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Families, Rabbis and EducationEssays on Traditional Jewish Society in Eastern Europe$
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Shaul Stampfer

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9781874774853

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781874774853.001.0001

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The Inheritance of the Rabbinate in Eastern Europe

The Inheritance of the Rabbinate in Eastern Europe

(p.302) Fourteen The Inheritance of the Rabbinate in Eastern Europe
Families, Rabbis and Education

Shaul Stampfer

Liverpool University Press

This chapter investigates the inheritance of the rabbinate in eastern Europe. Inheritance of rabbinical posts is almost taken for granted in many contemporary Orthodox or strictly Orthodox Jewish communities. This is true not only in hasidic groups, where inheritance is an integral element of the dynastic system, but in yeshivas and other Orthodox communities as well. It would be tempting but incorrect to assume that there was an unbroken tradition of inheritance of rabbinical posts from antiquity to the modern period. Granted, in many Jewish societies, inheritance of rabbinic leadership was accepted. However, for centuries, the standard pattern of Ashkenazi Jewry was quite different. In medieval and early modern Ashkenazi Jewry, inheritance of rabbinic posts was actually prohibited. In other words, although contemporary inheritance of rabbinical posts appears very traditional and even archaic, in reality it is also a modern innovation. The chapter suggests that it was a practical and reasonable response to changes that took place in the structure of the Jewish community in modern times and that clarifying this development sheds light on the nature of the east European rabbinate and the characteristics of the Jewish community.

Keywords:   inheritance, rabbinic posts, Jewish communities, Jewish societies, rabbinic leadership, Ashkenazi Jewry, east European rabbinate, Jewish community

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