Apr 27, 2006
How should Jews, victims of genocide, mobilize in response to the world-wide growth of antisemitism or genocidal policies in the Sudan? When Israeli border police and Religious Zionist youth come to tense confrontation in Gush Katif or violence in Amona, what is in store for the future of Religious Zionism, not to speak of the fabric of Israeli society? How should the contemporary congregational rabbinate respond to a new generation of Jews whose spiritual needs drive so many of them to embrace popular kabbalah, trendy spiritualism, or a wariness of involvement in mainstream synagogues? How can a rabbi (and his family) take care of their own spiritual needs in the midst of the many conflicting demands made on them from day to day?
Such and more are the thorny spiritual, moral, political, professional and personal questions that will be on the agenda when hundreds of Orthodox Rabbis from around the world gather in the New York area in the next 10 days for the annual convention of the Rabbinical Council of America.
“Orthodox Jewry and its leadership bring nuanced and balanced perspectives to issues that are polarizing societies around the world, and this is the major occasion each year when those policies are formulated and approved” said Rabbi Basil Herring, the organization’s Executive Vice President.
But the rabbis will also be looking inward, at specifically religious and Jewish questions that can befuddle even professional clergy and ethicists. Under the overall theme of Searching for Spirituality, the participants will be pondering whether, in the midst of meticulous observance of ritual it is possible to lose sight of the religious goal to become an integrated spiritual personality. They will take a hard look at whether contemporary Orthodoxy provides sufficient opportunity for women to actualize their spiritual potential; whether Madonna-style kabbalah holds even a modicum of meaning for Modern Orthodox Jews; what configurations of prayer and study best enhance the spiritual lives of their practitioners.
In the words of Rabbi Dale Polakoff, President of the RCA, “Rabbis today bear increasingly complex roles and responsibilities in leading their communities, helping individuals and families cope and grow, and at the same time maintaining their own personal Torah and professional growth, spirituality, and skill set in a rapidly changing world. This convention will address these issues in sustained fashion, equipping rabbis with what they need to know about subjects ranging from end of life crises to internet blogging.”
“When a rabbi in Los Angeles can conference-call and exchange email with colleagues in Canada and Chicago about booking speakers from England or Israel for an engagement in New York, to be posted on a much utilized rabbinic website, you know that the RCA has gone global,” said conference chair Rabbi Elazar Muskin.
Speakers at the convention will include prime thinkers and movers on the Orthodox scene, in the rabbinate, organizational and communal life, academia, and governmental spokesmen. Beyond the congregational rabbinate, there will be numerous sessions for military chaplains, health care chaplains, rabbis’ wives, rabbinical students, and educators.
The Convention is open only to Rabbinical Council of America members, and rabbinical students who are potential members.