Role of the 21st Century Rabbi

A recent editorial in The Forward demonstrates how much the American rabbinate has changed in the 21st century. The economy has made it difficult for many rabbis to find good jobs; and for them to keep good jobs when the synagogue or organization falls on tough financial times. A reduction in the number of congregations due to closures and mergers has also caused a dearth of desirable positions for rabbis in the U.S. and Canada. But there are other factors involved as well. New rabbinical schools (Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, Ziegler at the American Jewish University, Hebrew College, and the Academy for Jewish Religion) have cropped up in the past fifteen years increasing the number of new rabbis looking for work. The Internet has also made it much easier for the laity to learn synagogue skills — life-cycle officiation, prayer leading, and teaching — that may ultimately reduce the need for a rabbi, although I don’t believe that to be the case.

As the Forward editorial makes clear, “the role of rabbi is being challenged as never before.” Some sociologists like Prof. Jonathan Sarna of Brandeis University predicted precisely such a change in the American rabbinate based on shifting demographics and the needs of the community. However, I don’t see this as a crisis in American Jewry. Rather, I find this to be an interesting opportunity for rabbis to become more entrepreneurial — both as a way to be necessary and to make a significant contribution to our people. Rabbis who see this as a chance to reinvent their rabbinate will ultimately be the most successful in the new era of Jewish life. And that holds true not only for American rabbis, but for rabbis throughout the Jewish world who have the entrepreneurial spirit.

I’m currently taking part in a Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) Rabbinic Cabinet Mission to Ukraine and Israel, and writing this blog post on a plane headed from Kiev to Tel Aviv along with a few dozen of my colleagues from the multitude of denominations. One thing I’ve noticed on this mission is that when rabbis meet each other for the first time, in general, they no longer ask each other “Which congregation do you lead?” Rather, the question is something along the lines of, “Where are you from and what do you do?” Rabbis today are exploring much different rabbinic paths of leadership than in previous generations. Growing up I always thought the role of the rabbi was solely in a synagogue. All of the rabbinic role models I had as a child were pulpit rabbis. Today, much has changed and the majority of rabbis do not work in congregations.

Talented rabbis are working in day schools, Jewish Community Centers, camping agencies, communal organizations, college campus institutions, and philanthropic foundations. They are also cobbling together two and three part-time jobs in ways never imagined in previous generations. Several entrepreneurial rabbis are taking a page out of the Chabad emissary playbook and founding new congregations and small prayer communities where there is a need. While not an easy task, these rabbis are finding the “start-up” experience to be exhilarating, significant and spiritually fulfilling. Rabbis are also freelancing their skills more often. As the number of Jewish families and singles unaffiliated with a congregation rises, there is an increased need for rabbis to perform life-cycle leadership roles. With the growth of the internet it has become easy for people to identify rabbis to officiate at a baby naming ceremony, wedding, funeral or unveiling.

A recent article in The Jewish Week showed a new trend for private bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies, independent of synagogues, that is prevalent on the East Coast. And that trend is spreading to the rest of the country. As a rabbi who is not affiliated with a congregation, I am called upon often to lead life-cycle ceremonies and I know that is the case with my colleagues around the country who likewise aren’t working in a congregation. Our culture of desiring the best products has reached into the religious leadership marketplace as well. A Jewish couple no longer feels compelled to have the rabbi of their childhood congregations preside at their wedding ceremony. Instead they will select the rabbi who they believe will create the most meaningful, memorable experience. So too with other life-cycle events like funerals. I’m often asked to perform the weddings of young people with whom I developed a relationship working as a rabbi on a campus Hillel or at a Jewish summer camp. Many of these young people have moved away from their childhood communities and don’t have a meaningful relationship with the rabbi of their parents’ congregation, but like everything else in life they are seeking the personable, meaningful, and memorable.

I believe that while laypeople may be able to perform many of the functions traditionally reserved for rabbis, there is no replacement for the vast array of skills a rabbi brings after years of training. A one-year online rabbinic program may be a worthwhile endeavor for many spiritually seeking Jewish people who are not able to attend a five- or six-year rabbinic training program, but they will not be a legitimate substitute for a rabbi. As the Forward editorial articulated, “For many American Jews, there is no substitute for the penetrating power of a brilliant sermon, or the comfort offered by a rabbi who knew the dying person before she became ill. There is no one else to mold and lead a religious community, to carry on and interpret our great tradition of scholarship, or to stand as a moral lighthouse in this foggy time. No one else to represent ourselves to ourselves, and ourselves to other people. Which is why defining and sustaining the role of the modern rabbi is one of the most vital challenges before the American Jewish community today.”

