OBITUARY Rabbi known for speaking out on taboo issues dies at age 41
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OBITUARY Rabbi known for speaking out on taboo issues dies at age 41

NEW YORK, Oct. 4 (JTA) – Rabbi Julie Spitzer, a leader in domestic violence prevention, rabbinic sexual misconduct, and gay and lesbian inclusion in Jewish life, died Sept. 30 of ovarian cancer. Spitzer, who was 41, was regional director of the Reform movement in the New York area, the author of “When Love is Not Enough: Spousal Abuse in Rabbinic and Contemporary Judaism” and editor of a guide for congregations seeking to be more welcoming to gay and lesbians. Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, described Spitzer as a “pioneer” in her work on domestic violence and sexual abuse by the clergy. “These aren’t issues that our community was by and large comfortable talking about,” said Yoffie. “She worked in a quiet way behind the scenes, and it was her initiative that brought these concerns to our agenda.” Spitzer prepared the first manual on domestic violence ever written for Reform congregations and staffed a UAHC task force that developed a policy for how congregations should respond to charges of sexual abuse by members of the clergy, said Yoffie. More recently, Spitzer developed a program to help congregations assess whether they are welcoming to newcomers. “There was no artifice about Julie, there was no pomposity. She was who she was at all times,” recalled Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor, a close friend of Spitzer’s and the spiritual leader of the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. “She was really warm and wonderful to be with and yet was very solid.” “She spoke vigorously on a subject that made everyone uncomfortable,” added Bretton-Granatoor. “She had a way of getting up and saying this is a problem and we need to deal with it as a community.” Spitzer is survived by her life partner, Abbe Tiger, her parents Iris and Robert Spitzer, and a sister, Susan Lazar. Funeral services were held at Congregation Ahavath Chesed in Jacksonville, Fla., on Oct. 4, and a memorial is scheduled to take place on Oct. 17 at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue.