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  • Martin van den Bergh

Training new congregational rabbis

Today there are a good amount of Yeshivot, Kollelim and other institutes claiming to train rabbis to serve in Diaspora communities. While such rabbis need to have a very good grounding in Torah and Halachic knowledge, they are also need many other skills to enable them to be effective spiritual leaders in communities which are facing many challenges. They are also need to have the pastoral skills to connect with their congregants when celebrating Semachot, and alas when suffering life challenges such as bereavement and illness. And above all they have to be effective teachers and speakers. So the requirements of being a congregation Rabbi are many. However, possibly the most important qualities of being a congregation Rabbi is being empathetic and having experience.


I was fortunate in that I before I became a fully fledged congregational Rabbi, I had two stints as an assistant rabbi. The first was for three years while I was doing my first degree. The second was for one year, after I had graduated. While the first stint was not easy, and I learnt more of what not to do, the experience was very important, and indeed I became the rabbi of that particular, when the rabbi retired. The second stint was a much more positive experience. But, both stints enabled me to learn at first hand what being a community rabbi is all about.


Therefore, budding rabbis should always welcome opportunities to be an assistant before setting out to be the rabbi on ones own. Today, this is even more important, when the challenges are even greater.

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