Steeled by Adversity: Essays and Addresses on American Jewish Life

By Salo Wittmayer Baron; Jeannette Meisel Baron | Go to book overview

8 The Image of the Rabbi, Formerly and Today *

The rabbinic literature was to a very large extent written by the rabbis themselves, and whatever we read there about the old-type rabbinate has been colored by that authorship. True, from the eighteenth century on, we have had an increasing number of critics of the rabbinate, whether they came from the Ḥasidic wing, who felt that the rabbis were too legalistic, or from the Maskilim. Probably the most outspoken opponent of the rabbinate was Zalkind Hurwitz, a Polish Jew employed by the Paris National Library in the revolutionary period. According to Hurwitz, the only remedy for the Jews, if they wanted to become westernized, was to abolish the rabbinate altogether.

Perhaps our best approach, therefore, might be to look at the differences between the old rabbinate and the rabbinate as we know it in America today.

It has been said that the rabbi has become a jack-of-all-trades. In fact, this is one of the most astonishing developments. In practically every other profession there has been an increasing specialization, whether in engineering, accounting, or law, and certainly in medicine -- they say that before long we shall have a doctor who will treat only the right nostril and not the left one. In the rabbinate, however, the opposite has been the case. The

____________________
*
Address delivered at the Sixtieth Annual Convention of the Rabbinical Assembly of America on May 9, 1960. Reprinted from the Proceedings of that organization, XXIV ( 1960), 84-92.

-147-

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Steeled by Adversity: Essays and Addresses on American Jewish Life
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page ii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments *
  • I - Introduction 1
  • 1 3
  • II 13
  • 2 - American and Jewish Destiny: A Semimillennial Experience 15
  • 3 - American Jewish History: 26
  • 4 74
  • 5 - The Emancipation Movement And American Jewry 80
  • 6 106
  • 7 127
  • 8 - The Image of the Rabbi, Formerly and Today 147
  • 9 - Palestinian Messengers In America, 1849-79: A Record of Four Journeys 158
  • Appendix I 243
  • Appendix II 246
  • III 267
  • 10 - United States 1880-1914 269
  • IV 415
  • 11 417
  • 12 454
  • 13 - Some of the Tercentenary's Historic Lessons 473
  • 14 - Some Historical Lessons For Jewish Philanthropy 485
  • 15 - Cultural Pluralism Of American Jewry 495
  • 16 506
  • 17 - The Jewish Community And Jewish Education 518
  • 18 - American Jewish Scholarship And World Jewry 532
  • 19 542
  • 20 - Reordering Communal Priorities 552
  • Abbreviations 573
  • Notes 575
  • Index 693
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