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Chief Rabbi delivers annual lecture for Yeshiva University’s Strauss Center

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The Chief Rabbi provided congregants of America’s oldest Jewish community with pointers for Rabbinic leadership in a special memorial lecture delivered last weekend. 

Addressing an audience at the historic Shearith Israel congregation for the Strauss Center for Torah and Western Thought’s annual Rabbi Alan Mirvis Lecture, the Chief Rabbi used his sermon to highlight the demands placed on the modern Rabbi, who must increasingly strive to engage those Jews who are assimilating, as well as those who are already dedicated to Judaism.

In his discussion, entitled “The Ultimate 21st Century Rabbi – A Leader who is there for all four sons”, he referred to a commentary that envisioned the expansion of the spiritual leader’s role, from that of guiding ‘shepherd’ to protective ‘sheepdog’ as Rabbonim strive to keep Jews within the fold.

“The outstanding pulpit Rabbi of the 21st century must be a fusion of shepherd and sheepdog. Somebody who is there for those…who are dedicated… and those who are frum, and someone who is equally there for those who he doesn’t see.”

He advised the establishment of ‘Entry points’ into Jewish life for those whose sole connection to their identity is manifested in their ticking the ‘Jewish’ box on the national census. “We need to encourage [these Jews] to engage with their roots and to become more meaningfully Jewish through membership of a Jewish organisation”, he told the audience.

“We need to excite people, we need to make our Yiddishkite relevant”

The Chief Rabbi was speaking on Sunday at the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in Manhattan at the invitation of Rabbi Soloveichik, who serves as both leader of the congregation and director of the Strauss Centre for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University.

To be granted the honour of speaking was “an enormous privilege” affirmed the Chief Rabbi, who told the audience of his close ties to his cousin Alan Mirvis’s z”l family.

On Shabbat, the Chief Rabbi and Valerie Mirvis joined the community for morning prayers and later participated in a communal lunch that had been arranged in their honour.

Click here to watch the lecture in full.