Episode 68: Rabbis Without Borders - Rebecca Sirbu


What does "rabbi"  mean in today's world? What should it mean? Rebecca Sirbu, Director of Rabbis Without Borders and founder of RabbiCareers.com, joins Dan and Lex to tackle these questions. Our conversation covers rabbinic education, shifts in the nature of rabbinic authority, the diversity of roles that the term "rabbi" can encompass, and more. [1]

(0:01 - 14:10): Rebecca Sirbu outlines what Rabbis Without Borders is and does. [2] She explains why the organization focuses on rabbis in particular, and not other Jewish professionals or Jews in general, and she gives a few examples of rabbis who are actualizing the work that RWB hopes to see in the Jewish world. [3]

(14:11 - 27:39): What does the term "rabbi" mean in 2017? In what ways should the role of rabbi evolve to meet the needs of today's world? Are today's "brick-and-mortar seminaries" creating the kinds of rabbis we need? Sirbu takes a look at these questions and also discusses the decreasing role that traditional authority figures play in communal life across religious and secular contexts, analyzing how this general shift affects rabbis in particular. 

(27:40 - 47:23): While many Jews and others assume that "real rabbis" work in synagogues, almost 50% of active rabbis are working outside of a pulpit. Sirbu elaborates on the wide variety of areas in which rabbis work. She then tells the story of the founding of RabbiCareers.com, a digital resource designed to connect rabbis who are looking for jobs to organizations that are looking for rabbis. [4] To close the episode, Sirbu brings her expertise to a conversation we began with Barak Richman in one of our first episodes, regarding restrictions by denominational movements on the rabbis that affiliated congregations can hire. [5]

[1] To visit the Rabbis Without Borders website, click here. To visit the website of CLAL, the organization of which Rabbis Without Borders is a part, click here.

[2] Sirbu discusses the work of CLAL early in this episode. Hear from Irwin Kula, the President of CLAL, by listening to Episode 53 and Episode 54 of our podcast.

[3] One of the rabbis Sirbu mentions is Geoffrey Mittelman, founder of Sinai and Synapses. Learn more about that organization's work to offer a worldview that is both "scientifically grounded and spiritually uplifting" by visiting its website

[4] Interested in finding a rabbi? Are you a rabbi, interested in finding a job? In either case, check out RabbiCareers.com!

[5] To learn more about the restrictions in place to ensure that affiliated congregations hire rabbis from their own movements, listen to Episode 7: Numbers, featuring Barak Richman.