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). Most rabbis of the RCA belong to Centrist Modern Orthodox Judaism.
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, when the predominantly Right wing 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.
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.
As of 2010, there were close to 1000 ordained rabbis in the RCA, spread throughout 14 countries.
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.
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. 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.
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.
- Herbert S. Goldstein (1938–1940)
- Simcha Levy (1940–1942)
- Joseph Lookstein (1942–1944)
- William Drazin (1944–1946)
- Uri Miller (1946–1948)
- Israel Tabak (1948–1950)
- Samuel Berliant (1950–1952)
- Theodore L. Adams (1952–1954)
- David B. Hollander (1954–1956)
- Solomon J. Shafran (1956–1958)
- Emanuel Rackman (1958–1960)
- Charles Weinberg (1960–1962)
- Abraham Avrutick (1962–1964)
- Israel Miller (1964–1966)
- Pesach Levovitz (1966–1968)
- Zev Segal (1968–1970)
- Bernard L. Berzon (1970–1972)
- Louis Bernstein (1972–1974)
- Fabian Schonfeld (1974–1976)
- Walter Wurzburger (1976–1978)
- Bernard Rosensweig (1978–1980)
- Sol Roth (1980–1982)
- Gilbert Klaperman (1982–1984)
- Louis Bernstein (1984–1986)
- Milton Polin (1986–1988)
- Max Schreier (1988–1990)
- Marc D. Angel (1990–1992)
- Moshe Gorelik (1992–1994)
- Louis Bernstein (1994–1995)
- Rafael G. Grossman (1995–1997)
- Jacob Rubenstein (1997–1999)
- Kenneth Hain (1999–2001)
- Heshie Billet (2001–2003)
- Kenneth Auman (2003–2005)
- Dale Polakoff (2005–2007)
- Shlomo Hochberg (2007–2009)
- Moshe Kletenik (2009-2011)
- Shmuel Goldin (2011-2013)
- Leonard Matanky (2013- present)
- Steven Dworkin, (-2003)
- Tzvi Hersh Weinreb (2002-)
- http://www.rabbis.org/about_us.cfm. Accessed 10-20-2010.
- Nussbaum Cohen, Debra (March 5, 2008). "A Conversion Critique From Within". New York Jewish Week. Archived from the original on December 2, 2013. "Rabbi Lookstein was part of the Rabbinical Council of America committee that drafted new guidelines for conversion, which are being called the GPS system, for Geirus [conversion] Policies and Standards."
- Pruzansky, Steven (March 12, 2008). "The Truth About RCA Geirus". The Jewish Press. Archived from the original on December 2, 2013. "And so goes the overheated, misleading, and at times blatantly false reaction by several of my distinguished RCA colleagues to the RCA’s recent promulgation of the Geirus Policies and Standards (GPS)."
- Lowenfeld, Jonah (July 13, 2010). "Courting Controversy, Orthodox Rabbis Address Women’s Leadership, Conversion". Los Angeles Jewish Journal. Archived from the original on December 2, 2013. "The IRF also established a Va’ad Giur (conversion committee), apparently in response to the RCA’s Geirus [Conversion] Policies and Standards (GPS) system of conversion, which it has promoted since 2007 as the most effective way to ensure uniform standards among Orthodox rabbis."
- RCA Past Presidents