Rabbi urges a bolder approach

By Simon Rocker, August 11, 2011

One of Britain's most senior Orthodox ministers has called for bolder leadership, saying that too many rabbis are seen as "unworldly and uneducated".

Rabbi Dr Jeffrey Cohen's comments were made in a hard-hitting sermon at Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue on Shabbat.

The former Stanmore minister cited a talmudic story connecting the destruction of the Temple to the failure of rabbis in Roman times to act decisively for fear of what others might say.

Was there not a message in that for rabbis to rise to the needs of the hour and address the relevant issues of the day, rather than "as, alas, seems to be too often the case, to get involved in minutiae of textual interpretation"?

And was there not "a call to them to ensure that they apply Torah principles to the real moral maze in which we - and especially our young people - live?

"The manifold enticements and dangers for which the superficial level of Jewish education that most of our schools offer provides little guidance or counter-balance."

Moreover, "a rabbi who who fears to adapt our halachic and spiritual perspectives for the preservation of our largely wavering United Synagogue affiliates… has no right to speak with the authority of Orthodox Judaism."

He went on: "It is tragic the frequency with which we hear the complaint emanating from shuls around the world that their rabbis display no leadership, that they are unworldly and uneducated, that they focus on irrelevant issues and are out of touch - and not only with the youth."

Tuesday's fast of Tishah b'Av was "as much a lament for the demise of courageous, inspirational and tolerant spiritual leadership as it is for the destruction of the Temple. The latter situation may not be in our hands to redress. The former assuredly is."

Last updated: 12:59pm, August 11 2011