she // her // hers
Tamara Cohen is a rabbi, educator, activist, writer and ritual innovator who has worked in Jewish feminist and varied educational settings for over twenty five years, with a deep commitment to intersectional feminism, LGBTQ liberation and racial justice.
She earned her B.A. in English and Women’s Studies at Barnard College and a M.A. in Women’s History from Sarah Lawrence College where she wrote An Overlooked Bridge: Secular Women of the Jewish Left and the Rise of Jewish Feminism. Tamara was ordained as a Rabbi at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 2014.
Her fusion of Jewish spiritual engagement and social justice commitments began in childhood, with a mother involved in the leadership of the burgeoning Havurah and feminist movements and a father whose life work was track two Middle East peace building. At Barnard College, she was involved in feminist and queer activism, Jewish spiritual life, and activism around preserving the Audubon Ballroom, site of Malcom X’s assasination. In her twenties, she edited The Journey Continues, a social justice feminist haggadah and worked to build Ma’yan: The Jewish Women’s Project. Through Ma’yan, she co-created and lead large-scale educational projects and innovative rituals, including many seders with Debbie Friedman, which inspired thousands of feminists to take a more active and activist approach to their lives and religious practice and to draw strength from a proud legacy of progressive Jewish women. At Ma’yan, she also co-authored with Shifra Bronznick, Power and Parity, a report on gender inequities in the leader of Jewish organizations, which was a foundational report for years of organizing and activism on gender issues in the Jewish community.
Tamara’s formative experiences as an activist include her co-founding Jewish Activist Gays and Lesbians, which educated and agitated the Jewish community to recognize the validity of jewish queer lives and leadership in the mid-1990s, serving as a founding board member of Brit Tzedek V’Shalom: The Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace, organizing with Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ) around Islamophobia, racism and antisemitism and protesting police brutality following the murder of Amadou Diallou. More recently, she has been involved as a member of the Jews of Color and Allies Cohort and as an active ally of the Jewish Women of Color (#JWOC) led contingent at the 2018 Women’s March.
Tamara is the VP and Chief of Program Strategy for Moving Traditions, a national organization focused on empowering Jewish teens of all genders to recognize and resist sexism and building their social emotional skills and Jewish identities. At Moving Traditions, Tamara started an online national group for nonbinary and trans Jewish teens and a feminist fellowship for high school students in addition to innovating new approaches to comprehensive sexuality education for Jewish teens and the adults who work with them. Tamara is currently a Generation Now Fellow.
Previously, Tamara worked at the University of Florida, as its first Director of LGBT Affairs and later as Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Multicultural and Diversity Affairs. There she was recognized for her organizing of LGBTQ staff and students, for helping to secure a prayer space for Muslim students on campus, for her work with Asian American and Pacific Islander students, and for her teaching and training on intersectional identities and oppression. Tamara has also organized Jewish leaders around immigrant and refugee justice through HIAS-PA, facilitated youth interfaith dialogue with the Interfaith Center of Philadelphia and been a fellow at The Shalom Center. Tamara has been involved with a wide range of feminist and social justice organizations in the Jewish community including the Jewish Women’s Archive, AJWS, Bend the Arc’s Selah Network, Truah, JOIN for Justice, and is a longtime member of B’not Esh. She served for ten years as Spiritual Leader of a Jewish community in Washington, CT and is a member of Rabbis without Borders, the Philadelphia Board of Rabbis.
As a rabbi, Tamara uses her pulpit and her original liturgy to recognize and advance the moral imperatives of our time and to create rituals and communities that provide ongoing meaning and support during this time of resistance and struggle. She is blessed to be part of community of leaders, activists and teachers transforming what it means to be Jewish today by sharing the truths of their lives, the complexity of their intersectional identities and the linkages between Jewish liberation and other liberation movements. As a poet, feminist liturgist, and writer, she has published widely in compilations including Siddur Lev Shalem, Faithfully Feminist: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Feminists on Why We Stay, Esther: A Modern Commentary, Beginning Anew: A Feminist Companion to the Holidys and online articles at evolve.reconstructingjudaism.org, ritualwell.org, jwa.org, and myjewishlearning.org. Tamara lives in Philadelphia with her partner and two sons where she is an active member of Minyan Dorshei Derekh and the Germantown Jewish Centre.