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War Conditions Necessitate Rationing of Rabbis in Reform Congregations

Jewish congregations in which several rabbis are serving will be asked by the Central Conference of American Rabbis and by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations to release one rabbi that he may serve a congregation which otherwise would be without rabbinical leadership due to the fact that the number of Jewish chaplains required by the armed forces has created a “serious manpower shortage in the Reform rabbinate,” it was announced here today by Dr. James G. Heller, acting chairman of the C.C.A.R. Committee on Chaplains.

“In communities where there is more than one congregation, joint services could be arranged, thus releasing some rabbis for replacement,” the Committee on Chaplains of the Central Conference of American Rabbis decided. At present the Committee is meeting the shortage of rabbis by urging congregations to avail themselves of the services of properly qualified rabbis from Germany who have come to the United States as refugees, and by inducing men who have retired from the active rabbinate to volunteer their services as replacements.

The Committee on Chaplains has agreed on a set of principles aimed at enabling Reform Jewish congregations to continue the work of furnishing almost sixty percent of the Jewish chaplains in the Army and Navy and of protecting the interests of the men who have volunteered for service. These principles, which rabbis and congregations are now asked to observe, have been ratified by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and by the executive committee of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. They provide, in part, that:

1. No rabbi shall accept the pulpit of another rabbi, who is on leave of absence from his congregation to serve as Chaplain, nor shall he accept the position of Associate or Assistant to such rabbi without the definite understanding that he shall relinquish the position when the Chaplain returns to it from his service.

2. No rabbi, eligible for the chaplaincy and not disqualified physically, who has refused to volunteer as Chaplain, shall take advantage of his civilian status to advance himself in the rabbinate by a change of pulpit or shall be countenanced by any congregation in so doing.

3. A rabbi, even though advised by his family physician or others that he is physically disqualified for the chaplaincy, will not be so regarded by the authorities of both the Union and Conference, unless he submits to an Army physical examination and is rejected officially.

4. Chaplains now serving should feel assured that everything possible will be done by both the Union and the Conference to protect their professional interests and to see that the sacrifice they are making will receive due consideration, and that on their return every possible assistance will be given them to recover their status. Furthermore, it is the hope of the Conference and the Union to set up a system of Pulpit Placement. An essential part of the record of all rabbis, to be submitted to the Pulpit Placement Commission, will be their service in the armed forces.

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