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January 28, 2007

Shmoozer in the Times

Yesterday's New York Times featured an article about the waning interest of seminary students to pursue pulplit positions and the programs that seminaries offer to encourage students to take pulpit positions. The article discussed programs at both Christian and Jewish institutions.

For the example about how the Jewish seminaries have programs to allow graduates to move onto pulpit positions the reporter used Shmooze founding advisor and former associate director of Hillel (which gets a mention) Rabbi Jason Miller. Currently, Rabbi Miller is the rabbi at Congregation Agudas Achim in Columbus. He also maintains a blog that deals with contemporary Jewish issues (like ordaining gay rabbis, Jimmy Carter, and the kosher Subway in Cleveland).

These are the sections of the article that mention Rabbi Miller by name, although his blog says that he was misquoted:

Jason Miller entered the rabbinic seminary with the notion that he wanted to graduate to a pulpit job, but leading a congregation out of school was daunting. He said that to help him prepare for the calling — and not be tempted to leave it before he graduated — he became “the guinea pig” in a new program, attending classes in one state, living and working as an assistant rabbi in another and serving as the primary rabbi in a third.


As a board member for the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York and traveling to smaller Jewish communities around the world, Ned Gladstein saw the result of the waning popularity of pulpit work — smaller or emerging congregations can be left struggling for rabbis. Mr. Gladstein, president of Sunrise ShopRite Inc., which runs grocery stores, donated the money to establish a scholarship for an internship program structured to guide a seminarian through the process of learning how to serve a synagogue. This is done by serving in two simultaneously. While going to school, the student serves as the assistant rabbi at a large established synagogue and lives in that community; using what he learns there as a knowledge base and the head rabbi as a mentor, he travels for holidays and regular Shabbats to a synagogue that is smaller and newer.

Rabbi Miller did not go into the rabbinate immediately after completing the program at the Jewish Theological Seminary. He took a position at Hillel at the University of Michigan instead. (The program has since been changed to give incentive to the graduate to take a post with a smaller synagogue.)

But now he is a rabbi at Congregation Agudas Achim in Columbus, Ohio, and Rabbi Miller said that his experience was a lasting influence on his eventual arrival at the pulpit. It taught him, he said, to try his varied activities “in baby steps, I know I can’t do everything at once” in a way that a less-rounded program might not have.

Posted by irobi at January 28, 2007 11:52 PM


I want to thank the Shmooze Club for the update on my life. To paraphrase Ferris Bueller: "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't have someone blog about what you're doing once in a while, you could miss it."

The only misquote in the NY Times article was that it said I thought a pulpit job right out of school would be "daunting." I never said that. There is nothing that I find daunting -- some things might just be more challenging than others!

I wouldn't want anyone to think that I went to the University of Michigan Hillel right after becoming a rabbi because taking a congregational position was daunting. I went to Michigan Hillel because it was a great job and the students are first rate!

The New York Times article also failed to mention that I was the first adviser to the U-M Shmooze group. I presume that Mr. Ian Robinson will be taking pen to paper and letting the Times know of their omission.

I miss all the U-M Shmoozers and wish you well. Kindly send some of the 1st place kugel to my attention at 2767 E. Broad Street, Columbus Ohio 43209.

Go Blue,

Rabbi Jason

Posted by: rabbijam at January 29, 2007 04:41 PM

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