Rabbis beginning their careers today are entering a vastly different environment from what their older colleagues encountered 20 or 30 years ago. Gone are the assumptions that Jewish families will join a synagogue or ensure their children receive a Jewish education.
Today, rabbis have an opportunity to engage a far more diverse population. They interact with individuals who are just as likely to seek spiritual experiences at a coffee shop or on social media as in a synagogue. The Canadian Jewish News recently published a strikingly inclusive article capturing the attitudes and observations of relatively newly-minted rabbis across movements.
The piece states that, “as the role of a rabbi has shifted – outside the synagogue’s walls and away in some cases from being the mara d’atra, the authority who makes communal decisions – so has rabbinical training. Instead of focusing on the abstract, there is a greater emphasis on giving rabbis the skills to do their jobs in a changed context.”
The piece includes Rabbi Miriam Margles, ’06, spiritual leader of the unaffiliated Danforth Jewish Circle. Here’s an excerpt:
Rabbi Miriam Margles describes her role as “healing Jewish wounds.” Rabbi Margles, who was ordained by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 2006 and is the first full-time rabbi hired by Toronto’s unaffiliated Danforth Jewish Circle, said that some of both the Jewish and non-Jewish members of the community have had experiences “of being marginalized or being made invisible… and because of that felt there’s no place in the Jewish community for them or no place in Judaism for them.”
As a rabbi for a grassroots community, Rabbi Margles, 46, finds that part of her role is to help reclaim traditions that were cast off as irrelevant.
“A lot of my work… is enabling Jews and non-Jews to have the tools to engage with Jewish tradition, taking into consideration the truth of our lives, so that includes challenging patriarchy and addressing LGBTQ issues.”