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Rabbinical Council of America


Rabbinical Council of America

The Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) is one of the world's largest organizations of Orthodox rabbis; it is affiliated with The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, more commonly known as the Orthodox Union (OU). It is the Modern Orthodox rabbinical association, as the main professional association for Modern Orthodox rabbis in the United States.[1][2][3][4] Most rabbis of the RCA belong to Modern Orthodox Judaism.


  • History 1
  • Geirus Policies and Standards committee 2
  • Controversy 3
  • Presidents 4
    • Presidents 4.1
    • Vice Presidents 4.2
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


The roots of the organization go back to 1923 when it was founded as the Rabbinical Council of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America. Its purpose was to perpetuate and promote Orthodox Judaism in the United States of America.

Its members attempted on a number of occasions to merge with other Jewish groups, for the purpose of developing a unified traditional rabbinate for the American Jewish community. A number of attempts were made to join with groups such as Agudat Israel, but all such attempts were rebuffed.

A merger took place in 1935 between the Rabbinical Council of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations and another Orthodox rabbinical group, the Rabbinical Association of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, a part of Yeshiva University. With this merger the combined group took the name Rabbinical Council of America, known in the Jewish community as the RCA. In 1942 the Hebrew Theological College Alumni merged with the RCA. In later years the RCA attempted to merge with another Orthodox rabbinical group, the Rabbinical Alliance of America, but this attempt failed. There was also a temporary adoption of the Orthodox Roundtable that was abandoned in 1991,RCA leadership tried to censor the group.

Most members of the Rabbinical Council of America are actively working as pulpit rabbis; a significant minority are working in Jewish education.

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik played an important role in the RCA until his death in 1993. For many years, the RCA was led by Rabbi Steven Dworkin, who served as Executive Vice-President until his death in January 2003. The RCA was then operated by Rabbi Basil Herring, who previously served as director of the Orthodox Forum. In September 2012 the RCA announced that Rabbi Herring was transitioning to the position of Editor-in-Chief of RCA Publications and that Rabbi Mark Dratch would take over as the new EVP.[5]

In recent years, complaints have surfaced within the Orthodox Jewish community about a lack of leadership and direction by the RCA and that the RCA has failed to meet the challenges posed by recent changes within the Orthodox Jewish community.

It publishes an English quarterly journal, Tradition: A Journal of Orthodox Jewish Thought, which began in 1958, and a Hebrew journal, Hadorom, which began in 1957.

The RCA was, for many years, affiliated with two Yeshivas in IsraelYeshivat HaDarom and the Gan Yavneh Youth Village. It severed its relations with both in 2009, pleading economic difficulties.

In 2009, it issued a protest against a USCCB statement on interfaith dialogue that was critical of dual-covenant theology.

As of 2010, there were close to 1000 ordained rabbis in the RCA, spread throughout 14 countries.[6]

Geirus Policies and Standards committee

In 2007, the RCA established a Geirus Policies and Standards (GPS) committee, to strive for uniform conversion procedures by its affiliated rabbis and local rabbinical courts across the United States.[7][8][9]

The move was controversial, with some criticism that it would make conversion more difficult and intimidating, create onerous burdens for adopted children scheduled for conversion, and represented a capitulation to more conservative voices.[7][8][9] Supporters of the GPS maintain that it would establish certainty for converts—particularly those looking to move to Israel and have their conversion recognized, create definite benchmarks, ensure observance of Jewish law by converts, and squelch past practices of questionable conversions that stemmed from situational pressure on individual rabbis.[7][8]

Under the process created by the GPS, while individual rabbis mentor and educate potential converts, as was the case previously, a regional religious court (bet din) finalizes the conversion by examining the prospective convert and deciding whether to approving the application.[7][8]

A week after the arrest of Rabbi Barry Freundel, a prominent Washington, D.C. area RCA member on charges of voyeurism at a mikvah, the RCA sought to contain damage from negative publicity. It announced on October 20, 2014 that it would now require the appointment of ombudswomen to protect the interests and handle concerns of women undergoing conversion to Judaism, a process which requires disrobing in a ritual bath. The council announced it would also create a commission to identify ways that abuses of converts during the conversion process could be prevented. The council noted that the commission will include female members.[10] The crimes allegedly committed by Freundel sent shock waves through the American Jewish community and threatened to precipitate a crisis between the American and Israeli rabbinate. Initially, the spokesperson for the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, Ziv Maor, indicated that conversions Rabbi Freundel had supervised would be reviewed, but after an emergency meeting the Rabbinate issued a statement that Freundel's conversions before his arrest would be viewed as valid.[11]


Following the release of a resolution on gun usage and gun ownership in July 2014, a controversy arose where a group of 12 Orthodox rabbis—nine of them members of the RCA—issued a counterstatement disputing the resolution.[12] Subsequent dialogue has focused on the alleged narrowness or breadth of the RCA statement in condemning "gun violence" and the "critique of elements of American culture that valorize weaponry and violence” that focus exclusively on guns rather than non-firearm related violence in the United States,[13] while the RCA maintained that the resolution was "not about particular laws and regulations but a critique of elements of American culture that valorize weaponry and violence. That is, it is a critique of American gun culture."[14] The original resolution was passed by a plurality in a vote that included less than ten percent of RCA members participating.[12]



Vice Presidents

See also


  1. ^ "Rabbi Barry Freundel Arrested — Suspected of Peeping on Women in Mikvah". The Jewish Daily Forward. 14 October 2014. Retrieved 17 November 2014. 
  2. ^ "The Jewish Press » » Rabbinical Council of America Issues Guidelines on Sexual Abuse". The Jewish Press. Retrieved 17 November 2014. 
  3. ^ "Opposition slate challenges Orthodox Rabbinical Council". Retrieved 17 November 2014. 
  4. ^ "The Wiley-Blackwell History of Jews and Judaism". Retrieved 17 November 2014. 
  5. ^ "RCA Appoints Rabbi Mark Dratch as its New Executive Vice President". Retrieved 17 November 2014. 
  6. ^ "Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) - About Us". Retrieved 17 November 2014. 
  7. ^ a b c d Nussbaum Cohen, Debra (March 5, 2008). "A Conversion Critique From Within".  
  8. ^ a b c d Pruzansky, Steven (March 12, 2008). "The Truth About RCA Geirus".  
  9. ^ a b Lowenfeld, Jonah (July 13, 2010). "Courting Controversy, Orthodox Rabbis Address Women’s Leadership, Conversion".  
  10. ^ "Rabbinical Council To Add A Role For Women In Wake Of Voyeurism Scandal".  
  11. ^ "Conversions Performed By Barry Freundel, Rabbi Arrested For Voyeurism, Still Legitimate: Israel Rabbinate". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 17 November 2014. 
  12. ^ a b "Orthodox rabbis on guns". Washington Post. 2014-09-16. Retrieved 2014-11-15. 
  13. ^ "Reply by the Golani Rifle & Pistol Club to Rabbi Elli Fischer". Golani Rifle and Gun Club. 2014-10-06. Retrieved 2014-11-15. 
  14. ^ "Response from Rabbi Elli Fischer, chairman of the committee that drafted the Rabbinical Council of America resolution on gun violence". Washington Post. 2014-10-03. Retrieved 2014-11-15. 
  15. ^ "RABBINICAL COUNCIL OF AMERICA PAST PRESIDENTS". Retrieved 17 November 2014. 

External links

  • Tradition Journal (official website)
  • Rabbinical Council of America (official website)
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