That Judaism might yet live: pastoral care and the making of the post-Holocaust conservative rabbinate.
--William Clebsch, 1968 (1)
In 1963, the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), the flagship rabbinical school of the Conservative movement in America, received a three-year grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to develop curricula and train students in the art of pastoral counseling. (2) In the postwar years, many people turned to clergy to address their emotional problems; (3) the NIMH sponsored programs to arm them with the skills to respond. To the extent that other religious institutions, Jewish and Christian, also received funding, the JTS grant is best understood in light of the NIMH's broader probe of the interaction between religion and psychiatry at that time, as part of a growing social movement. (4) Conservative leaders, however, harbored an added intention. They yearned not just to educate clergy to emotionally aid the parishioner, but also to actively strengthen the role of clergy in American Jewish life after the Holocaust. This serves as the point of departure for my analysis.
Recently, historians have explored the development of rabbinic authority and the concomitant growth of denominationalism in American Judaism. Rabbi Zev Eleff probed the gradual process through which religious leadership passed from lay persons to rabbis during the nineteenth century. He emphasized synagogue leadership and arbitration of religious law as the fundamental barometers of transformation. (5) Rabbi Joan Friedman illuminated the later Reform context in her work on Solomon Bennett Freehof, documenting the return of Reform rabbis to classical rabbinic texts for "guidance" if not "governance" in the post-World War II era. (6) Michael Cohen reinvestigated the development of the Conservative movement through an examination of its leadership. (7) Yet Eleff does not explore the twentieth century, and Friedman does not address the Conservative movement; Cohen examines identity formation through the question of change to Jewish law, but does not address the strength of the rabbi in American Jewish life. And while Rochelle Indelman and Mortimer Ostow, longtime employees of JTS's psychiatry department, each wrote about the impact of the NIMH grant, they did not address its historical significance. (8) Given these omissions, this paper fills a lacuna in the scholarship; it revisits the primary sources and offers a more contextual and comparative examination of the developments.
Part I of this paper maps the cultural landscape: the profound impact of the Holocaust on Conservative rabbinic leadership and, concurrently, the growing prominence of psychoanalysis in all sectors of American life. Part II explores the history of the psychiatry department at JTS between 1954 and 1966, and, specifically, the protracted struggle of its faculty to implement a systematic strategy for pastoral education. All agreed that pastoral care by rabbis was a good, but none could articulate precisely what it should look like. This debate reveals much about the faculty members in question as they struggled to square their embrace of religion with a steadfast commitment to scientific progress. Part III compares the JTS experiment with that of the Orthodox Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) at Yeshiva University (YU), which received two NIMH grants of its own. Those projects would be focused on a different set of objectives.
When Crisis Commands Creativity
The epicenter of global Jewish life shifted from the Old World to the New World after the Holocaust. Conservative rabbis responded with grave concern. They found in the destruction of European Jewry an existential mandate to bring American Jews back to religion. American Jews were now tasked to save all of Jewry, they insisted, so they could not afford to fail. The Conservative rabbis of the 1950s were not the first to worry about continuity, to be sure; in the terms of Jewish philosopher Simon Rawidowicz, one might even say that there is something qualitatively Jewish about the fear for Jewish survival, so that every generation fancied itself the last. (9) In the aftermath of the Holocaust, however, the debate in the United States acquired an unprecedented tenor of urgency. The response of Conservative leaders was two-pronged.
The first response has been oft-cited. As a group, Conservative leaders aimed to effect strategic changes in Jewish law to encourage observance more generally. This informed the urgent tempo of a movement-wide conference on Jewish law held at JTS in 1948, entitled "The Halakha and the Challenge of Modern Life." (10) There, leaders of the Rabbinical Assembly (RA), the Conservative rabbinic body, strengthened their commitment to religious moderation. Critical of Orthodox Judaism to the right and Reform Judaism to the left, Conservative rabbis had long hoped to carve out a pathway between the ancient prescriptions of legal tradition and the pressures of modernity. Yet the dire circumstances of the hour propelled more drastic measures than had previously been taken. For the first time, the RA members also resolved to breach Jewish law, if necessary, in order to achieve their bigger objective of maintaining a viable Jewish life.
Conservative Rabbi Morris Adler, chairman of the newly formed Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS), and a former army chaplain in the Pacific theater, spoke explicitly to the crisis at a 1948 convention for the lay leaders of Conservative synagogues.
When we spoke [before the Holocaust] of reinterpreting or restructuring the tradition, we were placing a superstructure of interpretation upon a base sufficiently solid and strong to support our revisions. Whether we were aware of it or not, our amendments to Judaism had as their background the full-blooded Jewish center with its Volozhins, Vilnas, Odessas and Warsaws--the home of [the Vilna] Gaon, Baal Shem [Tov], student, scholar and saint. Today our adaptations have as their background inertness, flatness and a process of pervasive corrosion and disintegration. Ours is the God-like task of creating a world to supplant the world that has gone down in destruction and ashes. (11)
By shifting the focus to America, the Holocaust had accentuated the weaknesses of American Jewish life, which was then marked by ignorance toward religious practice and a rejection of rabbinic authority. Conservative rabbis mourned for what had been and what could have been as they sought to forge a sustainable future. As chairman of the CJLS, Adler would try to capture unity from amid the wide religious diversity among Conservative rabbis; only a definable Conservative movement could become the new organizing center of Jewish life that its leaders envisioned.