I don’t believe the rabbinate is in crisis, but I do believe that the most resourceful and entrepreneurial rabbis will be the ones to emerge successful in the Jewish world. Professional programs like Clal’s Rabbis Without Borders fellowship have realized this and are helping guide rabbis in the new rabbinate. The rabbis who embrace rather than dismiss the new realities of Jewish life will be the ones to make positive contributions to their community in particular and to global Jewry in general. And those rabbis who don’t dwell on the past (“the good ole days of the rabbinate”), but seek out modern innovations to guide their leadership and influence will be the most dynamic Jewish leaders of the future.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

Rabbi Autographs on Sports Balls

While I was in rabbinical school at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, I decided that I wanted a keepsake to remember the esteemed faculty. If it were high school, I suppose I could have asked my teachers to sign my yearbook. Since there were no year books around, I searched the house for something else to get autographed. A brand-new football caught my eye and with a white marker I began making my way around the Seminary in search of faculty members to put their John Hancock on my football. They were trilled to comply.

Prominent JTS faculty members like Chancellor Ismar Schorsch, Neil Gillman, Bill Lebeau, Burt Visotzky, Anne Lerner, Michael Greenbaum, Barry Holtz,  Aryeh Davidson, Stephen Geller, Robbie Harris, Raymond Scheindlin, Joe Lukinsky (of blessed memory), and Eduardo Rauch (of blessed memory). I placed the autographed football in a glass display case. When Purim rolled around I put it on display at the annual Purim Seudah with a note challenging, “Guess which professional team autographed this football.”

Little did I know that I didn’t have an original idea there. It turns out that a guy named Daniel Harris has been collecting autographs from famous rabbis for many decades. A recent article in Tablet, introduces us to Harris, who is the associate principal of Ida Crown Jewish Academy in Chicago. Harris explains that over time he outgrew his childhood role models and “realized he had exchanged players of physical brilliance for legends of spiritual grandeur—and that those were the heroes he wanted to recognize.” He goes so far as to claim that he’d take a baseball signed by a great rabbinic leader over one autographed by the great Babe Ruth.

Harris’s collection of rabbinicly autographed baseballs has grown recently and now includes ten baseballs from the leading Orthodox rabbis of our time including Rav Gedaliah Schwartz and Rabbi Berel Wein. Harris traded his signed Kenny Holtzman baseball to Rabbi Wein for his signature.

Autographed baseballs by prominent rabbis from Daniel Harris’s collection

Harris explained why he uses baseballs to collect these esteemed rabbis’ autographs. “Both baseball and, in a greater sense, Talmud, are full of nuance and great detail. Every time you enjoy learning a piece of Talmud you can come away with something new, as in baseball, where there is always some new play or game situation that you have never seen.”

I’m not looking to begin a collection of autographed baseballs from respected Seminary luminaries and well-known Conservative rabbis any time soon. However, I might just begin to collect personalized autographed baseballs from rock stars. Here’s my first in the collection from Vincent Damon Furnier, better known as Alice Cooper:

Alice Cooper autographed baseball


(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

Monday Morning Caption Contest

Leave your funniest caption in the comments section:

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

Rabbi – What I Really Do Meme

The “What I Really Do” meme has taken over the Internet.

As explained on the knowyourmeme.com website: “What People Think I Do / What I Really Do is a series of visual charts depicting a range of preconceptions associated with a particular field of occupation or expertise. Unlike image macro series that are based on singular stereotypes like Advice Animals, this series compares varying impressions about one’s profession held by others, self-image and the often mundane reality of the job.”

The meme originated with artist Garnet Hertz’s various preconceived notions and generalizations that are associated with being a contemporary artist.

Here is my ‘RABBI’ contribution to the meme:

What I Really Do Meme - Rabbi
What Rabbis Really Do
And here’s my ‘CANTOR’ contribution to the meme:
What Cantors Really Do

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

Must a Rabbi Report Confidential Confessions?

