- Jewish leadership
Jewish leadership has evolved over time. Since the destruction of the Second Temple in
Jerusalemin 70CE, there has been no single body that has a leadership position over the entire Jewish diaspora. Various branches of Judaism, as well as Jewish religious or secular communities and political movements around the world elect or appoint their governing bodies, often subdivided by country or region.
Biblical leadership (before 70 CE)
During the era of the
Tanakh, various forms of leadership developed. There were the heads of the original Hebrew tribes, and then also prophets such as Moses, Jeremiah and Samuel and whose words inspire people to this day, judges such as Samson, kings such as Davidand Solomon, priests of the Temple in Jerusalem, and the Sanhedrinwhich was the judiciary.
Mishnaic, Talmudic, Middle Ages leadership (70 to 1600s)
With the demise of ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah and coinciding with the revolt of the
Maccabeesagainst ancient Greeceand later Jewish-Roman wars, the sages of the Mishnahand subsequently the Talmud, referred to as the Oral Lawin Judaism, took on a growing and central leadership roles. After the destruction of the Second Templeand the subsequent exile for almost two thousand years, the Jews scattered throughout the world turned to their most learned rabbis for local leadership and council.
Bar Kokhba's revoltagainst Roman Empire( 132- 135), the supreme religious authority Rabbi Akivasanctioned Simon bar Kokhbato be a war leader, whereas during the 2nd century Judah haNasiwas not only the supreme temporal leader sanctioned by Rome, but also edited the original work of the Mishnahwhich became the "de-facto constitution" of the world's Jewry. The final editions of the Talmudbecame the core curriculumof the majority of Jews.
Babyloniathe Exilarchwas almost always a rabbinical personality. The Geonimsuch as Saadia Gaon(892-942) were not only great sages but also political guides. The writings and rulings of those such as Rashi(1040-1105), Maimonides(1135-1204), Yosef Karo(1488-1575) who published the most widely accepted code of Jewish law the Shulkhan Arukh, Isaac Luria(1534-1572), the Vilna Gaon(1720-1797), the Chafetz Chaim (1838-1933) and many others have shaped Jewish religious law for almost two thousand years, as their religious rulings were published, distributed, studied, and observed until the present time.
Early modern leadership (1700s to 1800s)
The loose collection of learned rabbis that governed the dispersed Jewish community held sway for a long time. Great parts of
Central Europeaccepted the leadership of the rabbinical Council of Four Landsfrom the 1500s to the late 1700s. In the Eastern Europe, in spite of the rivalry between the schools of thought of the Vilna Gaon (or the GRA, Rabbi Elijah ben Solomon, 1720-1797) of the Mitnagdim, who spoke against Hasidic Judaism and Baal Shem Tov(Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, 1700-1760), the founder of Hasidic Judaism), rabbis were regarded as the final arbiters of community decisions. Tens of thousands of Responsaand many works were published and studied wherever Jews lived in organized communities.
Modern religious leadership (after 1800s)Menachem Begin
=Decline of rabbinical influence= Menachem BeginWith the growth of the
Renaissanceand the development of the secular modern world, and as Jews were welcomed into non-Jewish society particularly during the times of Napoleonin the 1700s and 1800s, Jews began to leave the Jewish ghettos in Europe, and simultaneously rejected the traditional roles of the rabbis as communal and religious leaders. New leaders such as Israel Jacobson, father of the German Reform Judaismmovement, launched an egalitarian, modernist stance that challenged the Orthodoxy. The resulting fractures in Jewish society has translated into a situation whereby there is no single religious governing body for the entire Jewish community at the present time.
Modern Synagogue leadership
In individual religious congregations or
synagogues, the spiritual leader is generally the rabbi. Rabbis are expected to be learned in both the Talmudand the " Shulkhan Arukh" (Code of Jewish Law) as well as many other classical texts of Jewish scholarship. Rabbis go through formal training in Rabbinical texts and responsa, either at a yeshivaor similar institution. "Rabbi" is not a universal term however, as many Sephardic rabbinic Jewish communities refer to their leaders as "hakham" ("wise man"). Among Yemenite Jews, known as "Teimanim", the term "mori" ("my teacher") is used. Each religious tradition has its own qualifications for rabbis; for more information, see Semicha("ordination"). In addition to the rabbi, most synagogues have a " hazzan" (cantor) who leads many parts of the prayer service. A " Gabbai" may fill a position similar to "sexton."
Orthodox and Haredi rabbinic leadership
In Israel the office of
Chief Rabbihas always been very influential. Various Orthodox movements, such as Agudath Israel of Americaand the Shasparty in Israel strictly follow the rulings of their Rosh yeshivas who are often famous Talmud scholars. The last Rebbeof Lubavitch, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the late Rabbi Elazar Menachem Shach, and Rabbi Ovadia Yosefin Israel are examples of powerful contemporary Haredi rabbis. The Haredi Agudahdn movements receive and follow the policy guidelines of their own "Council of Torah Sages". In the Hassidicmovements, leadership is usually hereditary.
Reform, Progressive, Liberal, Conservative, and Reconstructionist leadership
In both the Reform and Conservativeof Judaism, rabbis are often trained at religious universities, such as the
Jewish Theological Seminaryin New York City for the Conservative movement, Hebrew Union Collegefor the American Reform movement, and Leo Baeck Collegefor the UK Liberal and Reform Movements. The Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist traditions each have their own governing group or individual leaders. Membership in these governing groups are selected by representatives of the Jewish community they serve, with Jewish scholarship considered to be the key factors for determining leaders. These governing bodies make decisions on the nature of religious practice within their tradition, as well as ordaining and assigning rabbisand other religious leaders.
The body of Conservative rabbis is the
Rabbinical Assembly, which maintains a Committee on Jewish Law and Standards. The body of Reform rabbis is the Central Conference of American Rabbis.
Renaissanceand the Enlightenment in Europe(with its Jewish "extension" the Haskalahmovement, which led to much modern-day assimilation into the cultures of their native countries), the variety of Jewish practice grew, with a widespread adoption of secular valuesand life-styles. Many modern Jewish communities are served by a variety of secular organizations at the local, national, and international levels. These organizations have no official role in religious life, but often play an important part in the Jewish community. Most of the largest groups, such as Hadassahand the [http://www.ujc.org/ United Jewish Communities] , have an elected leadership. No one secular group represents the entire Jewish community, and there is often significant internal debate among Jews about the stances these organizations take on affairs dealing with the Jewish community as a whole, such as antisemitism and Israeli policies.
In the United States and Canada today, the mainly secular
United Jewish Communities(UJC), formerly known as the United Jewish Appeal(UJA), represents over 150 Jewish Federationsand 400 independent communities across North America. Every major American city has its local "Jewish Federation", and many have sophisticated community centers and provide services, mainly health care-related. They raise record sums of money for philanthropic and humanitariancauses in North America and Israel. Additional local organizations include Jewish Family Services, Jewish nursing homes and Jewish community foundations. Other organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Congress, American Jewish Committee, and the B'nai B'rithrepresent different segments of the American Jewish community on a variety of issues.
Karaitesynagogue is run by a board of directors, and its spiritual leader is often called a "Hakham", the equivalent of a "rabbi", and matches one in function. The "Gabbai" is the treasurer, the "Shammash" is the custodian, the "Hazzan" leads prayers, and in some the "Ba'al Qeri'ah" leads in the reading of the Torah. In America, Karaites are represented by "the Karaite Jews of America", and in Israel they are represented by "Universal Karaite Judaism".
Kingdom of Judah
Kingdom of Israel
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