Tonight, in front of a packed shul of guests and friends, thirteen rabbis, including OSA Rabbi Shalom Miller, graduated from the Barkai Community Rabbi Leadership Program. This is Barkai’s fifth graduating class in ten years. It was the culmination of two years of wonderful, though intense study.
All of the Barkai graduates acknowledged what a great privilege it was to be in this prestigious rabbis course and gain valuable training and expertise. Rav Chagai community rabbi from Lod put it best, “Before Barkai, I thought I knew what it meant to be a community rabbi. After Barkai, I now know what it means to be a community rabbi.”
“When I studied for Smicha fifteen years ago,” reflects Rav Shalom, “I did not receive a whole lot of training in community leadership. Our Torah learning focused mostly on Jewish law and Jewish thought, as is very common in Israeli rabbinical programs. When I entered the position as a community rabbi and leader, I felt the need to supplement my education with knowledge and training that would suite this new role. One day, I came across an article on-line by Rav Shlomo Sobol, Co-Head of Barkai, and discovered an exciting opportunity in community rabbinics.”
Rav Shlomo Sobol and Rav David Fine, Barkai Co-Founders, who both spent time in the United States as community rabbis there, were determined to bring an Anglo Jewish community outlook/approach to Israel. In 2012, they opened Barkai which has now influenced hundreds of communities.
Since September 2020, every Monday for seven hours the group of thirteen rabbis came together to learn, grow, share and develop as rabbis, leaders and as people. Each session was divided into three parts: practical Jewish law for community rabbis, gaining training/skills needed for community rabbis in 2022 and discussing practical challenges/dilemmas that community rabbis face. The specific sessions were taught by experts in each field.
Some of the main topics that were covered in the two year program included: a full year course on family purity, Shalom Bayit, the art of public speaking, a half year personal coaching course, a mental health course, a complete life cycle course and many other topics.
“For me, personally, it was a humbling and inspiring experience to join a group of elite rabbis that included the Chief Rabbis of the following communities: Shlioh, Talmon and Beit Yatir, among many other esteemed rabbinic leaders. What made the experience so powerful was not only was I educated by top notch lecturers in different fields, the participants themselves had so much to offer in terms of their own knowledge, background and insight. The group discussions were stimulating and engaging.”
Barkai, with close to 100 alumni, is now entering its 6th class of rabbis and 11th year of community rabbis training.
“What Barkai is doing is revolutionizing community leadership in Israel. By working with one group of ten to twenty rabbis, thousands of people are being effected in so many different ways, all for the positive. It really is a great blessing for Israel and the future of the Jewish People!” Rav Shalom