Yet the search for definition was not itself new. By T919, the relationships among law, belief, practice, and denominational orientation were the variables in the (albeit less urgent) RA discourse about religious life, and they continue to be definitive in Conservative discourse to the present day, (12) spawning numerous articles and books. Conservative rabbis, however, embraced an additional, equally significant goal in their efforts to encourage religious observance--one without an equivalent literature. They attempted to expand the rabbi's role in American Jewish life. Adler made the case for expansion within the 1948 convention address. Postwar American Jews needed more than just a jolt of halakhic adrenaline, he insisted. They needed rabbis responsive to the emotional toll of the modern condition:
The rabbi must be trained in handling insecurities, fears, loneliness, guilt complexes and others symptoms of basic maladjustment of men and women. Our synagogues cannot overlook this field, and should accept as not the least of their functions the obligation consciously to aid in bringing about better emotional balance and more wholesome attitudes towards self, towards others, towards the whole of life on the part of those in the community who need guidance and psychological reinforcement. I believe that if we are aware of the problem and accept our responsibility with regard to it we shall muster the wisdom necessary for meeting it. (13)
Adler's dream--a dream shared by many of his colleagues--of rabbis responsive to the religious and psychological concerns of their congregants, encountered a significant complication. If, as Adler envisioned it, the rabbi of the European shtetl once ministered to the needs of the community outside the realm of synagogue life, then the gaps formed by the narrowing of the religious domain in America had been filled by other cultural institutions. The postwar suburbs to which Jews flocked promised a life less saturated with Judaism, more enmeshed in the broader American environment. Conservative rabbis lamented the shrinkage of religious life, but to expand it again, they would need to contend with the burgeoning fields of psychology and psychoanalysis that had superseded it.
Rabbi Robert Katz recognized as much in a 1952 article about the relationship between pastoral psychology and the modern rabbinate. (14) Katz taught psychology at Hebrew Union College (HUC), the Reform seminary, but his insight illuminates the broader Jewish sphere. Perhaps more than his Conservative counterparts, Katz understood the historical factors that caused the contraction of rabbinic authority in America, especially the modern bifurcation of the rabbi's roles as a communal functionary and as a pastoral counselor to troubled individuals:
In more modern times the rabbi tended to lose his communal position and authority and no longer had a formal association as a religious leader with the institutions meeting welfare needs. With the impact of modern science, democratic culture, and civic emancipation came the dissolution of communal unity and the secularization of the welfare services. (15)
Curiously, then, in the effort to expand their own influence as rabbis and to strengthen Jews' allegiance to traditional Judaism, Conservative rabbis--those newly minted as pastoral counselors---would now fill a role that was secular in orientation. The very mechanism through which Conservative rabbis hoped to germinate traditional Jewish life in the New World was already a departure from the paradigm of the Old World. (16) Conservative rabbis simply could not avoid the popular fervor for all things psychological. Even RA members who were resistant to pastoral counseling for lack of training were sucked in small or subconscious ways into the social vortex. Katz reflected upon this phenomenon in the postwar American-Jewish milieu:
Clinical pastoral psychology, as a movement, has received relatively little attention in the rabbinate ... [However, rabbis have] of course shown interest in psychology. The psychological thinking that is so prevalent in American culture today has inevitably influenced both rabbi and congregant. Even the language of modern Jewish preaching is not devoid of technical terms borrowed from the fields of psychiatry and psychoanalysis. (17)
This is fundamental. At a time when they struggled mightily to come together through the process of reforming of Jewish law, all Conservative rabbis--regardless of religious orientation--had a common social vocabulary with which to strategize.
Indeed, psychoanalysis did not just aid individuals; as historian Eli Zaretsky contextualizes it, psychoanalysis heralded a new age of the individual in Western society. The Second Industrial Revolution (1870-1914) and an emerging culture of mass consumption shined a fresh light on individual needs and personal autonomy. Zaretsky goes so far as to call this process the growth of a "second modernity":
While the first modernity--the Enlightenment--viewed the individual as the locus of reason in the sense of universal and necessary truths, the second--call it 'modernism'--viewed the individual as a concrete person, located in a particular time and place subject to historical contingency and possessing a unique physical life.... Psychoanalysis was the Calvinism of this shift. (18)
Just as Calvinism, which smiled upon human initiative and personal transformation, helped to inspire capitalism during the seventeenth century--sociologist Max Weber's famous thesis--so psychoanalysis framed a growing trend toward the personal in Europe at the fin de siecle. (19) It was at this time that, in Zaretsky's terms, "the disjuncture between the individual psyche and the [broader] culture...became socially salient." (20) Individualism filled the air. (21)
By the end of World War II, the psychological had fully pervaded the American scene. Newfound affluence fueled its popularity; analytic insight came of age within the emerging media culture. Reform Rabbi Joshua Loth Liebman's Piece of Mind (1946) was the first and most famous rabbinic contribution, (22) but everything from Hollywood movies to Broadway plays to newspapers catered to the craze. Historian E. Brooks Holifield paints a colorful portrait:
Americans seemed eager to hear psychological wisdom on every topic, and the new band of experts was ready to offer it. They became the interpreters of the society, scurrying from one big issue to another ... Venturesome doctors began to provide social criticism, observing that the defense economy undermined 'emotional security,' or that persistent optimism in the nation signaled the absence of mental health, or that American society, above all others, was adept at 'driving people nuts,' or that the entire world was neurotic and in need of a new scientific cure. They also offered political and social analysis, claiming that political partnership reflected personal unhappiness, or that white racists were mentally ill, or that psychiatry could remove the causes of war. (23)
As the cultural paradigm shifted toward the individual, Protestant theologians responded. The crux of Holifield's argument was that the spread of psychoanalysis transformed Christianity in modernity, accelerating a centuries-long transformation from an ideal of self-denial to that of self-affirmation. (24) New movements had also sprouted in the nineteenth-century Jewish context in America and Europe. As historian Andrew Heinze observes, Reform Judaism, the Ethical Culture movement, Modern Orthodoxy, the Musar movement and the rise of Habad Hassidism were--albeit with very different theological objectives--"all passionate attempts to create moral and spiritual systems that addressed the psychic needs of the individual in a new way." (25) Indeed, although a clinical approach to Jewish pastoral care remained lacking, (26) in the ensuing decades, no rabbi could avoid the broader cultural shift.
