Unprecedented Gathering of Midwest Rabbonim Held in Detroit


midwest-rabbonimMore than thirty rabbonim from eight cities across the nation’s Midwest converged on Detroit on July 4 for what turned out to be an intensive two-day airing and discussion of important issues pertinent to the rabbinate.

The conference, which was sponsored by the Midwest regional office of Agudas Yisroel of America’s Council of Synagogue Rabbonim grew from an idea raised at an earlier Agudas Yisroel-Midwest convention. At that time a suggestion was made that it might benefit rabbonim were they to come together to “share notes,” hear addresses on and discuss issues they all face in their respective shuls and generally take chizuk from the exchange of ideas.

Three months ago, Rabbi Avrohom Weinrib of Agudas Yiroel of West Rogers Park in Chicago was appointed the executive secretary of Agudas Yisroel’s Midwest Synagogue Rabbonim group, set to work organizing a two-day conference to allow the region’s rabbonim to hear about, and engage in discussion of, a roster of topics – from medical and mental health issues to the challenges posed by new societal norms – relevant to their role in ministering to the needs of their respective kehillos

Detroit was chosen as the venue, a choice informed by the city’s vibrancy as a Jewish community and its central location in the region.

midwest-rabbonim-mediumThe rabbonim in attendance over Sunday and Monday, the fourth and fifth of July, represented congregations in Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Minneapolis and St. Louis.

Rabbi Asher Eisenberger, the Rov of Agudas Yisroel of Detroit, opened the conference, and Agudath Israel executive director Rabbi Labish Becker offered greetings on behalf of the national organization.

The conference’s first session focused on end-of-life issues. Renowned Baltimore physician Dr. Yoel Jakobovits and Rabbi Shmuel Fuerst, Rov of the Agudas Yisroel of Peterson Park and Dayan, Agudath Yisroel of Illinois, were the presenters. Dr. Jakobovits outlined medical facts, technologies and approaches regarding terminally ill patients, blending his expertise as a physician with his extensive knowledge of relevant halacha in the field.

Rabbi Fuerst then addressed a number of the most common “end of life” halachic questions. A lively panel discussion ensued, and discussions of the topics that were covered continued among the rabbonim over the course of the conference.

After dinner – during which the rabbonim were addressed by Rabbi Baruch Hirschfeld of Cleveland – a panel discussion on “Guiding Our Kehillos Through Spiritually Tough Times” took place. Panelists were: Rabbi Naftoli Burstyn (Cleveland), Rabbi Yehudah Cahan (Denver), Rabbi Zev Cohen (Chicago), Rabbi Aryeh Feigenbaum (Dallas), Rabbi Yechezkel Greenberg (Minneapolis), Rabbi Menachem Greenblatt (St. Louis), Rabbi Yisroel Menachem Levin (Detroit), Rabbi Meir Minster (Cincinnati), Rabbi Doniel Neustadt (Detroit), and Rabbi Yosef Viener (Monsey).

The conference’s second day began with addresses from Rabbi Reuven Gross and Rabbi Binyomin A. Neuman, both of Chicago, followed by a session about the “Social Pathologies Afflicting Our Community,” which featured clinical psychologist Dr. Norman S. Blumenthal PhD. Dr. Blumenthal surveyed the contemporary societal scene and illustrated how it is affecting Orthodox families in ways unseen in the past. The session, in the words of one participant, “was a most painful one, but a most important one too.”

At lunch, Rabbi Chaim Twerski addressed the rabbonim, and remarks closing the conference were offered by Rabbi Yitzchok Margareten of Cleveland.

Late the previous evening, an executive meeting was convened, during which goals and planning for the future of Agudas Yisroel’s Midwest Conference of Synagogue Rabbonim were discussed. It was, according to Rabbi Weinrib, “a very productive meeting” during which “in a sense, the organization came of age.” An executive committee was established for the group and a number of new ideas were put forth and discussed.

For his part, Rabbi Becker of the national Agudah was clearly impressed by the conference. “This gathering was a remarkable demonstration,” he said, “of how much rabbonim can gain from the sort of ‘networking’ they were able to achieve here.

“There could be no denying that the interaction among the participants was beneficial to all, that the opportunity to compare notes, share experiences and gain knowledge will help them all be even better prepared to serve their respective kehillos in the future.”

{Noam Amdurski-Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. Why can’t we write normally? Why the hyperbole? A very nice thing happened, a lot of Midwest Rabanaim met. It’s not quite unprecedented. Is this Pravda?

  2. Rabbi Yosef Viener (Monsey)?I did not Know Monsey was in the Mid-West but they do seem a little to out of townish for me now its confirmed!! (;

  3. Addition to the pointed words of #2.
    “More than thirty rabbonim from eight cities across the nation’s Midwest converged on Detroit on July 4 for what turned out to be an intensive two-day airing and discussion of important issues pertinent to the rabbinate.”

    “More than thirty rabbonim”. Thirty one? Thirty thousand? Is counting difficult when they are rabbonim?

    “Converged on Detroit”. Not enough hotel space in Detroit to handle the converging multitude?
    Excuse me, but tens of thousands of people may converge on a city. Thirty people simply travel to a city.

    ” For what turned out to be…”. Was it a shock to everyone? Unplanned? Was it a wild party that was cancelled and just “turned out to be” a valuable discussion?

    As # 2 pointed out, this is poor writing at it’s best.

  4. Note that this gathering took place in Detroit, not New York, and that most of the speakers were from the area. The “hinterland” of America is going its own way at last, leaving the tri-state area.

    “New York” is an aberration in Jewish history, and given its level of social problems, it may literally become history, as people are forced to move out simply to find parnossah.

    BTW – I suspect a New Yorker wrote this article, since he doesn’t seem to know that Dallas is in Texas and Denver is in Colorado, and neither are located in the Middle West.

  5. If you really need to know, I hope this is helpful. Seated left to right: Reuven Gross, Chicago; Menachem Greenblatt, St Louis; Chaim Twerski, Chicago; Shmuel Fuerst, Chicago; Laibish Becker (originally of Milwaukee) from Aguda NY office; Zev Cohen, Chicago; Shiall Zachariash, Detroit.
    Standing; Eli Yelen, Detroit; Avi Weinrib, Chicago; Doniel Neustadt, Detroit; Asher Eisenberger, Detroit; Don’t know; Eli Meir Jundef, Detroit; Meir Minster, Cincinnati; Binyomin Neuman, Chicago; Don’t know; Yisroel Menachem Levin, Detroit; Yechezkel Greeenberg, Minneapolis; Efraim Twerski, Chicago; Don’t know; Yitzchok Margareten, Cleveland; Yerachmiel Pikholtz, Chicago; Yehuda Cahan, Denver; Boruch Hirschfeld, Cleveland; Naftali Burnstein, Cleveland; Yehiel Kalish, Chicago