• Open to the public

Rabbis and Rabbinate – The Challenge

Jerusalem Center for Ethics, Mishkenot Sha’ananim, Jerusalem

Despite the changing daily reality of Israeli life, rabbis have continued to maintain their central role in the Jewish and Israeli experience, both as individuals and as an establishment. What challenges do rabbis face, and what course of action do they take to meet those challenges? These questions were explored at a public symposium in honor of the anthology Rabbis and Rabbinate: The Challenge, edited by IDI Vice President of Research Prof. Yedidia Z. Stern and Dr. Shuki Friedman and published by IDI and Am Oved.

Rabbis, as individuals and an institution, have always held a central role in maintaining Israel's Jewish character. With rabbis controlling key Israeli civil institutions, including marriage, burial and divorce, their rulings often have overtly political implications, directly affecting life for Israel's Jewish citizens.

While Israel's older generation appears to be increasingly skeptical of rabbis' ability to adapt their rulings to the modern Jewish experience, the majority of Israeli youth have surprisingly expressed increasing faith in rabbinic decisions on politically contentious issues.

According to the Israel Democracy Institute's Israeli Democracy Index 2011, 55% of young adults (ages 18-34) said that rabbinical rulings on controversial political issues were justified. 33% of the middle-aged populace (35-54) are in favor of the rulings and a mere 12% of adults (55+) supported the rabbis' decisions.

These trends and other currents influencing rabbinical authority today were addressed by religious leaders and political thinkers from across the Israeli spectrum at the book launch of Rabbis and Rabbinate: The Challenge, edited by Professor Yedidia Z. Stern and Dr. Shuki Friedman, sponsored by the Mishkenot Sha'ananim Ethics Center and the Israel Democracy Institute.