Most Jews Don’t Have A Rabbi

There’s this notion among non-Jews that every Jew has a rabbi directing him.

That’s not how it works.

Just as most Christians are not mentored by a pastor or priest, most Jews also do their own thing. A Jew or Christian goes to their house of worship every week and in most cases, they don’t take much direction from their clergy.

Some Jews do have an allegiance to a particular rabbi, an allegiance that often amounts to direction in certain parts of his life (and occasionally in all areas of his life). I’d say that accounts for fewer than 10% of Jews. A Hasid never publicly disagrees with his rebbe. Hasidim are more guided by their rebbe than other Jews are by their rabbi. Hasidim account for about 5% of Jews.

Rabbis, like other groups, are usually fighting for more power. They often flatter themselves that they direct their congregants. This is usually an illusion.

I remember sitting in my Orthodox shul about ten years ago and the rabbi mentioned in his sermon that we had chosen him as our spiritual leader. I thought, what? No way! I chose this particular synagogue for various reasons, but I did not agree with the rabbi about many things, and when I sought guidance from a rabbi, I went elsewhere.

Just because a particular rabbi oversees one’s conversion to Judaism does not mean that that rabbi exerts pull over you. Conversion to Judaism is rarely a spiritual process. It is usually a prosaic one and it is rarely any fun for the would-be convert. Not many converts develop particular affection for their Av Beit Din (head of the Jewish law court overseeing their conversion).

Washington Post:

Ivanka Trump’s rabbi ‘deeply troubled’ by president’s response to Charlottesville

By Derek Hawkins August 17 at 3:27 AM

A head rabbi at Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner’s New York City synagogue denounced President Trump’s response to the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, joining a chorus of political and religious leaders who say the president was wrong to blame “both sides” for the violence.

In a letter Wednesday to his congregation, Rabbi Haskel Lookstein wrote that his community had been “consumed” by the “frightening message and fallout” from the hate-fueled mayhem that left one woman dead and others injured last weekend.

“We are appalled by this resurgence of bigotry and antisemitism, and the renewed vigor of the neo-Nazis, KKK and alt-right,” read the letter, which was signed by Lookstein and two other rabbis. “While we always avoid politics, we are deeply troubled by the moral equivalency and equivocation President Trump has offered in his response to this act of violence.”

“We pray that our country heeds the voices of tolerance, and stays true to its vision of human rights and civil rights,” it read.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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