It was the postwar, full-throttled obsession with psychology that alerted clergy of all creeds to this process. In the Conservative movement, as elsewhere, the clamors for pastoral training reflected an increased lay enthusiasm for pastoral counseling. JTS had long sought "to train rabbis in methods of scholarly research and critical methods of leadership." (27) Now, the stuff of leadership had changed. The expanding activities of the JTS psychiatry department attested to the new cultural reality. When, in 1959, the department inaugurated a marriage counseling service for the wider Jewish community, its leaders justified the development in this way:
In the past, rabbis ... [have played] the role of counsellor [sic] ... However, modern rabbis recognize that within the past half century, principles for the understanding of human behavior in general, methods for discerning the problem elements in human life, and technics [sic] for helpful guidance have been devised and tested by people working in secular areas ... (28)
Once, rabbis counseled from the spirit and the gut. Now, they grappled with the professionalization of therapy, a change that spurred the need for the counseling center. Absent a competing value system, Jews had turned wholeheartedly to their rabbis and their well of rabbinic insights to address problems; psychoanalysis undermined that dynamic. To be sure, laypeople of all faiths still approached clergy with their issues--a NIMH survey suggests that 42 percent did so--but, in so doing, they expected something more than a religious response. (19)
Thus, when JTS administrators introduced pastoral counseling training into the seminary's Rabbinical School's curriculum, they were part of a religious and cultural development much larger than themselves. As Holifield describes it, "[The] movement to improve pastoral care became a veritable crusade." The statistics are startling. In 1939, counseling courses were all but absent from theological school curricula. By the 1950s, they were nearly universal. (30)
Yet, in the absence of a theological superstructure, JTS administrators scrambled to articulate exactly what Judaism could contribute to psychiatric care. They considered the objectives of Judaism and psychology sufficiently similar to warrant sustained reflection, but the boundaries of each discipline remained hazy. The history of pastoral training at JTS illuminates this enduring tension.
Building a Jewish Psychoanalysis
Conservative rabbis first lobbied for curricular changes at JTS in the early 1950s. As synagogue leaders, they counseled their congregants frequently--a third of their time, by one estimate. (31) Now, as alumni, they sought to have their successors acquire the requisite knowledge to operate fluidly in that capacity. Yet change came in increments. When JTS administrators first hired Jewish psychotherapists in 1954, they did so primarily to ensure the wellness of rabbinical students, not the wider community. (32) Where necessary, the administrators reasoned, counseling and psychotherapy would render the seminary a healthier institution, in the same way that pastoral care could make for a healthier Jewry. As a second-order concern, they also added a limited pastoral training seminar to the curriculum; (33) this became a precedent for the later curricular expansion.
Notwithstanding the enthusiasm of ordained Conservative rabbis, many JTS rabbinical students found the training, at least as implemented, poorly integrated and bereft of religious purpose. (34) They saw Judaism and psychoanalysis as disparate entities; efforts to meld the two led all too often to forced conclusions. Consider the following case study from one of the lectures:
[The example] was a widower with two children, a hyper-orthodox man who is probably a borderline schizophrenic ... [His] son ... was going to Yeshiva. He was failing. He was a boy who was preoccupied with all kinds of obsessional thoughts at night about his soul. He told the psychiatrist something about a dybbuk. It was an opportunity ... to discuss demonology, superstition and the fact that the boy was struggling at night with his masturbatory impulses and the form which they took."
Men went to JTS to secure pulpits, not to diagnose the outward manifestations of subconscious urges. It was one thing to preach Judaism in the synagogue and quite another to play psychotherapist. (36)
Still, the psychiatry faculty persisted in their efforts. They blamed the problem on presentation, not principle; a more refined curriculum and a more strategic educational process could yet succeed. The faculty averred that students just needed more time to learn and more time to practice pastoral methods in an actual clinical environment. The minutes record this observation:
The brief exposure that we were able to offer was more provocative than informative because it was so limited. It was the impression of the psychiatric faculty that not only was more time required for the presentation of didactic material but that ... students [needed] to undertake their initial counseling contacts while still in school. (37)
This expanded vision--in which students gained pastoral experience before they graduated--informed JTS's proposal to the NIMH, to "test a curriculum and testing procedures for instruction in pastoral counseling." (38) JTS aimed to give students more hands-on training by creating an in-house clinic at the seminary. NIMH money promised the requisite financial flexibility.
As it happened, the seminary received only half the requested funds--not enough to establish a clinic, but expectations grew. (39) The respected nucleus of doctors recruited to JTS--including psychiatrists Mortimer Ostow (department chair), Louis Linn, Milton Malev and Sidney Furst--would need to come together as a sort of think tank in order to broadly conceptualize the relationship between psychiatry and religion. What would the role of the rabbi be? Did Judaism have something unique to contribute to the discipline of pastoral care? Only after the faculty answered these core questions could they convey a united and systematic message to the rabbinical students. The meeting minutes capture their efforts:
It was ... obvious that the faculty [did) not want the students to identify with the roles of ... therapists. Although the rabbinical counselor might be closer to the role of the social worker inasmuch as he would deal with the realities and practical aspects of day-to-day living rather than with psychiatric meanings, there still was the need to abstract the uniqueness of his role as a rabbi. Part of this uniqueness was in the fact that the rabbi brings, or should bring, a moral point of view, emphasizing a definite 'right' or 'wrong.' (40)
How, then, to separate the disciplines--psychiatry and pastoral care? By linking the rabbinic role in counseling to the beliefs of the rabbi, the quote above suggests a framework for such an endeavor. The faculty claimed for the rabbi a positive identity, armed as he was (or so they asserted) with black-and-white truths informed by religious conviction.
Elsewhere, the minutes frame the rabbinic role in the negative--that is to say, as a product of external influences and expectations:
It was the opinion of most of the participants that the act of selecting a rabbi for consultation expressed desire for the reinforcement of self-restraint or for the alleviation of guilt. That is, the individual tends to seek rabbinic counseling when he wants the questions answered in terms of ethical criteria. (41)
Absolute notions of "right" and "wrong" might lend unique purpose to a rabbi's role in certain cases, but, on a broader scale, congregants defined his role through their preconceived expectations. This comports with the historical trend addressed earlier. Simply put, congregants sought something qualitatively different from their rabbi than they did from their therapist.
