Rethinking the Role of the Modern Orthodox Rabbi in the Aftermath of the Pandemic

April 22 2021

As Jack Wertheimer recently observed in Mosaic, the coronavirus has led many Orthodox Jews to pray in small outdoor minyanim, where social-distancing regulations could be properly adhered to—and, having come to like the informality and intimacy of these gatherings, not all are eager to return to their synagogues. Ezra Schwartz, in an assessment of COVID-19’s effects on American Modern Orthodoxy, believes that this new trend toward decentralization calls for a reevaluation of pulpit rabbis’ obligations:

To some extent this emerging American rabbi will need to model himself after the Israeli model of the rav ha-ir or rav ha-sh’khunah [city or neighborhood rabbi]. In that traditional Israeli model, the rabbi is not limited by the walls of a particular building. I [visiting the Israeli town of] Modi’in a decade ago when the current Ashkenazi chief rabbi, David Lau, ran from synagogue to synagogue on Shabbat morning. From what I am told, he spoke at eleven different minyanim that Shabbat, inspiring and sharing words of Torah (sometimes the exact same words) in each location.

This rabbinic model [resembleds that of] pre-war European communities as well. . . . . There may have been a large synagogue that served as [a particular rabbi’s] base, but his orbit extended to the entire community.

The American model of a rabbi for every synagogue is historically novel. However, it serves a tremendous need. The ideal American congregational rabbi is far more than a teacher and preacher. He is a life guide and lifelong mentor for his flock. He offers pastoral counseling and is deeply involved in the life of his congregants. . . . The question to ask is how can the essential personalized pastoral role of the American rabbi persist in a decentralized world of backyard minyanim and shtiblakh [very small synagogues]? How can the successes of a century of American congregational rabbis be maintained if many of the changes wrought by the pandemic remain in the post-pandemic world?

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Read more at Lehrhaus

More about: American Judaism, Coronavirus, Modern Orthodoxy

Terror Returns to Israel

Nov. 28 2022

On Wednesday, a double bombing in Jerusalem left two dead, and many others injured—an attack the likes of which has not been seen since 2016. In a Jenin hospital, meanwhile, armed Palestinians removed an Israeli who had been injured in a car accident, reportedly murdering him in the process, and held his body hostage for two days. All this comes as a year that has seen numerous stabbings, shootings, and other terrorist attacks is drawing to a close. Yaakov Lappin comments:

Unlike the individual or small groups of terrorists who, acting on radical ideology and incitement to violence, picked up a gun, a knife, or embarked on a car-ramming attack, this time a better organized terrorist cell detonated two bombs—apparently by remote control—at bus stops in the capital. Police and the Shin Bet have exhausted their immediate physical searches, and the hunt for the perpetrators will now move to the intelligence front.

It is too soon to know who, or which organization, conducted the attack, but it is possible to note that in recent years, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) has taken a lead in remote-control-bombing terrorism. Last week, a car bomb that likely contained explosives detonated by remote control was discovered by the Israel Defense Forces in Samaria, after it caught fire prematurely. In August 2019, a PFLP cell detonated a remote-control bomb in Dolev, seventeen miles northwest of Jerusalem, killing a seventeen-year-old Israeli girl and seriously wounding her father and brother. Members of that terror cell were later arrested.

With the Palestinian Authority (PA) losing its grip in parts of Samaria to armed terror gangs, and the image of the PA at an all-time low among Palestinians, in no small part due to corruption, nepotism, and its violation of human rights . . . the current situation does not look promising.

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Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Jerusalem, Palestinian terror