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Rabbi Says Spiritual Drain Claims Highly Exaggerated

January 14, 1972
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A Conservative rabbinical leader today disputed the contention of some delegates to this week’s World Conference of Synagogues and Community Organizations in Jerusalem that the aliya of rabbis must be curbed because a spiritual drain is developing in the diaspora, Rabbi Wolfe Kelman, executive vice-president of the Rabbinical Assembly, insisted that there is no shortage of rabbis available to serve “viable” Jewish communities in the United States and abroad.

He charged that “it is either irresponsibility or press release pandering which prompts statements about curbing aliya or other remedies for an ailment which has been insufficiently analyzed and for which obsolete remedies are recommended.”

At the world conference, which was held earlier this week, French Jewish leaders said that emigrants to Israel in recent years included five or six chief rabbis of cities with large Jewish communities as well as Jewish scholars, doctors, lawyers and others who had participated in the spiritual leadership of their communities.

It was reported that in 122 Jewish communities affiliated with the Jewish Consistory of France, there are now only 60 rabbis left and 80 reverends. Some delegates to the conference advocated that a rabbi, shochet or model in the diaspora who wishes to settle in Israel should not be allowed to do so unless he finds a replacement for himself.


Rabbi Kelman, who recently completed a study on the synagogues and the rabbinate for the American Jewish Committee’s Task Force on the future of the Jewish community, said that “in recent years, enough rabbis of all persuasions and denominational loyalties have become available to meet the needs of virtually every viable community which is prepared to request and elect a rabbi.

At the present time, he continued, “there is a reasonable equilibrium between the available sources of rabbis and the needs of viable communities.” He said a viable community is one which can afford a rabbi and where there are enough activities, including a Hebrew school, to keep a rabbi busy.

Rabbi Kelman stated that “the readiness of rabbis to serve communities which actually need them is particularly true overseas, I do not know of any community abroad, whether in Europe, Latin America, Iran or elsewhere, which has been denied the services of a rabbi because of the unavailability of rabbis from American, Israeli or European seminaries or yeshivot ready to serve them,” he said.

“Insofar as there is a shortage,” Rabbi Kelman noted, “it exists primarily in communities which are in the process of dissolution because of changing neighborhoods, emigration and other irreversible factors.”

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