Earlier this week, I received a phone call from Niraj Warikoo, the religion editor of the Detroit Free Press. He told me that he was assisting another reporter on a local news story and had a few questions for me. Niraj described the case to me.

In 2009, a young girl reported to police that two years earlier when she was 9-years-old she was raped by a 15-year-old male cousin at a sleepover at her home. The boy’s pastor was informed of the allegation and he summoned the boy and his mother to the Metro Baptist Church in Belleville, Michigan to be questioned about the incident. The boy confessed to his pastor about the rape and then they prayed. The pastor, Rev. John Vaprezsan, went to the authorities and has since testified about the confession. Is that legal? Is that ethical?

It’s a horrible situation, but it also presents a host of interesting legal and ethical questions about what is known as pastor-penitent privilege. This privilege varies from state to state, but in Michigan it is protected in the same way as attorney-client privilege. In the Detroit Free Press article I explained that I honor the confidentiality of people who confess to me, but “if information that is confided in me would lead to serious harm of another human being, I would feel compelled to tell the authorities. That would include situations of abuse.”

It is important that people have a safe space to speak in confidence with their religious leader in addition to their attorney. Judaism does not place the same emphasis on confession as the Catholic faith does, but we do want people to feel comfortable speaking with their rabbi while they’re in the process of repentance.

Last night I appeared on Detroit’s Fox News affiliate to discuss this topic along with Ray Cassar, the defense attorney for the boy accused of rape. It was a very interesting discussion in which I fully agreed that in this case the pastor’s testimony about the accused’s confession should not be admissible in court. It is very important to protect the confidential discussions between clergy and congregant (or pastor and parishioner in this case). However, if I ever felt that confidential information I was given by a congregant could prevent a tragic act from taking place, I would feel compelled to break that confidentiality. In that case, the Jewish concept of pikuach nefesh (saving a life) would dictate my decision.

Here is the video of last night’s episode of “Let It Rip” on Fox2 Detroit:

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

Should Rabbi Natan Tzvi Finkel Have Mattered More to Us?

I try to keep up with the current events of the worldwide Jewish community. I read all of the major Jewish newspapers (or at least their websites). Therefore, I knew when Rabbi Natan Tzvi Finkel died on November 8 in Jerusalem. And yet, I admit I had never heard of him before.

Rabbi Finkel was born in Chicago, Illinois and was the Rosh Yeshiva of the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem. While I’m sure he’s included in the set of famous rabbi trading cards I occasionally receive as a gag gift, I had never read anything he had written or listened to any of his sermons on YouTube. I immediately knew he was a “tzaddik” (righteous man) and a “gadol hador” (an influential giant of his generation) because over 100,000 people attended his funeral. I will be the first to admit that his death didn’t affect my life and after reading the headline of his death I said “baruch dayan ha’emet” and went on about my day.

The funeral of Rabbi Natan Tzvi Finkel, the Rosh Yeshiva of the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem.

It is Rabbi Danny Gordis who puts Rabbi Natan Tzvi Finkel’s death into a broader context (he’s good at doing that and he does it often). On his blog, Rabbi Gordis compares Rabbi Finkel’s funeral to the funeral of Y.L. Peretz a century earlier. Over 100,000 people attended the famous Yiddish writer’s funeral in Warsaw as well, but the difference has to do with who was in the crowd. While Peretz’s funeral was attended by a large cross-section of the Jewish community, Rabbi Finkel’s funeral was a homogeneous sea of black hat Haredi Jews. Gordis writes:

What a striking difference! How many secular Jews could be found at Rabbi Finkel’s funeral? How many observant Jews not in black? None of the former, I would imagine. And very, very few of the latter.

Which leads me to the following question: Who is there anywhere in the Jewish world whose passing would evoke the sense of shared loss that was felt when Peretz died? Is there anyone in the Jewish world – in Israel, the United States, or anywhere else – who would be mourned by secularists and religious Jews alike, conservatives and liberals, Zionists and those more dubious about the Jewish state?

And that got me thinking. Who is there who could die and be mourned by over 100,000 Jewish people representing every political and religious group? I immediately thought back to this month in 1995 when we mourned the death of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. That might have been the death of the term “worldwide Jewish community.” Rabin’s assassination was carried out based on political and religious disagreements. The harsh reality is that the global Jewish community is more divided today than ever before and Gordis’s use of these two funerals paints that picture in sharp detail.

