An article that bears reading

Some recommended reading for you today: this article from The Forward about Chicago-area Rabbi Brant Rosen.

Why? Rabbi Rosen is a noted critic of Israel–he heads the rabbinical counsel of an organization, Jewish Voices for Peace, was named by the Anti-Defamation League as one of the top-ten anti-Israel groups. (Rabbi Rosen states in the article that he finds this ironic since his wife worked for the ADL for fifteen years.)

I’m not going to advance any arguments about Israel, the ADL’s list, JVP’s positions, or the like. But I am interested in the role of the rabbi in a congregation, and in the role of Israel in American Jewish life, and this article brings up both of these issues at some length with a specific case–that of Rabbi Rosen.

Whatever your perspective, this is an interesting–and to people on various sides of all of these issues, no doubt infuriating–article.  Tze u’lmad–go and study.

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I’ve discussed before my thinking about rabbinical education: too expensive, and sometimes too removed from the needs of a community and ordinary Jews.

In the “Orthodox” world, too, there appears to be some interesting recognition of this problem, and there are attempts to address it.

WebYeshiva.org has one such thing, a Mastery in Halakhah and Semicha program, which focuses on the halakhic issues that surround day-to-day challenges of Orthodox Jewish life from a halakhic perspective: kashrut, Shabbat, niddah, etc., even some discussion of the basics of financial laws in halakhah.

I’m not endorsing the courses (or WebYeshiva.org, for that matter); I haven’t taken any of them, and have no plans to do so. (I’m busy enough as it is, and it’s not as though I’m an ideological fellow traveler.) But it’s an interesting program by all appearances, can end with some form of semicha (it’s called “Orach Chaim” semicha), and is (until the semicha year) co-educational.

So, in its way, I think this is an encouraging thing–assuming rigor (and I can’t imagine it wouldn’t be, under the circumstances), it may be an interesting model for training rabbis going forward.

I recognize that in the liberal Jewish world, we’re a bit more credential-minded, in a way; we look for accredited college educations, academically rigorous graduate degrees, etc., along with ordination. But it may be time–particularly given the needs of Jewish communities still reeling from the effects of reduced membership and financial contribution after the 2008 financial crisis–to consider something different.

Because make no mistake: communities are already moving in that direction.