Jonathan Sarna: In their 40s and 50s, embarking on second careers as rabbis




Source: JTA, 7-28-11

Various factors are propelling these individuals into the rabbinate. Some long had harbored dreams of becoming a rabbi but wound up pursuing other careers for personal or financial reasons. Others became interested in the rabbinate later in life, prompted in some cases by something specific.

Not all the new rabbis are pursuing congregational jobs. More professional options exist now for rabbinical school graduates, including in the chaplaincy, education and Jewish communal work.

Pursuing the rabbinate as a second career is not a new story in American Jewish life, but it’s more common for those in their mid- to late 20s or early 30s after working for some time in professions such as law or medicine, said Jonathan Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University and the chief historian at the National Museum of American Jewish History.

Sarna said it is unusual for those in their 40s, 50s or 60s to go for the rabbinate, and that it’s more common for older second-career clergy members among Christian denominations.

After the tragedy of 9/11, there was a sudden increase in the number of older rabbinical students, Sarna noted — those who were moved to pursue more meaningful careers….READ MORE

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