Whatever the process of identification--positive or negative--JTS's psychiatry faculty quickly pinpointed morality and ethics as the primary concerns of the rabbi. It was the rabbi's role to endow his congregants with a sense of higher religious purpose. He maintained the sacred space of the community. The psychiatry faculty deemed mental illness a sort of contagion, the sour fruit of improper socialization; the rabbi, as a communal leader and "father" figure, could forestall the spread of that contagion by employing religious insights. (42) It was assumed, in turn, that the prevalence of mental illness among the laity shed light on the effectiveness of the clergy, because the rabbi ideally understood and thus deftly navigated the "pathology of congregational life" (43):
The rabbi's function as a congregational leader and as a religious teacher and authority figure ... exerts a ... stabilizing effect upon the community. To a certain extent, the opportunity to belong, to be emotionally engaged in, and contribute to a stable community, must redound in equanimity on the part of individuals who constitute the group. Therefore, the rabbi's congregational leadership, in this sense, can be related to the prevalence of mental illness in the community. (44)
Still, the question of method remained unanswered. A more systematic--if similarly ill-fated--attempt emerges in the published writings of at least one of the psychiatrists in question. (45)
Louis Linn's Contribution
Louis Linn coauthored an entire book about the relationship between psychoanalysis and religion, published in 1958. He devoted the first chapter--aptly titled "The Domains of Psychiatry and Religion"--to the subject of occupational definition. (46) There, Linn argued forcefully that the disciplines of psychiatry and religion are not one and the same, even if their aims and techniques sometimes converged." (47) Ideally, he insisted, clergy and therapists would interact symbiotically within the larger mental health system, but this could happen only if the responsibilities of each group were to be expressly delineated and universally recognized.
Yet, despite his more thorough investigation, Linn failed to advance the discourse beyond the hurried precis of the psychiatry department's minutes. The overarching debate at JTS concerned two underlying issues--the relationship of Judaism to psychoanalysis and the place of the rabbi as a steward of mental health--and Linn did not settle either. He was limited by the same constraints as his seminary colleagues.
One constraint was the problem of specificity. While Linn's book brings religion and psychiatry into conversation broadly, it does not distill what Judaism--that is, as opposed to Christianity--could contribute more narrowly. Instead, Linn channels the ecumenical convention of the 1950s, famously articulated in Will Herberg's Protestant, Catholic, Jew. (48) He subsumed Judaism under the larger rubric of "Western religion," and wrote in broad strokes:
Religion [is] first and foremost the repository of a moral code. Central to this code, in the three great Western religions, is the belief that it is primarily in group life ... that human beings achieve those things that are of lasting value. Secondly, religion enshrines the belief that if one obeys the code certain important satisfactions ensue, the chief of which is immortality. Religion stands also for the belief that the universe has a purpose.... This belief presupposes the existence of an organizing principle of some kind, which is commonly called God. Finally, religion is associated with a kind of emotional experience which is taken as revelatory of the true nature of the universe, as proof, in a word, of the existence of God.... (49)
Linn's generalizations speak directly to his perception of religion in general and Judaism in particular. Consider his appeal to human principles that "presuppose" an organizing principle "commonly called God" and emotional experiences "taken" as revelation. For Linn, religion is neither the product of God's search for man nor of man's search for God; it is driven by the socially conditioned response of the psyche to emotional and intellectual needs.
All of this suggests a deeper problem with Linn's interpretation--not the matter of an organizing principle, but rather the issue of an organizing center. Linn addressed two divergent value systems. To which did he pledge his ultimate allegiance? By differentiating between Judaism and psychoanalysis, by linking the former to belief and the latter to science, Linn aimed to preempt the question, but his analysis betrays his loyalties:
In mapping out the respective domains of psychiatry and religion, we encounter another source of confusion in the fact that symptoms of mental illness may assume a religious guise, the guise especially of hyperreligiousity [sic].... Thus alerted, the religious leader will be on the lookout for devotions and observances that signify a neurosis rather than an aspiration to give life deeper meaning. (50)
Only a person committed first to psychoanalysis would subject religion and religious expression to psychoanalytic inspection, thus demarcating normative religious practice. The too-fervent parishioner, the fickle convert--for Linn, these are the demons of the faith community. Religion must answer to science and not the reverse. Religion has a specific role; science knows no bounds. Pastoral training, then, is the means through which the rabbi comes to recognize the limitations of his discipline.
Still, Linn deemed religion to be crucial in a world of science. It is the very fact that science has no bounds, he insisted, that fosters the religious imperative. In that sense, Linn's book is the conduit of a notso-subtle polemic. Religion might not provide an objective "God position," but it provided a position from which humanity might be saved from its own devices:
Freud's faith, or rather that of his most intemperate followers in science as a panacea appears naive in the light of nuclear warfare and the apparent readiness of unprincipled politicians to risk the extermination of the entire human race.... The example of Nazi Germany, especially, has emphasized the fact that moral purpose and social responsibility must direct the search for scientific knowledge and the acquisition of power. (51)
Hitler aimed to annihilate the Jewish people. Now, the bomb threatened all of humanity. For Linn, these developments proved that science needed a moral compass.
Linn's analysis did not advance the discourse at JTS, but it frames the importance of the conversation. Scientific rationalism demystified religious belief. The bomb demystified scientific "progress." At mid-century, neither provided a satisfactory meta-narrative to fill life with a sense of cohesive meaning. Linn and his seminary colleagues saw synthesis as the only viable path forward. Hence, the need for a rapprochement between the two historically antagonistic worldviews--a tall order. JTS rabbinical students pondered the rightful place of pastoral care in the overall context of their religious duties. They received no satisfactory response from the faculty, who were grappling with the same basic question. Yet, if psychoanalysis and religion were ineluctably destined to be awkward bedfellows, then Linn's model, however fraught, afforded the best starting point anyone could offer.
