Jobs I Could Have Had

November 20, 2011 by Rabbi Raymond Apple
Read on for article

I spent 45 years in the congregational rabbinate – not such a bad record…writes Rabbi Raymond Apple.

Rabbi Raymond Apple

I think I was fortunate in my congregations, two in London and one in Sydney.  I hope they feel they were fortunate in me.  Yet I admit that over the years there were moments of frustration when I scanned the advertising columns of the papers in case there was a chance of moving into another area, generally law-related in view of my legal qualifications.

     I never got as far as submitting an application for one or other position that I saw advertised, probably because by then I was feeling better and decided not to move away from Shule life.  But there were occasions when an approach came from elsewhere in relation to rabbinic or communal vacancies, and this article is the story of some of them.

     Before I left Australia to study in Britain, a top-level post in the Zionist movement was offered to me.  It had its appeal and in other circumstances I would have considered it, but I had my passage booked to go overseas and I decided not to change my plans.

     In England I was offered the job of head of Hebrew studies at a Jewish school and was more than ordinarily interested, but I decided to stay in the ministry.  Earlier, whilst still a student, I had applied for the post of principal of a small school on the south coast, but I was not properly qualified and did not even rate an interview.  However, when Jews’ College opened a teacher training faculty I was asked if I would work for extra degrees in order to become head of the faculty; I declined and hope I didn’t make a mistake.

     Work with students was always high on my agenda and when the directorship of the Hillel Foundation in Britain became available I tried to work out how I could accept it and still remain at the Hampstead Synagogue, but in the end everyone agreed that the double pressures would be too much.  I had already been sounded out about being Hillel Director in Sydney and either then or at a different stage Hillel in USA offered to train me to make a career of Hillel work, but again I decided to remain in the ministry.

     Ministerial positions were offered to me in a number of countries.  To get me to the USA I was told, “With your British accent you could earn $18,000 a year”.  It was a large sum in those days, and it is probably true that my accent was rather British, but I was worried about the lack of job security in the American rabbinate.  I was contacted about a position in South Africa but when I asked, “Can my wife go for a walk in the street at night?” the South African pulpit receded.  Other job offers ranged from New Zealand to Ireland and many parts of England.  When the Chief Rabbi urged me to take a job in a difficult community in the Provinces I said, “ Thank you, but I prefer to stay in Hampstead – I have no aggravation there!” The Chief retorted, “That’s why I want you to go – it would do you good to have aggravation!”

     I didn’t do what he wanted, but I did go to Sydney and had times when there was aggravation aplenty, not so much in the Shule but in the rabbinate generally.  Yet I still declined the chief rabbinate of Ireland (at one stage I was asked if I wanted to send my C.V. to the British Chief Rabbinate Council) and various pulpits elsewhere.

     At one of my moments of depression I was offered a full-time university post; again I opted to stay in the pulpit, and I had to wait until I retired in order to devote myself to  scholarship, though I did have many happy years as a part-time university lecturer.

     I no longer look at the advertisements – though I do sometimes dream about what might have been.

Rabbi Raymond Apple lives in Jerusalem and is the Rabbi Emeritus at Sydney’s The Great Synagogue


3 Responses to “Jobs I Could Have Had”
  1. DavidL says:

    Geez Gabrielle and Greg, why are you getting so personal? No doubt you both had some very troubling experiences and you felt that the rabbi and/or the Great weren’t sufficiently helpful, but there are many others who will say the exact opposite to what you have said – that the rabbi and the shule were there for them and helped them through difficult times. Either way, your intensely personal experiences are no reason to slam a great man who has done so much for the Jewish and wider communities and whose commitment to his faith and his people has been an inspiration for so many.

  2. greg says:

    Gabrielle you are correct. The Rabbi and the shule’s indifference ………..

    My own experience of being rejected by the rabbi after I had asked for some help, left me very hurt and confused. Then Rabbi Mendel Kastel came and helped me work through my problem. B”H

  3. Gabrielle says:

    Sorry rabbi, you might be pleased with your career, I only remember that in the seventies when I wanted a divorce from my violent husband and I rang the synagogue no one wanted to talk to me. I was told that someone will contact me. Forty years later I stiIl have not had a call. I rang three times in distress.

    I was a new migrant, and I had a small child. I did not know that as a woman I cannot ask for divorce.

    I will never forget your and your shule’s indifference to my situation just because I was a woman.
    If I had any religious inclinations you have destroyed them.

    Please note: I am not a raving feminist in fact I would not even call myself a feminist.

Speak Your Mind

Comments received without a full name will not be considered
Email addresses are NEVER published! All comments are moderated. J-Wire will publish considered comments by people who provide a real name and email address. Comments that are abusive, rude, defamatory or which contain offensive language will not be published

    Rules on posting comments