network of Religions for Peace and a CLAL Rabbis Without Borders fellow. 

Rori is married to Russel Neiss, an educator, technologist, and activist. They live in St. Louis with their three children.

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Randi Weingarten

President, American Federation of Teachers

Raphael Lemkin Human Rights Award

For her critical and longtime work as a labor movement leader, educator and lawyer to support and protect students and teachers, and for her leadership on democracy, immigration, and equal rights.

Randi Weingarten is president of the American Federation of Teachers, a union of 1.7 million professionals. She was elected in 2008, following 12 years as president of New York City’s United Federation of Teachers and six years as a teacher at Clara Barton High School.

Weingarten spearheaded the development of Share My Lesson, the largest free collection of educational resources created by a union for educators and parents. Weingarten and the AFT lead a partnership to transform McDowell County, West Virginia, one of the poorest counties in the United States, through efforts to improve the quality of education, and to focus on jobs, housing, healthcare and social services.

Since 2014, the AFT has led the way to invest $16 billion in pension assets in U.S. infrastructure, creating more than 100,000 jobs. Weingarten served on the congressional Equity and Excellence Commission, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Common Core Task Force and the 2016 Democratic National Committee platform committee. Weingarten’s column “What Matters Most” appears monthly in the New York Times’ Sunday Review.

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Rabbi Ellen Lippmann

Rabbi Emerita, Kolot Chayeinu, Brooklyn, New York

Founders’ Award

For her leadership as a prophetic founding and ongoing board member and former co-chair of T’ruah and her longtime dedication to mobilizing the New York City Jewish community to pursue justice while she was Rabbi of Kolot Chayeinu/Voices of Our Lives, Brooklyn, NY, and now as a board member of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice and Integrate NYC: Integration is Not Assimilation, and an Advisor to Jews Against White Nationalism.

Ellen Lippmann is the founder and now Rabbi Emerita of Kolot Chayeinu/Voices of Our Lives, where she worked for 25 years with many others to build a progressive Jewish community in Brooklyn; happily, it continues into its current 27th year. Rabbi Lippmann is the former East Coast Director of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, and former director of the Jewish Women’s Program at the New 14th Street Y in Manhattan.    

Rabbi Lippmann was Co-chair and has served on the board of T’ruah: the Rabbinic Call for Human Rights for 18 years. She served as the first social justice chair for the Women’s Rabbinic Network. She was the founder of the Soup Kitchen at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, and co-founder of the 15-year Children of Abraham Peace Walk: Jews, Christians and Muslims Walking Together in Brooklyn in Peace. She worked with NYCC and others on the Fight for $15, and with JFREJ on the early fight in New York State for the rights of domestic workers. Before retiring, she helped establish a system of working groups at Kolot Chayeinu to ensure broader embrace and a path to activism on racism, Israel and Palestine, and queer and trans people.  

Rabbi Lippmann was ordained in 1991 by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and also received there the degree of Master of Hebrew Letters. She holds a BA in English Language and Literature from Boston University and an MS in Library Science from Simmons College. Rabbi Lippmann and her partner are long-time Brooklyn residents and believe to be absolutely true what a Kolot Chayeinu member once said in jest: “IT DON’T GET ANY BETTER THAN BROOKLYN!”

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Moses Silverman

Of Counsel (Retired Partner), at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison

Louis Henkin Human Rights Award

For his dedication and leadership in championing T’ruah to Paul, Weiss for pro bono work, including guiding T’ruah on issues ranging from sanctuary to corporate policy, dedicating thousands of hours of time to protecting immigrants, defending the wrongfully convicted, and working for reproductive rights and gun violence prevention.

Paul, Weiss, an international law firm based in New York, has long been committed to providing impactful Pro Bono legal assistance to individuals and organizations in the public interest. In 2019, Paul, Weiss lawyers worked over 129,000 hours for Pro Bono clients on a broad range of issues, including immigration rights, anti-gun violence, marriage equality, reproductive rights, civil rights, and criminal defense. The firm has had major successes in high profile cases, such as the U.S. Supreme Court case that invalidated the Defense of Marriage Act.

Moses Silverman has had an active national and global litigation practice at Paul, Weiss since 1973. Pro Bono matters have always been an important part of his work, ranging from an employment discrimination class action on behalf of African-American paper plant workers in Mississippi in the 1970s, to the U.S. Supreme Court case seeking the use of statistical sampling in the Year 2000 census, and to numerous cases for poor people in New York. Since retiring as a partner and becoming Of Counsel at the end of 2018, he has continued his Pro Bono work, focusing particularly on immigration issues. He has made three trips to immigration detention facilities (jails) in Texas to help obtain asylum for immigrants, mostly desperate women and children from Central America who recently walked across the southern border. He and his wife, Betty Robbins, are members of Central Synagogue, where he serves on the Board of Trustees. He has served on the boards of Colby College, The Legal Aid Society, and other legal and Jewish organizations.

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Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster

Deputy Director, T’ruah

Rabbinic Leadership Award

For her longtime dedication to fighting for human rights and 13 years of service on the T’ruah staff, seeing us through many transitions, and leading our work fighting torture, slavery and trafficking, and other human rights abuses.

Rachel Kahn-Troster was ordained in 2008 from the Jewish Theological Seminary, where she was a student activist and leader. She is a noted speaker and writer on Judaism and human rights, including speaking internationally on behalf of the U.S. State Department on the issue of human trafficking. Her writing has appeared on CNN.com, The Forward, the New York Daily News, the Huffington Post, and many other publications.

Rabbi Kahn-Troster was named to the Jewish Week’s 2011 “36 under 36” for her human rights activism. She serves on the boards of the Alliance for Fair Food and and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility.

She lives in Teaneck, New Jersey, with her husband, Dr. Paul Pelavin, and their daughters Liora and Aliza.

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