Who Needs It?
Hundreds of thousands of Israelis, religious and secular, are spiritually adrift. They have questions about their Judaism. They would love to be part of a warm community, to be inspired, to learn, and to make their life cycle events and holidays more meaningful. They are searching for a Jewish role model who can speak to them. In the absence of authentic Jewish leadership, the result is alienation from Judaism, ignorance of its cultural riches and a diminished sense of Jewish identity.
In cities and towns across Israel, the missing, pivotal character who could serve as a locus for spiritual needs, charitable programs, outreach and more is the communal rabbi.
Doesn’t the Israeli government provide communities with rabbis?
No, the Ministry of Religious Services assigns rabbis to cities, rather than communities; each city is comprised of many communities. The government city rabbis are responsible for supervising religious services such as the kashrut, eruv and mikvah that enable basic Jewish observance on a citywide level. It is not their responsibility to provide personal counseling or religious guidance to individuals, nor do they have the time and resources to do so.
The Barkai Center was founded because we believe that it is important for every community to have a rabbi that actually lives in the community and knows the individual families and their needs. The rabbis who graduate from the Barkai Center will not be appointed or paid by the government, but by the community itself. The Barkai-trained rabbi will be responsible for, and responsive to, the spiritual needs of his specific community.
Do Israelis want communal rabbis?
Yes! In the last few years, the need for a rabbi with whom congregants can have a personal relationship, and who can help build and bring focus to a community has become obvious and congregations in unlikely locations, from Mitzpeh Ramon in the south to Katzrin in the north, have begun to search for leaders for their communities. Unfortunately, in Israel communal rabbis are few and far between. The Barkai Center is stepping in to remedy the situation.
Why should rabbis need so much training? Aren’t people just born leaders?
Rabbinical students, who must of necessity spend years immersed in study, are often rich in theoretical knowledge but have not usually been trained in practical rabbinics. Nor can any one person’s life experience cover all the myriad situations a communal rabbi will encounter in his career. Even naturally born leaders require professional training and mentoring to draw out their natural talents.
The Barkai Center will train Fellows to deal with situations they may not have encountered previously such as infertility issues, special needs children, rebellious teens, marriages suffering from sexual dysfunction, terminal illnesses, financial disputes between congregants, substance abuse, eating disorders etc – as well as the attendant halachic and spiritual questions raised by these issues.
How will these rabbis be different from social workers?
The Barkai-trained communal rabbi will help people frame their personal issues within the halachic and spiritual perspective of Judaism, and be trained to recognize when people need professional help. He is by no means intended to replace social workers or mental health care professionals but rather to work with them and supplement their work, adding a spiritual dimension and depth of Jewish wisdom unavailable elsewhere.
Why is this important?
So many Israelis, even those who regularly attend synagogue, are alienated from God and Judaism, never experiencing the intellectual, emotional and spiritual riches that Judaism has to offer. Israel is at a crossroads. People are searching for meaning but unsure where to find it. You can help them.
The Zionist, Modern Orthodox communal rabbi is a bridge – connecting Jewish communities, and connecting people with their own heritage. Strong communities, strong families and strong Jews are what ensure the Jewish future in Israel. Support the Barkai Center and make it happen.