Op-Ed: Who Is A ‘Jewish leader’? How Does One Apply For The Job?


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Anyone notice how recent press releases are disseminated to the public during election season, with endorsements on behalf of “Jewish Leaders?” What exactly is a “Jewish leader” and how does one apply for the job?

In my opinion, a Jewish leader is a leader of a particular group of people, such as an elected official or a prominent Rov, Rebbe, Rosh Yeshiva, or even a person directly responsible for running a large Jewish institution. But lately, the definition of leader is no longer the above, but rather self-proclaimed “Jewish leaders,” who either belong to no particular group, or do belong to a group, but won’t place that organizations name behind their personal name. The reason they won’t use their organizations name is because 1) not-for-profit organizations are not legally allowed to endorse a political candidate and 2) in many cases their organizations doesn’t agree with who they are endorsing.

Just reading through the recent press releases published here on YWN, have my eyes popping out of my head. There are names of very fine people. People who devote their time to doing community work, helping raise funds for Tzedakah, and of course having their names on the boards of organizations. But who elected THEM to representing US? Did someone wake up one day and tell them “you are now a Jewish leader, go issue press releases, hold fundraisers for political candidates, and most importantly, plaster your name all over it”? Were there community-wide elections to pick these self-proclaimed “Jewish leaders” to make statements and endorsements on our behalf?

A recent statement from some “Jewish leaders” endorsed a particular candidate for Congress. The endorsement was signed by a dozen individuals.

I would like to know if any of these these “Jewish leaders” spoke to a leading Posek, prior to making their fundraiser and issuing their statement to the masses. Have all those people gone to a Gadol, and placed all candidates names in front of him, and what their policies are, and asked him whom the community should endorse?If so, then they should add that information in their press releases.

I am not questioning if this candidate does or does not deserve our votes. I am just simply questioning who appointed these people to issue a public statement on behalf of the Jewish Community headlined “Jewish Community Leaders….Endorse….”?

In a more recent case, just today I saw in the paper an ad by Eric Schneiderman for New York Attorney General. The ad says: “Endorsed by Jewish Community Leaders, Rabbis, Rosh Yeshivas, Kehillos, Mosdos, Education Centers, Jewish Media and Organizations. Really? Which ones? I know that Sharpton has endorsed Schneiderman. I haven’t seen a single Rov do so but I guess if the ad says so it MUST be true.

I think it’s pretty obvious that the media is closely following all these visits by political candidates to the frum community. These endorsements by “Jewish leaders” will inevitably backfire on OUR community. In fact, the recent press obsession over Andrew Cuomo and Carl Paladino visiting the community proves that in many cases all these  “Jewish leaders” do is create a chilul hashem.

It’s time for these “Jewish leaders” to put up or keep quiet. Either tell us why you are “Jewish leaders” or issue a press release, “A bunch of random Jews endorse…”

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NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of YWN.

(Chaim Shapiro – YWN)


  1. My husband is a fairly young doctor in the Midwest (USA). He was approached by a very well known news show for an interview. Upon returning their phone call he was told how wonderful the experience will be, they will come down and film him at work they will tout him as a foremost leader in his field. Sounds really great, right? Then they tell him the price of such a privilege. This did not surprise my husband that much, since his partner has plaques on his wall for the top ‘100 Doctors’ he paid for those too.
    His hospital was graded higher than all the other big hospitals by Health Grades, but is not allowed to mention it because there is a hefty price-tag attached to publishing that info. A nearby hospital touts its grade (which is lower than ours) on radio ads, but the consumer will never know.
    The same goes for politics. We can buy a seat on the physicians panels that make health care policy.
    This true of every industry.
    You cant really trust that the leader of the industry or community is anything other than the person who put up the most money and lined the right pockets.

  2. True manhigei Yisroel generally advocated “kol Ha-shem b’d’mumma” — carefully measured words, in both quantity and tonal quality. Not so, however, today’s highly touted “leaders”. Like simonei treifus in a beheima or chaya, these “leaders” are clearly recognizable by their big mouths, capacious lungs, and fearlessness in front of a microphone or camera. That is the emmese y’ridas ha’doros, Rachmona litzlon.

  3. It’s very simple. Today in our community a “leader” is anyone who gets up and claims to be a leader or a spokesperson for us as we have seen a certain rabbi do this week. Sad, but true.

  4. There are some major errors is this article:

    1. Running an institute does not constitute ‘Leadership’. A lot of these people themselves are really run by their folowers or backers.

    2. But in the secular sense, a ‘Leader’ is someone whom people would folow, be it a good famed Menahel of a school or a popular askan – regardless if in the true Jewish sense he is really a leader.

    3. Any one who is ‘active’ in community matters is an ‘activist’, weather people like his activity or not. Anyone can endorse whoever they want, if they feel someone out there will be influenced by their endorsment, and if they ever got ‘smicha’ they can sign as ‘Rabbi’, why not? and if he has a folowing then by deffinition he ‘leads’ them.

    3. In the last 2 weeks we’ve seen also Rebbes with big folowing make a TRUE Chilul Hashem, which is not defined by what the NY Times approves of or not…

  5. One more thing:

    If an orgenization is run by more than one person, which is usually the case, it stands to reason that any major roll in running it makes that person a leader – in your view – but they still cannot say that the orgenization ITSELF is included in the endorsment since it has to be approved by the entire leadership. Get it?

    Not that I checked in your particular example if that’s the case, but it’s just to take apart the essense of your ‘Ta’ana’.

  6. You put on a tallis and give a speech on the steps of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.

    Oh, wait, he forgot the tallis this time.

    Nebach, it used to be the gedolim were the leaders.

    השיבנו יהו-ה אליך ונשובה חדש ימינו כקדם

  7. Foxworthy once said, “If you have to jump up and down to be noticed, you are NOT a leader!!”

    “If you have to say to everyone, ‘hey look at me, I’m a leader,’ you are NOT a leader!”

  8. A question similar to the one of this editorial was once asked of R’ Moshe Z’l by a court representative from the state of Washington (the background and additional details are found in Artscrolls biography of R’ Moshe).

  9. Community leaders (Jewish or not) must earn this position. The person that donates a million dollars to a campaign but does nothing else is not a leader. The person who gives of his/her time to chair major projects such as a capital fundraiser for a shul, Combined Jewish Appeal, JNF, etc is a leader. I am not talking about the paid employees of these organizations, but the volunteers. In my community it seems that the same people continually give of their time. One year they will chair CJA and the next some other almost equally large project. They also seem to contribute financially to the best of their abilities to many organizations. Being active in the community is a time consuming and often, thankless, task that takes away from time spent with family and business. Yet these leaders were obviously raised in homes where tzedakeh and giving of ones self were considered important. If not for people of this caliber, where would our Jewish communities be? Having said this, I don’t feel that having experience as community leader neccessarily means that these people are qualified to comment or influence the outcome of elections.

  10. Don’t you get it? There are no true Jewish leaders today. We are a lost generation. It has been foretold that before Moshiach comes there will be many people with the title rabbi and they, c’v, will impede his coming.

  11. I’m not sure who foretold that or where it was foretold, but the gemara in sanhedrin states that the dor before the coming of moshiach will be like dogs. the chofetz chaim explains that just like a dog likes to run ahead, but from time to time looks back to see if his master is still there, so to this dor, the people will run ahead and every so often check to see that the leaders are still there.