Friday, August 22, 2008

How one Orthodox rabbi joined Conservative

The New York Jewish Week has a piece on Rabbi David Lincoln, a British-born and British-trained rabbi who has just retired from a Conservative shul in NY and is now davening in an Orthodox congregation.

He recently angered the local Orthodox community by expressing surprise, on a Jewish cable television show, that “there was no sense of outrage” in Orthodox Jewry after a series of headlines about sexual molestation and financial scandals in the community.

But what is really fascinating is how this rabbi – who received Orthodox semichah in the UK and who has the Chief Rabbi’s certificate, which allows him to serve in communities under the Chief’s auspices – ended up in a Conservative synagogue:

After two years serving an Orthodox congregation in southern England, he looked west, to the United States. He contacted the United Synagogue of America, precursor to the present United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. He assumed the American organisation was Orthodox, like the United Synagogue in his home country. Impressed by his credentials, United Synagogue officials offered Rabbi Lincoln some pulpit positions, and Rabbi Lincoln quickly learned about Conservative Judaism. Theologically, “I felt very much at home,” he says.

On a serious note, this shows something about how different the British rabbinate was 40 years ago; I can’t think of many United Synagogue rabbis nowadays who would feel comfortable jumping ship like that (although some Conservative pulpits in North America are still filled by Orthodox-trained rabbis, by the way).

On a less serious note, Rabbi Lincoln may have had very impressive credentials; but had I been interviewing him, I would have been less than impressed by the amount of research he did about the organisation to which he was applying…..

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