Biden Administration Reappoints Sharon Kleinbaum to Religious Freedom Post

Sharon Kleinbaum has been selected to rejoin the US Commission on International Freedom.
Donna Aceto

President Joe Biden has reappointed out lesbian Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum as a commissioner of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which is an advisory post pertaining to issues of religious freedom.

In her new role, Rabbi Kleinbaum, who leads Manhattan’s LGBTQ-friendly synagogue, Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST), will recommend international policy changes to the Biden administration, the secretary of state, and Congress. She will also monitor global religious freedom issues and compile these findings into USCIRF’s annual report.

Kleinbaum previously served in the same role when she was first nominated by Senator Chuck Schumer in 2019, though the commission’s presidential appointments don’t need Senate approval. The Biden administration also appointed Khizr Khan, founder of the Constitutional Literacy and National Unity Project, to the same commission.

In a statement, Kleinbaum said she is prepared to fight and protect the rights of all individuals regardless of their religion in the US and globally.

“I am deeply honored to be appointed by President Biden to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom,” she said in a written statement. “The issues facing our world around the role that religion plays in both liberating people and oppressing people is at the center of so many struggles for human rights.”

She added, “I am so moved to work alongside the other Commissioners: Anurima Bhargava Fred Davie and all the others — both Democrats and Republicans — and with the fabulous staff of USCIRF — to make this world a better place. I am grateful to President Joe Biden for his trust in me and I pray for the success of the Biden-Harris Administration daily.”

Kleinbaum’s wife, Randi Weingarten — who serves as president of the American Federation of Teachers — also took to Twitter to applaud her partner’s new role.

“I’m so incredibly proud of my wife @Skleinbaum,” Weingarten tweeted. “She’s been a powerful voice for religious freedom, for human rights and for LGTBQ rights. She will bring that passion & purpose to her re-appointment to the US Comm’n on Int’l Religious Freedom.” 

Weingarten added, “Every once in a while I want to lift up my incredible wife… and her daily pursuit of justice .. I am so grateful. #ShabbatShalom.”

Kleinbaum joined CBST in 1992 during the HIV/AIDS crisis. She has long received praise for activism, including her protests against the Trump-era immigration ban in 2017 and anti-semitic crimes in New York City.