Gordis has a strong message for us. He writes, “What matters, of course, is not really who mourns whom at funerals. What matters is who takes whom seriously during their lifetime. And increasingly, I fear, we take seriously those people who are more or less like us. We embrace (and then ‘like’ on Facebook, or forward to others) the views of those with whom we agree, and disparage (and don’t ‘like’ or Retweet, and never forward) the views of those whose views we don’t share.” Gordis encourages us to read those individuals whose opinions we don’t agree with. Perhaps the non-Haredi community would never have turned out en masse to mourn the passing of Rabbi Natan Tzvi Finkel earlier this month, but at least we should have known who he was and why he was such a notable figure among some of our brothers and sisters.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

Rabbi Seeks Young Wife for Cheaper Health Insurance

When I first read the headline of this NPR blog post (“For Love Or Insurance? Rabbi Seeks Young Wife To Lower Health Costs”) I couldn’t even imagine what this was all about. It turns out there’s a rabbi in Florida who needs better health insurance coverage and is looking for a young wife to make it happen.

Turns out that Rabbi Craig Ezring, a nursing home chaplain, was able to get decent insurance before his wife died. He and his wife established a small corporation to procure health insurance, but when his wife died four years ago his rates soared 38 percent to over $18,000 just to cover him. The 56-year-old rabbi comes from a very rabbinic family. His father Abraham Ezring is an Orthodox rabbi in Florida and all of his brothers are rabbis as well, including Rabbi Murray Ezring, a Conservative rabbi in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The NPR blog post isn’t the first time Rabbi Craig Ezring has made news. In 2005, his funny yet insightful “Dear Abby” letter was published. Ezring letter titled “Oy Vey! Rabbi Is Exposed to Patient’s Discomfort,” told the story of how Ezring, as a chaplain, would visit hospital patients wearing a three-piece suit. One patient, he explained, felt terribly uncomfortable lying there “in a hospital gown with her tuchas sticking out” while the rabbi sat there in a three-piece suit. So, Ezring went to the nurse’s station and changed into a hospital gown. The patient was then relaxed enough to share her concerns with the rabbi/chaplain.

He concludes, “The visit took a little longer than usual, and when I finished our session with a prayer for healing, I rose from the chair. As I did, the sound as my thighs ripped themselves from the Naugahyde brought a huge smile to both our faces. I was laughing so hard I forgot to hold the back of the gown as I headed back down the hall — so I was exposed… Fortunately, the nurses had a sense of humor. One said, ‘Not a bad tush for a rabbi!'”

Rabbi Ezring explains in his “Dear Abby” letter that he learned an important lesson that day. Abby commends him for his sensitivity and creativity. She writes, “Your suit may have been off for her, but my hat is off to you for going the extra mile to make a difference in a sick woman’s life. Your method may have been unorthodox, but your message of healing far surpassed any fashion statement.”

Now back to the rabbi’s search for a young bride who will help lower his health insurance rates. From the NPR blog post:

When Rabbi Craig Ezring’s annual health insurance costs soared 38 percent this year to a whopping $18,636, he did more than just complain.

He went looking for a young wife.

For several years, the Boca Raton, Fla., rabbi had been getting coverage through a small corporation he formed with his wife. When she died four years ago, he thought the cost of his insurance coverage would drop. Instead it rose.

That’s partly because Ezring, 56, had a heart bypass surgery a couple of years ago. Nonetheless, he said he’s still quite healthy, and does ballroom and Latin dancing twice a week.

When he got his latest health insurance bill in August, Ezing said he almost had a heart attack.

An insurance broker told him his small business insurance rate is based on the age of the owner of the company. So, Ezring posted on his blog that he was looking for a younger woman who wouldn’t mind marrying him to help him get cheaper coverage.

“Give some thought to the possibility of marrying me … a good insurance plan is all I ask,” he wrote. “Okay there maybe one or two other things I ask for, but sadly, right now insurance has become a top priority.”

Ezring, a rabbi at several nursing homes and assisted living facilities in South Florida, said he’s had a few “comical offers” of marriage in response to his plea, including one asking if he wanted to move to South Carolina.

