Rabbis Urged to Provide Political Leadership, Not Just Spiritual

Declaring that rabbis “for too long have accepted a too narrow view of rabbinic leadership,” a leading Orthodox rabbi called on rabbis throughout the country to provide political leadership for the Jewish people.

Addressing several hundred rabbis attending the 46th national convention of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) here last night, Rabbi Shubert Spero, a vice-president of the RCA urged rabbis to get deeply involved in Federation and welfare funds, as well as to become leaders in national Jewish and Zionist organizations.

Spero, who is from the Young Israel of Cleveland and a member of the board of trustees of the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland, told the RCA convention delegates that “the title ‘spiritual leader’ for a rabbi is a type of straight jacket. The lay community sees this term as a delineation of the limited area in which rabbis are supposed to lead such as a narrow ritual area.”

“We have permitted ourselves to be misled by the linguistic conventions,” said Spero, adding, “There are in Judaism no clearly defined generally recognized areas of positions of leadership which can be distinguished as require ‘lay leadership’ on the one hand, and ‘rabbinic leadership’ on the other. Rabbinic leadership can simply mean leadership by the rabbis with no inherent limitations on the area in which they are to operate.”

ACTIVE FEDERATION ROLE NEEDED

Spero said rabbinic leadership was needed today to devise effective social measures to remedy contemporary social problems such as the increasing incidents of Jewish divorce, the cost of Kosher products and the migrating tendencies of the Jewish people which lead to the breakup of neighborhoods.

Speaking on how to make rabbinic leadership more effective, he said that “regarding issues facing the American Jewish community, whether it be Jewish education, Aliya, Soviet Jewry and Israel, fighting anti-Semitism, the Federation presides over the decision making process. The Federation, he added, “controls the significant fund raising apparatuses, not only for Israel through the UJA, but for all the local agencies in the country. Rabbis should become leaders in the Federations,” he declared.

Spero disagreed with those whom he said have felt that Federation structures are closed. “Federations are acceptable to rabbis who can work their way to leadership positions, and ultimately nationally. There are no barriers thrown up, no discrimination against Orthodox Jews he said.

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