4/30/11

Newsweek's List of 50 Famous Rabbis Juxtaposed with JW's Lament Over Unemployed Rabbis

A Talmudic juxtaposition worth noting.

Newsweek with the Daily Beast has just published their list of America's 50 most famous rabbis. The magazine calls them "influential" -- who is to say? Most of them surely are celebrities -- and that in America endows the designated rabbis with influence. (Want to read about the rabbis? Check out Larry Yudelson's Amazon book list of books written by and related to those 2011 Newsweek famous US rabbis.)

We note (again perhaps) that the heads of two major Jewish rabbinical seminaries are not on the list. Yes they are famous. No they are not rabbis, i.e. Richard Joel at Yeshiva University (Orthodox) and Arnie Eisen at Jewish Theological Seminary (Conservative). Hence they cannot be listed on a 50 top rabbis list.

Coincidentally, Gary Rosenblatt, Editor and Publisher of the Jewish Week, raises a lament of sorts in his recent column, "Where have all the rabbis gone?" saying, "One of the little-discussed effects of the economic recession on the Jewish community is that more rabbis in the later stages of their careers are finding themselves out of work..."

Why are so many rabbis out of work? Just to start with, the answer to the question in two instances is, non-rabbis have taken their places at the top of two rabbinic seminaries.

Now if the seminaries do not deem it urgent to hire rabbis to take their helms, then it does send a message loud and clear to the communities. And who can blame the organizations and synagogues for passing over clergy when they go to hire, or for cutting rabbinical jobs?

The Talmud tells us often that an ironic juxtaposition may teach us an important lesson. In this case, let's say that respect or disrespect for rabbis starts at the top.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

First, a caveat: I am a soon-to-be unemployed rabbi.

Second: Both YU and JTS are more than rabbinical seminaries: they are full-fledged universities, each with a rabbinical school headed by ... a dean who is a rabbi.

Third: in my experience/analysis, the erosion of kavod harav is from the bottom up. It's hard to treat with the respect due a parent a leader who can be let go at will.