Establishing a Counseling Service
Understandably then, the faculty of the JTS psychiatry department struggled to equip rabbis with the proper blend of pastoral skills. What role would the rabbi play in the realm of psychiatry? All efforts to create a specific rubric failed. In March of 1965--after years of discourse--the parameters of rabbinic involvement in, and responsibility for, pastoral care had been clarified only in the most abstract terms. This is the way the department minutes put it:
'Rabbinic Counseling' ... is defined not merely as counseling done by a rabbi, but counseling by a rabbi, guided by rabbinic values and employing the dynamics of personal interaction which exist between the rabbi and the client in Jewish life. The Rabbinic Counseling procedure is made more effective by insights and techniques derived from psychiatric disciplines. (52)
How to conceptualize rabbinic pastoral care? In the language of feminist theorist Jane Marcus, the psychiatry faculty distinguished "counseling like a rabbi" from "counseling as a rabbi." The former paradigm distilled and celebrated the unique rabbinic contribution to pastoral care. The latter paradigm, in Marcus's terms, "masquerade[d]" as psychiatry, a "willed choice away" from the rabbinic enterprise. (53)
While the precise duties of the rabbi-as-therapist eluded them, the faculty members hatched a plan to unpack the nuance. By 1965, seminary administrators had raised the requisite funds for an in-house mental health clinic. It opened in October of that year as the Morris J. and Ethel Bernstein Center in Pastoral Psychology. (54) Licensed, insured, and run out of rented apartments near JTS, the center became the proving ground for efforts to establish a detailed method for rabbinic pastoral care. Within the confines of the center, treatment would be implemented under the watchful eye of the psychiatry faculty and with student participation, yielding precious data for future pastoral training courses at JTS and for Jewish clinical environments elsewhere. At least initially, then, the staff of the center did not practice rabbinic counseling. Instead, they actively sought to uncover its meaning.
The seminary had hoped to man the Bernstein Center with people of multifaceted knowledge, who, "in addition to rabbinical training...[had] academic training in the human relations area, with some psychiatric orientation." (55) In practice, however, no one person could effectively address all of these concerns in dealings with a client. The Bernstein Center was to be true to the dictates of science and the moral offerings of Judaism, and it was to operate as an effective instructional environment. This mandate necessitated diverse manpower resources for every case. Writing for Conservative Judaism, Mortimer Ostow described the center's convoluted intake protocol, to be conducted, apparently, on a pro bono basis (56):
Individuals who apply to the Bernstein Center for counseling are seen first by our social worker who obtains an account of the problem directly from the individual himself; then, where indicated, from other sources as well. She presents the case to a conference of the entire staff where an attempt is made to understand the problem, to formulate rabbinic goals, and to devise a plan whereby these goals are attained. Usually, the individual is then seen by one of the rabbinic counselors one or more times, as indicated. If at any point in the proceedings psychiatric consultation seems indicated, he is seen by the psychiatrist. At every step in the procedure the course of the counseling negotiations is kept under surveillance at regular conferences attended by the entire staff at the Bernstein Center. Ultimately disposition is decided at conference too. Students attend all the conferences as an attempt is made to involve them in the counseling process as intimately as possible. (57)
For all the effort extended to publicize the Bernstein Center--to both members of the RA and dozens of non-profit agencies--the staff of the center noted that communal interest was lackluster. Yet social worker Betty Cholst noted a more basic, more familiar grievance. The very medium intended to inform a paradigm of rabbinic pastoral care had failed to do so. The cases the center received, however few in number, seemed only to augment the confusion so characteristic of psychiatry department meetings. In their efforts to construct a theory rooted in experience, Cholst indicated, the staff members found themselves again lacking:
We are struggling to find an answer to the question as to what is pastoral counseling.... What is the proper rabbinic role? What is the general principle involved? What methods may be recommended to achieve the goal? (58)
Still, Cholst's case summaries do illustrate the mechanics of the Bernstein Center experiment, including the diversity of cases under treatment, and, to an extent, the methods that the staff used to resolve them. From counseling couples to finding wayward children, the staff plunged ahead full force in every case with all the resources at its disposal. This does not mean, however, that the center received novel cases or provided novel treatment. Consider the following report:
Mr. G ... was a man who came to us because of his primary religious orientation and his reluctance to seek assistance elsewhere. Mrs. Cholst, as a social worker, was able to alleviate his feeling of loneliness and elicit his cooperation by her friendly and obviously sincere interest in his welfare. Although he was initially suspicious of Conservative rabbis since his own affiliations have been Orthodox, as [a] result of his work with Mrs. Cholst, he was able to bring his problems to Rabbi [Harry] Halpern. Here Rabbi Halpern was able to assist not only by expressing personal concern, but also by directing Mr. G.'s interest toward the future. Moreover, Rabbi Halpern made certain observations which made it evident that Mr. G. was suffering not only from Parkinsonism which had already been diagnosed, but probably also from a pre-senile dementia. Mrs. Cholst has been in contact with the patient's physician and with the patient's son who is a medical student. Because of his disabilities, the patient will lose his employment shortly. It becomes necessary now to consider long range plans based primarily upon some form of acceptable institutionalization. (59)
Cholst provided the tender, loving care. Halpern--with formal training in pastoral psychiatry--provided a tentative diagnosis. Together, they assisted one man. Yet there is nothing uniquely "rabbinic" about the scenario or the patient's treatment at the center. Perhaps, despite his Orthodox bent, the patient came for the complimentary service and welcomed the attention as Cholst and Halpern counseled him about his struggles. Members of the staff touched on this as they differentiated the doings of the center from those of a psychiatric clinic:
Normally patients come to psychiatrists because they feel they have a symptom, that something is wrong with them. We have observed that people come to the Bernstein Center when they want someone to do something for them. (60)
In brief, this was the early lesson discovered by the staff of the Bernstein Center: If it is free, they will come. Such recognition did not enhance efforts to distill the deeper meaning of rabbinic pastoral care. How might their efforts have proven more fruitful? Here, a cross-denominational comparison is telling.
