Training Rabbis to Serve in the Contemporary World
As part of the training program for young rabbis, the Joseph and Gwendolyn Straus Rabbinical Seminary provides complementary shiurim on crucial subjects from the worlds of philosophy, economics and psychology, and brings students to meet a variety of people from different spheres of influence and disciplines
In light of the friction in Israel where, most recently, a group of prominent rabbis affiliated with the national-religious sector called for protest against the government over its policies on religion and state, the Straus Seminary’s kollel for Israeli rabbis have delved into this crucial issue of acute conflict, focusing on religious and social relations, religion and state and specifically the question of Shabbat in the public sphere.
Over and above the classes taught by Rosh Kollel Rabbi Sarel Rosenblatt and Rabbi Shuki Reich, the rabbis-in-training were brought to meet with some of the country’s significant figures who deal with many of these issues: Chief Rabbi Rabbi David Lau; Rosh Yeshivat Har Etzion Rabbi Yaakov Medan – one of the pioneers on this subject, having composed with Prof. Ruth Gavison the Gavison-Medan Covenant for relations between religious and secular; Chief Rabbi of Ramat Gan Rabbi Yaakov Ariel; and Minister of Religious Affairs, Yamina’s Matan Kahana who, upon taking office, pledged to heal religious tensions that have caused what he called a “deep division in Israeli society.”
One clear message emanated from all of personalities that the Kollel students visited: the significance of the State of Israel as a Jewish state, and not merely a state for the Jews, is reflected in the public sphere through symbols and traditions of Judaism not only by individual citizens but also – and especially – through state symbols and culture. The main controversies between the parties concerned two areas; the first is, what is the best way to get to the point where Judaism informs the public atmosphere – whether through education and engagement or through legislation? The second controversy involves whether the main driver should be the state, its laws and public funds, or if the changes should be made through individuals and society, through personal interaction, dialogue and attempts to formulate social pacts that grow from the grassroots level up.
No matter how the religion-state issue evolves, the next generation of Israeli rabbis from the Straus Seminary will be fluent in the issues and prepared to serve.