Ezring said his insurer, UnitedHealthcare, has been good to him: The company makes sure he gets services he needs and can see the doctors he wants. But with the latest rate hike, he feels like he’s working mostly just to afford his health coverage. He’s shopped for other policies, but other companies won’t offer him coverage.

When told that Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who vehemently opposes the federal health overhaul, is only paying about $400 a year for his state-subsidized health insurance, Ezring chuckled. “It would be lovely if everyone could pay that amount for really good insurance,” he said.

Rabbi Ezring seems like a pretty funny (and creative) guy. I wish him well in his quest to get less expensive health insurance, but even if he isn’t successful in that endeavor at least he was able to spread the word about how expensive medical coverage is in our country.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

Conservative Rabbi on Jeopardy

Jews have a reputation for answering a question with another question. Perhaps this suits Jewish contestants well on the television game show “Jeopardy!”.

Joyce Newmark, a rabbi in Teaneck, N.J., will be a contestant on tonight’s episode of “Jeopardy!”. It was recorded on February 2, but Newmark is not allowed to comment publicly on the results until after it is broadcast. However, the 63-year-old Conservative rabbi might have come out victorious if her hosting a viewing party at her Teaneck synagogue, Congregation Beth Sholom, is any indication.

Rabbi Joyce Newmark & Alex Trebek (Jeopardy Productions, Inc.)

Newmark graduated from the Jewish Theological Seminary on May 16, 1991 (coincidentally the same date she’ll be on TV competing on “Jeopardy!”). A member of the first class of Wexner Graduate Fellows, she has served congregations in Lancaster, PA and Leonia, NJ, but currently writes and lectures. Prior to rabbinical school, Newmark spent more than fifteen years in management consulting and banking.

As is her daily custom, Newmark wore a yarmulke during the taping of the show. “The interesting thing is that nobody said a thing about the kippah,” she explained. “Since I was introduced as a rabbi, they may have just thought it was normal.” Newmark never considered removing the yarmulke for the taping since it’s been part of her normal garb since 1987. She previously auditioned for “Jeopardy!” in 2006 before her successful audition in 2010.

While her profession was not a main focus of her appearance on the game show, it didn’t go unnoticed either. “As soon as I sat down in the makeup chair (the worst part of the entire experience) the makeup lady immediately began telling me why she had decided to take her son out of Jewish day school.”

The show’s long-standing host, Alex Trebek, appeared to be very interested in Newmark’s profession. He wanted to know how long female rabbis had been around and if there were any Orthodox women rabbis. Newmark was not the first female rabbi to appear on “Jeopardy!”, as there was a young female Reform rabbi several years ago who didn’t have much luck on the show.

Newmark cannot divulge much from the taping of the show, but she will say that she didn’t get any “softball questions” that were especially applicable for a rabbi. At the audition, she was asked to fill out a form informing the producers if there were specific dates when she would not be available to tape. She simply wrote “Jewish holidays.” When Newmark received the congratulatory call, she expressed her surprise, explaining that she had never expected to be selected. She was then told, “We actually were going to call you two months ago, but it was during Hanukkah so we figured you couldn’t come.”

UPDATE: Rabbi Joyce Newmark went home a “Jeopardy!” Champion with $29,200 of winnings in her first appearance on the game show. While she didn’t ring her buzzer in time to answer which Bible character succeeded Moses in the leadership of the Israelites (Answer: “Who is Joshua”), she did answer more questions correctly than her two opponents including the Final Jeopardy question: From the Latin for “Free”, this 2-word term for a type of College refers to the old belief of what a free man should be taught (Answer: “What is Liberal Arts”). She’ll be back on the show tomorrow night.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

Saturday the Rabbi Wore a Pantsuit

I wrote this in praise of my female rabbinic colleagues. I have always been impressed by how women rabbis are able to juggle motherhood with the daily grind of the rabbinate. I wish a happy Mother’s Day to all the “Rabbi Mommies” out there – many of whom have made a profound impact on my own rabbinate.