Yeshiva University Charts a Different Path
RIETS, the Orthodox rabbinical school at Yeshiva University, landed multiyear NIMH grants in 1956 and 1962, similar to the one JTS had received. The institution appointed Rabbi I. Fred Hollander, former associate director of chaplaincy services for the New York Board of Rabbis and then professor of pastoral psychiatry at YU, to lead the initiative, guided by a seven-member advisory board--with representatives from YU's Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Mount Sinai Hospital, St. Vincent's Hospital, and the Jewish Family Services. (61) Hollander's experience with juggling divergent ideological and denominational objectives on the rabbinical board no doubt aided his ability to implement YU's NIMH mandate, which was "to develop a pilot training program for the purpose of evolving mental health teaching materials for clergy." (62) Of course, YU encountered familiar complications, not least the struggle to delineate the unique contribution of the rabbi to the discipline of pastoral care. Hollander later reflected on the initiative:
As a result of its pilot teaching programs, the Yeshiva Project concluded that all aspects of mental health knowledge were of value in the preparation of the clergy as well as for those in the mental health professions. This conclusion presented two problems in the development of teaching material. It made difficult the selection of material that would be acceptable to all as a 'core' for a curriculum. It also required the clergyman to learn how to integrate this knowledge, which was of equal potential value to all, for his specific pastoral needs, which obviously differ from the special needs of members of the mental health professions. (63)
While Hollander had no immediate answers to these questions, he quickly laid out some guiding assumptions. Unlike his JTS counterparts, Hollander unyieldingly retained Judaism at the center of his worldview. (64) At JTS, psychoanalysis and religion could engage each other on a level field. The objective was to find a means of reconciliation in the search for larger truth and meaning. At RIETS, by contrast, religion alone supplied the ultimate source of meaning. Hollander saw the insights of psychiatry as a means to enrich preexisting, eternal religious truths--the values inculcated at the Orthodox seminary in the first place. (65) Thus, RIETS students did not experience the same dissonance that their JTS compatriots were grappling with. This helped Hollander to light a path forward, whereas the JTS psychiatry faculty could not.
To be sure, Orthodox and Conservative leaders mostly agreed about the developmental processes that presaged psychological problems, and, at least in a broad sense, both sets of leaders left room for rabbis and rabbinic insight as components of a larger regimen of treatment. With rhetoric evocative of the pronouncements of the JTS psychiatry department faculty, Hollander insisted that nurture could not be dismissed in the discourse about mental health:
[E]motions can produce conditions of illness in the human being in much the same way as does an infectious process. Emotions also can contribute to conditions of health within the human organism ... The psychological significance of verbal and nonverbal methods of intervention provide the clergyman with the recognition that through his methods of communication he can render forms of help that may produce changes in personality and behavior. (66)
By virtue of his profound insight and positive energy, the attuned rabbi could uproot negative emotions and, in turn, forestall the development and proliferation of illness among his congregants. The wise rabbi treaded cautiously, lest his actions unwittingly evoke the opposite response.
However, the Yeshiva Project mostly diverged from the JTS paradigm, and, in particular, from Louis Linn's example. If Linn compartmentalized the role of religion, Hollander compartmentalized the role of science. For Linn, religion steeled emotions during times of crisis; science alone provided empirical truths. For Hollander, by contrast, the life of the believer could not, by definition, be separated from the all-encompassing effect of the religious enterprise:
Religion spells out a way of life; it describes man's condition, his place in the universe, and his role in the shape of things. Religion's description of the way man should live also is a source of healing help in times of sickness. But the primary purpose of religion is to help define every phase of man's existence. (67)
Thus, Hollander conceptualized a project that was qualitatively different from Linn's. Hollander considered psychoanalysis one helpful tool among others, not a comprehensive meta-narrative. That, only Judaism could provide. More than a moral compass in an age of mass destruction, for Hollander Judaism afforded the man of faith an unequalled transcendent anchor.
Rabbi Soloveitchik's Role in the NIMH Discourse
Finally, we turn to the role of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (1903-1993) in the construction of the Yeshiva Project's paradigm of pastoral care. Soloveitchik, the influential YU halakhist and philosopher, first formulated his renowned philosophical essay The Lonely Man of Faith in a series of lectures under the rubric of YU's second NIMH grant, and the ideas within the book exemplify Hollander's model. (68) In the book, Soloveitchik parsed the biblical Adam depicted in the Bible's two discrepant creation narratives. While biblical critics point to the differences as evidence of human authorship, Soloveitchik found in them an opportunity to reflect on the relationship of human emotion and psychology to the religious enterprise. The contemporary believer, Soloveitchik asserted, is destined to hold the legacy of both versions of Adam in tension, each a direct manifestation of the divine will.
For the Adam of the first narrative, Soloveitchik wrote, to achieve is to "subdue," to "better his own position in relation to his environment ... to harness and dominate the elemental natural forces and to put them at his disposal." (69) This is the image of man "made in God's image"; as God creates, so, too, does man. Therefore, despite his temporal focus, the Adam of the first narrative is not bereft of a spiritual compass. This is the way Soloveitchik describes him:
... Adam the first is trying to carry out the mandate entrusted to him by his Maker who, at dawn of the sixth mysterious day of creation, addressed Himself to man and summoned him to 'fill the earth and subdue it.' ... Adam the first transcends the limits of the reasonable and probable and ventures into the open spaces of a boundless universe. (70)
In Soloveitchik's rendering, the Adam of the second narrative is different. He seeks existential meaning in a world where it is scarce, "[casting] his glance at the mute cosmos, at its dark spaces and monotonous drama" for the source that "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life." (71) This muteness, for Soloveitchik, is the struggle of the man of faith. Man seeks spiritual meaning, but he cannot expect it through a direct encounter. Instead, he settles for the companionship of other men of faith, the experience of the "covenantal faith community," and he is destined to suffer the great paradox of the believer (72):
Each great redemptive step forward in man's quest for humanity entails the ever growing, tragic awareness of his aloneness and only-ness and consequently of his loneliness and insecurity. He struggles for the discovery of his identity because he suffers from the insecurity implied in seeing the icy darkness of uniformity and irresponsiveness, in gazing into that senseless something without being rewarded a reciprocal gaze.... (73)
JTS psychiatrists in general and Linn in particular probed the processes that informed religious conviction. They classified "hyper-religiosity" as a manifestation of psychological illness awaiting rabbinic diagnosis. Soloveitchik, by contrast, concerned himself with the psychology of the man of faith. A fervent belief in God, he insisted, was not a salve for pathological problems. To the contrary, it guaranteed a life of existential loneliness. Linn deemed religion a moral check on unbridled scientific progress--a necessity, given the potential for nuclear annihilation. He knew not of Soloveitchik's Adam of the second narrative, of religious conviction despite the silence of the cosmos. Soloveitchik believed in God. Linn refused to fathom a world without God. That distinction made all the difference.
