by R. Gil Student
Too often, rabbis don’t get it. Having spent their entire lives enveloped in a welcoming Jewish environment, they do not fully grasp the challenges facing their congregants in university and the workplace. We sometimes hear platitudes that were only barely true when coined but now lack any connection to reality. For example, it may once have been true as a general rule that gentile employers are more respectful of Orthodox Jews’ religious needs than non-religious Jewish employers, but generations have passed since this cliche represented a general truth. However, a rabbi who hears this from his rebbe in yeshiva will faithfully trust his teacher. How is he to know any differently?
Many rabbis recognize this limitation and toil to overcome it. Just as with any halachic issue, they ask careful questions and speak to different people to ascertain the facts. After years of serving the public, sensitive rabbis learn a great deal about the personal challenges that contemporary Jews face. There is another avenue for this information.
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