The Jewish world today is very complex and diversified. It appears that in recent times we have seen a polarization of Jewish observance. There are either very extremely religious Jews or there are very liberal Jews. Those in the middle of the road or "normal" Jews, seems to have lessened in numbers. In large part, this phenomenon is due to the role of the rabbis in Jewish life.

Certainly, there are many liberal rabbis, and today female rabbis are no longer unusual. We hear of marriages being performed by "rabbis" together with clergymen of other faiths. In Orthodoxy, there has been a very strong shift towards a very strict observance of every aspect of Jewish law. Suddenly, there is separation between the sexes on buses and the norm is separation at weddings and other meetings where men and women gather. This was not the case thirty years ago in the Orthodox world.

Rabbi K. Cohen examines why this shift has taken place and suggests that perhaps in some instances the rabbis have gone too far in their involvement in religious practice today. Obviously, the role of the rabbis is essential for Jewish survival, and the rabbis were empowered with the task of safeguarding the Torah and making laws as they saw fit to allow us to survive the exile. Until the year 358 of the Common Era, there was a Sanhedrin that was recognized as the accepted decision makers.

Unfortunately, today we do not have an accepted group of rabbis to the entire Jewish world. If it is felt that the rabbis are too strict with their rules, one must search a little harder to find a rabbi that he can identify with. There are still many wonderful rabbis out there who act as role models and teach us by example proper conduct. We need to connect to our rabbis, but we need to be sure that there is a rabbi that we can identify with.


Machon Meir is a Center for Jewish Studies located in the heart of Jerusalem, in the neighborhood of Kiryat Moshe. It was established by Rabbi Dov Bigon shortly after the Yom Kippur War in 1973. For the last 35 years, the center has been a place for all of Am Yisrael to come and learn more about their Jewish roots. It has expanded into a facility with over 500 students and classes in Hebrew, English, Russian, French and Spanish.

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