RIETS completed its second NIMH grant in 1967. That same year, Earl A. Grollman and Irwin M. Blank, both Reform rabbis, published the edited volume entitled Rabbinical Counseling, which sparked a fruitful discourse among Jewish leaders about the role of the rabbi in discharging his pastoral care duties. (74) Significantly, none of the articles were composed by JTS psychiatrists. Pastoral care would live on at JTS to the present day in spite of, not because of, vague theorizing at psychiatry department meetings and the findings of the Bernstein Center. Rather, the world had changed for good. Pastoral care would not only endure as a seminal feature of the contemporary rabbinate, but also, starting in the 1960s, gradually transform the rabbinate as a whole, as an emphasis on pastoral duties and synagogue administration eclipsed the focus on textual erudition and the question of rabbinic authority. (75) Adler had hoped to expand the role of the rabbi in American Jewish life after the Holocaust; he envisioned a rabbinate fluent in the ways of pastoral training and possessed of textual erudition. He did not anticipate the extent to which the former would come at the expense of the latter. The very process that facilitated rabbis' expansion into new arenas of life in the New World moved them away from the anchor of Jewish texts that had characterized the rabbinate of the mourned world of old. (76)
This article is the product of research undertaken as the 2015-2016 Marguerite R. Jacobs Memorial Fellow at the American Jewish Archives. Special thanks to Jonathan Sarna, JoAnn Victor, and Michal Goldschmidt for reading and commenting on earlier drafts.
(1.) William A. Clebsch, "American Religion and the Cure of Souls," in Religion in America, eds., William G. McLoughlin and Robert Bellah (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1968), 249.
(2.) "Final Report for Submission to the Pilot and Special Grants Section, Training and Manpower Resources Branch, National Institute of Mental Health." Materials Concerning the Establishment of Pastoral Psychiatry at the Seminary, 1964-1966. SC-5791, American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, Ohio.
(3.) Leora R. Trub and Maurice J. Elias, "The Counselor Within: A Study of Rabbinical Counseling Training and Practice in the Conservative Movement," Journal of Jewish Education, 73:3 (2007): 163.
(4.) Clebsch, 271; Laura J. Praglin, "The Rabbinate after Freud: American Rabbinical Responses to Psychological Thought and Practice, 1912-1980 (PhD diss., University of Chicago Divinity School, 1998), 107-109; Kenneth E. Appel, "Academy of Religion and Mental Health: Past and Future," Journal of Religion and Health, 4:3 (April 1965): 207-216.
(5.) Zev Eleff, Who Rules the Synagoguef: Religious Authority and the Formation of American Judaism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016).
(6.) Joan S. Friedman. Guidance, Not Governance: Rabbi Solomon B. Freehof and Reform Responsa (New York: Hebrew Union College, 2014).
(7.) Michael R. Cohen, The Birth of Conservative Judaism: Solomon Schechter's Disciples and the Creation of an American Religious Movement (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012).
(8.) Mortimer Ostow, "Rabbinic Counseling," Conservative Judaism 21, no. 1 (1966): 23-33; "Pastoral Psychiatry," Conservative Judaism 23, no. 4 (1969): 2-10; Rochelle Indelman, "A Mental Health Educational Program for Rabbinical Students and its Relevance to the Jewish Community," Journal of Jewish Communal Service, 44 (1969): 176-184.
(9.) Simon Rawidowicz (1897-1957) argued that after the destruction of the Temple, every generation of Jews thought itself the last, and he insinuated that the threats to survival had fostered Jewish creativity across the ages. See Rawidowicz, Israel, the Ever-dying People, and Other Essays, trans., Benjamin C. I. Ravid (Madison, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1986), 51-61.
(10.) David Golinkin, ed. Proceedings of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement, 1927-1970, vol. 1 (New York: The Rabbinical Assembly, 1997), 208.
(11.) Mordecai Waxman, Tradition and Change: The Development of Conservative Judaism (New York: Burning Bush Press, 1970), 281-281.
(12.) In June of 1919, six seminary professors (steered by Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan) penned a letter to their colleagues stating these objectives. A copy of the letter is reprinted in two places. See Eli Ginzberg, Keeper of the Law: Louis Ginzberg (Philadelphia: JPS, T966), 148-149; Herman H. Rubenovitz and Mignon L. Rubenovitz, The Waking Heart (Notre Dame, Indiana: Notre Dame Press, 1967), 57-58.
(13.) Waxman, Tradition and Change, 286-287.
(14.) Robert L. Katz, "Aspects of Pastoral Psychology and the Rabbinate," the Journal of Jewish Communal Service, 29:4 (1953): 367-373. The history of the involvement of Reform institutions in the pastoral care movement is a fascinating one, but unfortunately outside the space constraints of this paper. For more information, see Praglin, "The Rabbinate After Freud," 83-90, 101-107.
(15.) Ibid., 371.
(17.) Ibid., 368.
(18.) Eli Zaretsky, Secrets of the Soul: A Social and Cultural History of Psychoanalysis (New York: Vintage Books, Z004), 7, 9.
(19.) Ibid., 8. See Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, trans., Talcott Parsons (London: Routledge, 1992).
(20.) Zaretsky, Secrets of the Soul 6.
(21.) Ibid., 5.
