“There’s something happening here, But what it is ain’t exactly clear…”
Why Keeping the Faith in Rabbinical Education
Someone asked me, “Why are you working on Keeping the Faith in Rabbinical Education (KTF Rabbinical), a book about 21st Century rabbinical education?”
As I take a call from another rabbi in crisis, hear another lament about a rabbi from a congregant, read an additional mean-spirited attack in the Jewish Daily Forward against a denomination and generally observe congregations around the country, I keep thinking of the refrain from a song titled “For What It’s Worth,” popularly known as “Stop Children What’s that Sound.” (Trivia buffs: according to Wikipedia, Stephen Stills wrote this song in November 1966, and the band that he was then a part of, Buffalo Springfield, recorded it a few weeks later.)
There’s something happening here
But what it is ain’t exactly clear…
It’s time we stop
Hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look – what’s going down?
People kvetching about rabbis in whatever capacity they work, and rabbis complaining about their constituents is an old story. But the rate at which I’ve seen some really outstanding rabbis lose their jobs for no good reason, or the depth of dissatisfaction that lay people have with some rabbis for good reason, seems to be more pervasive than only a couple of decades ago.
“There’s something happening here
But what it is ain’t exactly clear…”
Is it that:
• As American Jews, we are very far removed from the time where the rabbi was the most educated person in the community, and therefore the rabbi is not respected automatically?
• Clergy scandals tainted the expectations that lay leaders have of rabbis as exemplars of morality?
• The “What have you done for me lately mentality?” that has eroded longstanding business relationships, has crept into relationships with rabbis?
• The culture of disdain for authority figures has expanded to include rabbis?
• The extent to which social media’s ability to dispense global gossip on momentary notice fueled tensions between volunteers and rabbis?
• Rabbis rightfully expect to be treated as professionals, but we did not understand that meant evaluations, performance reviews and measurable outcomes: a skill set that most rabbis don’t have, and a mindset that often recoils from this kind of orientation toward the sacred.
• The consumerist mentality of shopping, combined with the Internet and the mainstreaming of Jewish culture, means that shopping for rabbis, Jewish education, Jewish ritual is an “anyone, anytime, anywhere” option?
I’m working on Keeping the Faith in Rabbinical Education because I want to help rabbis and their respective constituents grow together at a time when they seem to be growing further apart. Nothing less than the quality of Jewish life in the United States is at stake. And by exploring the education and continuing education of rabbis, I believe that we’ll gain clarity on which of the above dynamics are immutable and which are amenable to positive change. If you know a rabbi, are a rabbi or educator of rabbis, click here to learn more about submitting an essay for consideration to this volume. And volunteer leaders who care about high-quality rabbinical education—stay tuned, you’ll soon be receiving an invitation, too.