American Judaism’s Great Rabbi Shortage

March 14 2023

More than ever, Conservative and Reform Jews in the U.S. want to be part of small congregations with ample opportunities for intimate interactions with their rabbis. But at the same time, enrollment at the major non-Orthodox seminaries is down. Paula Jacobs explains:

When Rabbi Irwin Kula attended the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) rabbinical school 40-plus years ago, his studies emphasized a text-based, academic approach. And when he was ordained in 1982, most of his class of approximately 40 rabbinical graduates—all white and male—took pulpit jobs. In spring 2023, JTS plans to ordain twelve rabbis and three cantors—a diverse group of graduates in terms of gender, age, and sexual orientation, as well as Jewish and professional [backgrounds], but far smaller than Kula’s class. The current first-year class at the Conservative seminary is even smaller, consisting of seven rabbinical and five cantorial students.

Nor is JTS alone. Non-Orthodox rabbinical schools across America are experiencing a significant decline in enrollment, affecting both these institutions and the American Jewish community at large as the demand for rabbis exceeds supply, particularly as baby boomers retire and others leave because of burnout. . . . But rabbis are still in demand—a demand that outstrips supply, even as congregations shrink. This year, like last year, the Conservative movement—50 percent of whose rabbis in North America serve congregations—anticipates a shortage of rabbis to fill available positions.

Yet, as Jacobs goes on to detail, the seminaries are seeking new ways to keep up with these changes—and there is even some reason for optimism.

Read more at Tablet

More about: American Judaism, Conservative Judaism, Jewish Theological Seminary, Rabbis, Reform Judaism

The U.S. Is Trying to Seduce Israel into Accepting a Bad Deal with Iran. Israel Should Say No

Last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released its quarterly report on the Iranian nuclear program. According to an analysis by the Institute for Science and International Security, the Islamic Republic can now produce enough weapons-grade uranium to manufacture “five nuclear weapons in one month, seven in two months, and a total of eight in three months.” The IAEA also has reason to believe that Tehran has further nuclear capabilities that it has successfully hidden from inspectors. David M. Weinberg is concerned about Washington’s response:

Believe it or not, the Biden administration apparently is once again offering the mullahs of Tehran a sweetheart deal: the release of $10 billion or more in frozen Iranian assets and clemency for Iran’s near-breakout nuclear advances of recent years, in exchange for Iranian release of American hostages and warmed-over pious Iranian pledges to freeze the Shiite atomic-bomb program.

This month, intelligence photos showed Iran again digging tunnels at its Natanz nuclear site—supposedly deep enough to withstand an American or Israeli military strike. This tells us that Iran has something to hide, a clear sign that it has not given up on its quest for a nuclear bomb.

Meanwhile, Antony Blinken today completes a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia, where he is reportedly pressing the kingdom to enter the Abraham Accords. This is no coincidence, for reasons Weinberg explains:

Washington expects Israeli acquiescence in the emerging U.S. surrender to Iran in exchange for a series of other things important to Israel. These include U.S. backing for Israel against escalated Palestinian assaults expected this fall in UN forums, toning down U.S. criticism regarding settlement and security matters (at a time when the IDF is going to have to intensify its anti-terrorist operations in Judea and Samaria), an easing of U.S. pressures on Israel in connection with domestic matters (like judicial reform), a warm Washington visit for Prime Minister Netanyahu (which is not just a political concession but is rather critical to Israel’s overall deterrent posture), and most of all, significant American moves towards reconciliation with Saudi Arabia (which is critical to driving a breakthrough in Israeli-Saudi ties).

[But] even an expensive package of U.S. “concessions” to Saudi Arabia will not truly compensate for U.S. capitulation to Iran (something we know from experience will only embolden the hegemonic ambitions of the mullahs). And this capitulation will make it more difficult for the Saudis to embrace Israel publicly.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Antony Blinken, Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship