LOUISVILLE, August 24, 2015 — The Jewish community has been buzzing over the news that 340 rabbis recently signed a letter in support of President Obama’s Iran deal. A deeper look into these 340 individuals shows that only 151 of them are truly doing the work that a rabbi does, while 189 of them are using the title of rabbi to convey a prestige on themselves that is not merited.
A complete list of those who signed the letter of support, and their occupations – many of which are excellent pursuits that are positive and good for the community – can be found here.
This list shows that the left’s claim that 340 U.S. based rabbis support the Iran nuclear deal is false.
To allow these 189 individuals to say they are rabbis is akin to referring to Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton as reverends or comedian Father Guido Sarducci as a priest.
There are thousands of rabbis worldwide. The Chabad sect alone has thousands of rabbis serving approximately 4,500 branches worldwide. Trying to find one single Chabad rabbi who supports the Iran deal is a challenge.
The 340 rabbis claim to be a diverse group, but that is not true.
They are all political leftists. They frequently sign letters dealing with political issues such as climate change, gender inequality and other leftist social causes. Many of them belong to J-Street, an organization that has been funded in the past with money from Arabs hostile to Israel.
Many of the 340 rabbis also belonged to the group “Rabbis for Obama,” which is clearly political.
These leftist activists have every right to participate in the political process. What they do not have the right to do is mislead people about what they do for a living.
Many of the 340 rabbis on the list are retired. Unlike other professionals such as stockbrokers and attorneys, rabbis are not required to ever participate in any continuing education. The official title of rabbi never expires, even if they never fulfill one rabbinic function. There are no dues to pay to keep the title.
However, if somebody desperately needs an attorney, the implication is that the person they meet with actually practices law. Passing the bar exam is not good enough. Anyone who has watched “The Simpsons” knows that Lionel Hutz is not who one wants in an attorney.
A real rabbi’s job is intense. They officiate weddings, preside over funerals, do couples counseling, conduct bereavement counseling, lead religious services, visit sick patients at the hospital, and have meetings with many other congregants.
This frequently all happens in the same day!
189 of the 340 rabbis signing the pro-Iran deal letter are probably not fulfilling the role of the rabbi. Some of them may have done the tasks of the rabbi at one time, but they do not do it now.
Some of them donned the name of rabbi in much the same way the wolf wears the sheep’s fur.
Being clear, a rabbi needs neither a temple nor a congregation to perform legitimate rabbinic functions. Being a chaplain in a hospice unit is certainly noble and in the spirit of what a rabbi does.
So is teaching students the required texts they need to become the next generation of rabbis.
Where the line gets crossed is when there is zero correlation between the title and the work. Miriam Glazer is a recently retired college professor from American Jewish University. She ran the literature department. Her expertise was Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”
She became a legally ordained rabbi, but her life was dedicated to her professorial responsibilities. She and her colleagues could have signed an Iran letter that stated they were academics rather than clergy.
They deliberately chose the clergy designation because of the prestige it carries. Deep down, many academics know that very few people care what academics have to say.
Yanki Biggs became an ordained Chabad rabbi in 2006. He works at an electronics store supervising people who sell merchandise. He is against the Iran deal. When asked if he would sign a letter using the title of rabbi, he said he would not.
He would consider it dishonest because that is not what he does for a living.
Investment advisors, yoga practitioners, furniture salespeople and opera singers should not hold themselves out as rabbis. In this case they did so because they knew that spouting their opinions without the rabbinic title would inspire the deserved ridicule. In addition to the retired rabbis and the newly ordained rabbis, there were serious cases of multiple counting that would be forbidden in accounting circles or on Wall Street.
340 rabbis does not mean that 340 different institutions favor the Iran deal. A serious inflating of the numbers was required to approach anywhere near 340.
Temple Israel of Hollywood had three of their rabbis sign the letter. American Jewish University had several people sign the letter. Nationwide, there were rabbinic interns, assistant rabbis and junior rabbis supporting the deal. There were also visiting rabbis, people who come to town and give a lecture when it suits them.
Then there are the adjunct rabbis, a title which is as lightly regarded as being an adjunct professor.
Barack Obama supporters deliberately remove the word adjunct when describing him because it detracts from the narrative of him as a scholar.
A particularly egregious example of multiple counting occurred at Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Pennsylvania where Deborah Waxman of Wyncote, Pennsylvania is the President.
Virtually every Pennsylvania rabbi on this list attended RRC, a political activist training ground. If one accepts Waxman as an actual rabbinical college president, that still does not mean her entire faculty of subordinates deserves recognition. There can only be one head sled.
This seems to clearly be a case of astroturfing where one college provided multiple names to make the list appear larger. Between 10 and 20 people on the list have no resume except for attending RRC. These people are nothing but students who graduated.
There are also a few “Rent-a-rabbi” people on the list. “Have license, will travel to officiate weddings” is a for-profit business that allows them to pick and choose which one rabbinic function to perform while ignoring the rest of them.
These are traveling salespeople.
Congregational rabbis receive a salary and do all of the work required. They do not work on commission. The list also contains some individuals who just make stuff up as they go along.
One woman teaches “God-optional Judaism,” which is as crazy as it sounds. There is no polite way to describe lunacy. Judaism is monotheism. The two are inseparable. Judaism cannot be atheistic or polytheistic ever.
Many on the left are used to the strategy of attacking the messenger, but writers of columns such as this one are not pretending to be anyone other than John Q. Citizen. There is no embellishment of credentials.
The opinions of the 189 rabbis do not matter any less than that of the average citizen, but their views do not matter one ounce more either. Retired rabbis wishing to be honest with the public should sign their letters with the title of emeritus attached to it.
Rabbis should disclose when they became ordained and when they retired.
Academics and others not in the rabbinic profession should just cease using the title altogether, before ever using the title solely for political activism.
Nina Beth Cardin is an environmental activist. She founded the Baltimore Jewish Environmental Network and the Baltimore Orchard Project. Aryeh Cohen of Los Angeles California works for the Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice. He was arrested in 2013 for protesting Walmart.
Steven Bob of Glen Ellyn, Illinois is the founder of the Fourth Day Initiative, an interfaith solar energy project. Shlomo Wing’s Facebook page says he’s a “Daddy” at “Stay at home dad.”
A. Bruce Goldman of New York, New York is retired. During the 1968 riots at Columbia University, he was the Jewish Chaplain at Columbia, and was let go by the directors of the independent board of directors of the Jewish organization for participating in the riot and takeover of campus buildings.
This does not make any of these individuals bad people, but it does not make them rabbis either.
It makes them political activists stubbornly unwilling to admit they are just political activists.
Rabbis spread Torah, the teachings of the Old Testament. They also spread knowledge of other Jewish texts such as the Talmud. None of these or any other Jewish texts say anything about climate change, a living wage, occupying anything, or “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western Civ has got to go.”
Jewish texts are religious documents, not political manifestos. There is zero connection between any religious Jewish document and any political ideology. Those who deliberately fail to grasp this are not rabbis. They are frauds, or at the very least engaging in a lack of transparency.
In most industries, this is not tolerated. With something as serious as the life and death issue of Iran, the ethical standard should be even higher. 340 rabbis chose to use their title to push a political agenda.
189 of them were not even honest in how they did it. No matter how many degrees they rack up and never use, they are not rabbis.