The Rabbi Crisis
IN Bowling Alone, his famous study of American society in the age of atomization, Robert Put- nam writes that “communities in which people wor- ship together are arguably the single most important repository of social capital in America.” Who would disagree? Not only do the tens of thousands of churches, synagogues, and other houses of worship dotting the landscape from coast to coast form the bedrock of American religion, but faith-based com- munities foster a spirit of altruism and civic engage- ment that disproportionately benefits society at large. It is therefore a matter of high concern that precisely when the role of churches and synagogues as “repositories of social capital” seems more impor- tant than ever, these institutions should find them- selves unable to attract sufficient numbers of clergy to lead and inspire them.
About the Author
Jack Wertheimer is professor of American Jewish history at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. Among his contributions to COMMENTARY are “Judaism Without Limits” (July 1997), “The Orthodox Moment” (February 1999), and “The Perplexities of Conservative Judaism” (September 2007).