Originally posted at JTAThe Jewish Journal and The Daily Rabbi

On a recent trip to Berlin with a dozen other Conservative rabbis, we made certain to stop at the apartment building that Regina Jonas once called home (photo below). I had never heard of Jonas before, but to the four female rabbis in our group she was a hero. In 1935, she became the first woman in the world to be ordained as a rabbi. My colleague, Rabbi Gesa Ederberg, hosted our group at her beautiful Berlin synagogue during our visit and doubled as a knowledgeable tour guide. We also had the opportunity to meet with rabbinical students at the Abraham Geiger College, where in 2010 Rabbi Alina Treiger became the first woman to be ordained in Germany since Jonas. Today there are hundreds of inspiring, smart and passionate women rabbis who have followed in the steps of Regina Jonas.

As another “rabba” will soon be ordained, American Jews are just getting used to the idea of female rabbis in the modern Orthodox world. However, in the more progressive streams of Judaism women rabbis have been on the scene for decades and are now part of the fabric of everyday Jewish life. In fact, one funny anecdote demonstrates that for some of the youngest members of the Jewish community, women rabbis are the only form of rabbi that exists. A female colleague tells the story of when she introduced her 5-year-old son to a male rabbi, he reacted in shock: “But Mommy, I thought only ladies can be rabbis.” Out of the mouths of babes!
In Newsweek magazine’s recent ranking of the top U.S. rabbis for this year, there were many more women listed in the top. Among these superstar rabbis were women who are leading institutions and large congregations, as well as highly sought after authors and entrepreneurs who have launched their own communities.
Like other professions in which women were once not welcome to join, the rabbinate has been forced to learn how to accept female rabbis into the ranks. Certainly, this acceptance is most challenging for the oldest generation of rabbis who came of age in the “Old Boys Network,” a rabbinate sans women. Middle-age rabbis were the first to welcome women into the profession, but also have memories of the controversy that took shape around the seminary doors opening. But for the younger rabbis (and I include myself in this cohort despite the fact my doctor tells me I’m aging a bit each day), there have always been women rabbis and we wouldn’t want it any other way.
I recall the first time I jumped into a New York City cab and noticed that my driver was a woman. I did a double-take, but then things progressed as usual. She got me to my destination, I paid the fare and her tip, said thanks, and was on my way. Not so with female rabbis, however. There are noticeable differences between the sexes and we shouldn’t pretend they don’t exist. Having women as rabbis has added immensely to all aspects of Judaism and these female rabbis have helped shape the conversation.
Women rabbis have added beautiful new rituals to our tradition. They have introduced spiritual rituals that most men wouldn’t have dreamed up like prayers for fertility, teachings at the mikvah, and meaningful customs following a miscarriage. Women rabbis have brought naming ceremonies for our daughters to the meaningful level of the bris. They can relate to the teenage bat mitzvah girl in ways that male rabbis never could or would never even try. Their commentary on the Torah and Talmud is fresh, and they can provide voices to the hidden personas of the many female characters of our rich text that have been missing for generations.
When I was in rabbinical school, I gained new perspectives from my female peers who at the time numbered just one-third of the student body. I cherish the wonderful professional and personal relationships I have with our female rabbis in town. They offer so much to our community and I feel sorry for the previous generations who missed out on the female rabbinic voices.
Many women might yearn for the day when we no longer use the term “woman rabbi” or when the Forward doesn’t publish a list of the top fifty women rabbis. But we should embrace the changing face of the American rabbinate. Men and women are different creatures and so too it is in the rabbinate. It will only be to Orthodoxy’s benefit to welcome more women into rabbinic leadership roles. Regina Jonas would be proud.
(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

Isla Fisher Wants to Be a Rabbi

Music Rooms reports that the actress Isla Fisher (“Wedding Crashers”), the wife of comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, joked that after converting to Judaism she now wants to become a rabbi.

Isla became engaged to the comedian in 2004, and studied for three years before completing her conversion in early 2007. The 35-year-old star took on the Hebrew name Ayala, the Hebrew word for Doe. Isla has joked she is so enamoured with the religion that she’s thinking of becoming a rabbi. 

“You study, then have a test. In fact, I’m thinking of becoming a mohel. [Pause] If you knew what a mohel was, you’d laugh. It’s a rabbi who circumcises boys,” she told the April edition of Elle.

Perhaps before becoming a rabbi, Fisher should watch this video, made by YouTube user CFIDSgurl using xtranormal.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller