Who Will Follow The Pope’s Lead?


“Pope Gives God Two Weeks’ Notice.”

Leave it to the New York tabloids, in this case the New York Post, to sum up the stunning news from the Vatican in a few words.

While the Catholic Church scrambles to elect a new pontiff by Easter, some aging leaders of the Jewish community might consider the precedent set by Benedict XVI in stepping down at the age of 85, citing deteriorating health.

It seems quite logical to retire from such a 24/7 and remarkably busy life at that age, but how many people are willing to give up the reins of guiding the spiritual lives of a billion followers?

The issue of leadership transition is on the minds of many in the Jewish community who note that some of the best-known and most influential heads of major organizations are pushing 70, or are already over. A major Jewish think-tank is working on a report on the subject, seeking to assess whether there is a sufficient supply of qualified successors in place in Jewish life, waiting to be tapped. Or will the next crop of leaders come from outside the Jewish professional world, and is that a good thing?

Certainly there are too many examples of Torah sages, here and in Israel, who are over 90 and no longer at their full mental capacity, yet maintaining their positions, sometimes manipulated by younger aides whose advice is more political than spiritual.

I wish shalom to Benedict, and gently suggest that some of our own communal veterans take note of his gracious exit.

was editor and publisher of The Jewish Week from 1993 to 2019. Follow him at garyrosenblatt.substack.com.