The Decline of Reform and Conservative Rabbinic Seminaries

March 31 2022

Enrollment in non-Orthodox rabbinical seminaries has been shrinking for years, particularly in schools associated with the Reform and Conservative movements. As Arno Rosenfeld notes, “the challenges facing seminaries . . . track with American Jews’ shift away from formal institutions and denominations.” Meanwhile, smaller, independent schools have seen their numbers increase in recent years. Rosenfeld suggests that this trend may signify an enduring shift in American Jewish leadership and religious engagement.

The major non-Orthodox denominations—Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist—still dominate American Jewish life. But the difficulty in attracting rabbinical students, especially in the Conservative and Reform movements, which together account for the vast majority of non-Orthodox synagogues, portends a future in which independent institutions play an increasingly important role.

Still, the number of Jews who report belonging to a synagogue has remained steady over the last twenty years, and there is reason to believe that the rabbinic pipeline is shrinking faster than synagogue membership.

The Conservative movement warned its congregations in December that many of them would not be able to fill vacant rabbi positions, with roughly 80 synagogues looking to hire one of the 50 or 60 rabbis available.

That announcement was followed by other signs of a reckoning among Jewish seminaries. The Reform movement announced earlier this month that it was considering ending rabbinic training at its historic campus in Cincinnati. And the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, a Conservative seminary, said this week that it would slash tuition by nearly 80 percent to attract more students after enrollment plunged from 56 students ten years ago to 34 this year. . . . While the growth of independent seminaries may point to an interest in rabbinic roles that are less rigid than the traditional congregational pulpit, synagogues remain the primary institutions offering lucrative jobs to new rabbis.

Read more at Forward

More about: American Judaism, Conservative Judaism, Rabbis, Reform Judaism

Iran’s Four-Decade Strategy to Envelope Israel in Terror

Yesterday, the head of the Shin Bet—Israel’s internal security service—was in Washington meeting with officials from the State Department, CIA, and the White House itself. Among the topics no doubt discussed are rising tensions with Iran and the possibility that the latter, in order to defend its nuclear program, will instruct its network of proxies in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, and even Iraq and Yemen to attack the Jewish state. Oved Lobel explores the history of this network, which, he argues, predates Iran’s Islamic Revolution—when Shiite radicals in Lebanon coordinated with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s movement in Iran:

An inextricably linked Iran-Syria-Palestinian axis has actually been in existence since the early 1970s, with Lebanon the geographical fulcrum of the relationship and Damascus serving as the primary operational headquarters. Lebanon, from the 1980s until 2005, was under the direct military control of Syria, which itself slowly transformed from an ally to a client of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The nexus among Damascus, Beirut, and the Palestinian territories should therefore always have been viewed as one front, both geographically and operationally. It’s clear that the multifront-war strategy was already in operation during the first intifada years, from 1987 to 1993.

[An] Iranian-organized conference in 1991, the first of many, . . . established the “Damascus 10”—an alliance of ten Palestinian factions that rejected any peace process with Israel. According to the former Hamas spokesperson and senior official Ibrahim Ghosheh, he spoke to then-Hizballah Secretary-General Abbas al-Musawi at the conference and coordinated Hizballah attacks from Lebanon in support of the intifada. Further important meetings between Hamas and the Iranian regime were held in 1999 and 2000, while the IRGC constantly met with its agents in Damascus to encourage coordinated attacks on Israel.

For some reason, Hizballah’s guerilla war against Israel in Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s was, and often still is, viewed as a separate phenomenon from the first intifada, when they were in fact two fronts in the same battle.

Israel opted for a perilous unconditional withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000, which Hamas’s Ghosheh asserts was a “direct factor” in precipitating the start of the second intifada later that same year.

Read more at Australia/Israel Review

More about: First intifada, Hizballah, Iran, Palestinian terror, Second Intifada