Thursday, June 17, 2004

In Search of (Modern Orthodox) Leaders (PDF)

"Reuven Spolter asserts that as the Modern Orthodox community grows in size and age, its pool of rabbis and educators becomes progressively smaller, younger and less experienced."

From the latest issue of Jewish Action: Ruby - er, Rabbi * - Spolter touches on many of the familiar points: The talented intellectuals in the Modern Orthodox community tend not to go into chinuch, and many of those who otherwise would instead make aliyah, leaving a constant leadership vacuum filled either by "black-hatters" or by Israeli shlichim. It's especially difficult to attract talented leaders to remote communities - where "remote" means "outside metropolitan New York".

(In the UK, the problem is even more severe. Proximity to Israel and a severely declined Jewish community make aliyah that much more attractive. Hardly any Modern Orthodox rabbis get semikhah there these days; most of them study in Israel or the US. Mainstream shuls have increasingly turned to Chabad rabbis to fill their pulpits.)

Unlike other bemoaners and bewailers, R' Spolter proposes a solution, if a partial one: Let communities sponsor semikhah scholarships, conditioned on a number of years of service to the community after graduation. The community gets a guaranteed rav, though a few years down the line; the rabbinical student gets a guaranteed job; and once he settles into the community he's less likely to leave. In other words, get 'em while it's easy: when they're still poor semikhah students!

* I should be over it by now, but I'm still getting used to all these friends I knew as kids suddenly becoming rabbis!