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Ask Shifra

Something Different... Answering questions and making curious observations (online) since 2005.


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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Snippy Rabbis

Mirty pulls my blog out of a coma with this question:

Is it OK for a shul rabbi to be really snippy with his congregants? What if he makes someone cry? Berates the Bar Mitzvah boy's cousin? At what point do you say, I know he's a talmud chachom, but someone has to tell him to stop! And how do you get him to change?

Oooh this is a tough one. I'm guessing this is no hypothetical question either...
Some congregations think their Rabbis walks on water (excuse the expression) but most keep an eye out for things that need to be kept in check.

In every shul the Rabbi should have someone to answer to (be it the board or directors, or the congregation itself) and those are the people that should be letting the Rabbi know his behavior is out of line. It's very difficult to get a person to change their nature. Perhaps the Rabbi is going through a hard time personally or is frustrated is his position. The best you can hope for is for him to change specific behaviors that are upsetting the kehilla.

Has the Rabbi always been this way?
Do the people around you seem to accept it as normal or want to change it?

If you have support it should be much easier to affect change. While I know that community leaders are only human (of course) it still saddens me to hear about Jewish leadership alienating their fellow Jews.

4 Comments:

At 10:49 AM, Anonymous shanna said...

In my opinion (if you don't mind my butting in here, Shifra), it's always worth asking the rabbi for a private appointment to discuss an issue. Part of his job is to be responsive to the needs/concerns of individual congregants. You need not be the "victim" of his harsh words; if it upset you, then it affects you too and you have a right to make your opinion heard. He may not be able to explain to you why he acted the way he did (it could have to do with something that particular congregant has done in the past that he must keep secret, for example), but he should be aware that certain behaviors/actions affect the congregation as a whole. And he may very well make a change, even if these patterns of behavior are long-ingrained. Sometimes it takes a gentle wake-up call to make someone aware of the effects of his actions, particularly if his surroundings have changed slowly over the years.

(I speak from experience, in case you can't tell.)

 
At 12:15 PM, Anonymous Little Wolf said...

Being that Rabbis are just as human as the rest of us they come with the same set of 'issues' that everyone else has.

At the shul that I grew up in, the most recent former Rabbi had some anger issues. These issues didn't appear all at once or even to everybody. But he was known to 'snap' at other Rabbis in the community. And at congregants during meetings. He was eventually confronted by the President of the shul and two other board members, who basically told him he had only one choice if he wished to get his contact renewed, and that was to take anger management counseling. When he refused, saying he didn't have a problem, the board voted to not renew him and begin the search for a new Rabbi.

As I said, Rabbis are like everyone else, If you feel confortable discussing the issue with the Rabbi, discuss it with him yourself, if not then find someone who is involved with the hiring committee that you feel comfortable talking to and see if they will talk to them.

 
At 10:52 AM, Blogger Zoe Strickman said...

I agree. The "talk to him" approach is probably best. The problem is sometimes rabbis don't have someone to answer to, and the congregation is not unified enough to oust him or to reprimand him. I suppose he would take on the role then of a king who rules by divine right. Lucky for him, terrible for everyone else until people get together to make a difference. Nevertheless, it's terrible when a rabbi berates a congregant. It's just not appropriate, and they should watch their tongues, their eyes, and their thoughts.

By the way, I hope you don't mind me asking you this, but would you be willing to put a link to my site on yours? My site is seriously lacking in Jewish readership and I could use the increased traffic (and more importantly, the feedback) on topics that I am writing about on the blog, and I don't know how to attract more Jewish readers. I'd appreciate any suggestions you have, and I've enjoyed reading your site since I came onto the blog world in March. Thanks. -Zoe

 
At 11:50 AM, Blogger Shifra said...

Shanna of COURSE your opinions are always welcome... Did you really have to ask?

Zoe- your comments are always welcome too, but tacking the same last paragraph onto the otherwise very intelligent comments you make on EVERY blog is well um... tacky...

If people like what you have to say and your name is linkable (which it is) people will link to you even without the self promotion. :)

More blogging later, I'm getting slammed at work!

-Shifra

 

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