Wanted: Hot Rabbis.

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Earlier this week, another Jewish blog wrote about this story, which reports on the growing absence of men in the Reform rabbinate. But I can’t link to that blog post, because the editors decided to include a picture a female rabbi, who as my mom might say, is a bisel zaftig (Yiddish for a little chubby). Furthermore, they included the headline “Tilting the Scales.”

All done for a few laughs.

Now this rabbi isn’t named, but the picture is as clear as can be. She’s not connected to the story at all. She just happens to have a picture out there of her in a kippah, holding a Torah. To say that this blog post is a personally hateful to her is an understatement.

But it does raise a larger issue. For whatever reason rabbis, particular females, aren’t known for being overly attractive. A kippah and tallis generally don’t not flatter a woman’s body, fashionably speaking (putting religious issues aside).

Sometimes, we go out of our way to show off those rabbis who do defy the norms. A friend of mine, who is a rabbinical student, is a real beauty. Long blond hair, blue eyes, slim body. And it’s no wonder her rabbinical school frequently uses her picture in marketing materials, as well as has her give tours to prospective students. Of course, she is also incredibly personable, intelligent, driven and committed to Judaism, but her looks surely don’t hurt.

To some degree, isn’t it important that our leaders, our public representatives, carry themselves not only with religious and moral ethics, but also with a concern for appearance? They are the outer face of Judaism to the rest of world.
Or have I just offended a lot of chubby rabbis?

Posted on June 27, 2008

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8 thoughts on “Wanted: Hot Rabbis.

  1. hannahleah

    Next you’ll say that if a rabbi is over a certain age, like 40, he or she should retire and let someone younger and better-looking take over. Your priorities are all screwed up.

  2. Meredith Kesner Lewis Post author

    The question I was asking, was should rabbis carry themselves as representatives of our community–outwardly as well as in practice and belief.

    There are many professions where, like it or not, not matter how talented one is, looks play a crucial role. Broadcast journalism and politics are just two examples.

  3. Ezekah

    Who cares what the rabbi looks like? Most of the time, my nose is in the book anyways. I just expect my rabbi to be knowledgeable.

  4. rs70

    Hey Meredith – I agree with you about a lot of things but I too am bothered by this post. You start out being sensitive to this rabbi in the picture, but by the end of your post that sensitivity seems to have dissolved. (a) Kippah/Tallit not flattering a woman’s body: that can’t be an objective statement; like most fashion questions, it depends entirely on what one is used to seeing. (b) My sense (knowing and working with a lot of rabbis of both genders) is that the rabbinate attracts people with the same spectrum of attractiveness as most other careers. The extremely attractive rabbis are not ‘defying the norm’ but are rather simply on one side of the spectrum as they are in most careers. (c) Yeah, rabbis should be concerned about appearance in the same way that everyone else should, but thank God that people don’t expect the rabbinate to have the same level of superficiality and ageism as the broadcast journalism industry! Part of Judaism’s essential message is that inner substance is more important than surface beauty – a crucial message to convey in a society that so often teaches the opposite. and finally (d) certainly you know that attractiveness is the sum-total of lots of factors, some of which can be brought under conscious control, and some of which are simply constrained by genes, health history,…. and age. When I am looking for a rabbi, it’s other considerations that will be primary. I’m inclined to agree with the book of Proverbs: “Sheker ha-chen, ve-hevel ha-yofi, ishah yir’at adonai hi tit’halal.” “Beauty and attractiveness are false and fleeting – a woman who fears God is to be praised!”

  5. James10

    Only people over the age of 30 and who are experienced in the Word of God should become rabbis.

  6. The Doctor


    That suggests an insufficient knowledge of the difference between a rabbi and a minister.

    A minister is a Man of God whose job is to preach and [in the christian world, at least] to bring people into the fold. One becomes a minister by receiving a Calling [and in many cases attending a seminary, but there have been tons of ministers who Heard the Call without benefit of study]. One could argue that since a minister is primarily a faith leader and role model, perhaps a minimum age is appropriate.

    A rabbi is a teacher who should be knowledgable in Jewish issues including jewish law, history, etc. S/he is not primarily a preacher. Given that rabbinic school is of a known length, and in the typical fashion, depending on the denomination, a student may begin rabbinic studies either after high school or college, and given that the title Rabbi, like the tile Doctor, connotes completion of an appropriate period of study, the business about being 30 or over doesn’t make sense…

  7. hannahleah

    And there have been rabbis who applied to work at my synagogue who, regardless of what they started with, did not adhere to a minimal standard of good grooming and neatness. But that’s not what you said. You said “hot,” and one trait you implied was not hot was one’s weight. You either need to figure out what you’re saying before you say it or admit that yes, you meant you want all rabbis to look like Barbie and Ken or go around in burqas.

  8. Pingback: Shabbat Surfing– Rabbis on the Runway? « The Blog at 16th and Q

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