(22.) Joshua Loth Liebman, Piece of Mind: Insights on Human Nature That Can Change Your Life (New York, Simon and Schuster, 1946). The self-help book sold over one million copies.
(23.) E. Brooks Holifield, A History of Pastoral Care in America: From Salvation to Self-Realization (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1983), 264.
(24.) Sociologist Philip Rieff is the great critic of this transition. For more on this, see Phillip Rieff The Triumph of the Therapeutic: Uses of Faith after Freud (New York, Harvard Torchbooks, 1968).
(25.) Andrew R. Heinze, Jews and the American Soul: Human Nature in the Twentieth Century (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004), 63.
(26.) Katz, "Aspects of Pastoral Psychology and the Rabbinate," 367.
(28.) "Marriage Counseling Service of the Jewish Theological Seminary and the Rabbinical Assembly of America: Statement of Purpose and Method." Communications Department Files, R.G. 11C-40-33, JTS, New York. This excerpt is from a draft dated April 6, 1959. The bracketed phrase appears to have been excised in the final version.
(29.) Holifield, A History of Pastoral Care, 274.
(30.) Ibid., 270-271.
(31.) "Statement by Rabbi Isaac Klein, president of the Rabbinical Assembly of America and spiritual leader of Temple Emanuel, Buffalo, N.Y., delivered at a press conference on the new marriage counseling service held at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, March 4, 1959." Communication Files, 11C-40-33. JTS, New York. This tendency toward exaggeration, rooted in changing self-perceptions, had its Protestant analog. Holifield writes this: "A study by Samuel Blizzard at Princeton revealed that the clergy believed themselves to be devoting 175 million hours a year to pastoral counseling. That figure, which is quite unbelievable, served at least as a sketch of pastoral self-consciousness in the age of psychology" See Holifield, 273-274.
(32.) "Final Report," 2.
(33.) Indelman, "A Mental Health Educational Program for Rabbinical Students," 176-177.
(34.) Department Minutes, June 24, 1964. SC-5791, American Jewish Archives; "Final Report," 21-23.
(35.) Department Minutes, June 13, 1966.
(36.) "Final Report," 2-3. Some of the JTS faculty agreed with this assessment.
(37.) Ibid., 1.
(38.) Bernard Mandelbaum, "Pastoral Counseling Preparation for Rabbinical Students," in Sam Silverstein, et al. Explorations in Mental Health Training: Project Summaries (Bethesda, Md.: National Institute of Mental Health, 1971), 54.
(39.) Department Minutes, July 24, 1963.
(40.) Department Minutes, September 26, 1963.
(41.) Department Minutes, January 27, 1964.
(42.) Department Minutes, September 24, 1964.
(43.) Department Minutes, November 27, 1964.
(44.) Department Minutes, February 21, 1964.
(45.) Mortimer Ostow also coauthored a book on the relationship between psychiatry and religion, one that reinforces many of the ideas found in Linn's work. I do not address Ostow's work here for lack of space. See Mortimer Ostow and Ben-Ami Scharfstein, The Need to Believe: The Psychology of Religion (New York: International Universities Press, 1954).
(46.) Louis Linn and Leo W. Schwarz, Psychiatry and Religious Experience (New York: Random House, 1958).
(47.) Ibid., 5.
(48.) Will Herberg, Protestant, Catholic, Jew: An Essay in American Religious Sociology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1955).
(49.) Linn and Schwarz, 5-6.
(50.) Ibid., 13.
(51.) Ibid., 4.
(52.) The Morris J. and Ethel Bernstein Pastoral Psychiatry Center: Statement of Purpose, March of 1965. SC-5791, American Jewish Archives.
(53.) In her formative essay on feminist literary theory, Marcus differentiates between "reading like a woman" and "reading as a woman." See Jane Marcus, Art and Anger: Reading Like a Woman (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1988), xxi.
(54.) Indelman, "A Mental Health Educational Program for Rabbinical Students," 177. In 1972, the seminary received an additional $750,000 from the estate of Morris J. Bernstein, a Wall Street executive, to help fund the center in perpetuity. By that time, its mission had expanded. As the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) reported on March 8, 1972, "[The center) provides psychiatric counseling to the poor at no charge and to those of reasonable means at low cost, and trains rabbis and Seminary students in pastoral psychiatry, and finances research and articles." The center would survive through the 1980s. See "JTS Receives $750,000 from Estate of Morris J. Bernstein," JTA, March 8, 1972; JTS Register 1977-1982.
(55.) The Morris J. and Ethel Bernstein Pastoral Psychiatry Center: Statement of Purpose, March 1965. SC-5791, American Jewish Archives.
(57.) Ostow, "Rabbinic Counseling," 23-24.
(58.) The Morris J. and Ethel Bernstein Pastoral Psychiatry Center: Statement of Purpose, March of 1965. SC-5791, American Jewish Archives.
(59.) Department Minutes, March 28, 1966.
(60.) Ibid. The emphasis is in the original.
(61.) "Grants Announced; Research Planned," The Commentator, February 19, 1963. In 1978, the Jewish Family Services merged with the Jewish Board of Guardians to become the Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services.
(62.) I. Fred Hollander, "Pastoral Counseling Preparation for Rabbinical Students," in Sam Silverstein, et al. Experiments in Mental Health Training: Project Summaries (Bethesda, Md.: National Institute of Mental Health, 1971), 52.
(63.) I. Fred Hollander, "Mental Health Teaching Materials for the Clergy," Journal of Religion and Health, 1:3 (1962): 273-274.
(64.) I was unable for the purposes of this paper to research Hollander's efforts beyond his own writings.
(65.) Hollander, "Mental Health," 275-276.
(66.) Ibid., 276.
(67.) Ibid., 278.
(68.) The following note appears before the introduction to the book: "The basic ideas of The Lonely Man of Faith were formulated in Rabbi Soloveitchik's lectures in the 'Marriage and Family' program of the National Institute of Mental Health Project at Yeshiva University in New York City." Joseph B. Soloveitchik, The Lonely Man of Faith (New York: Doubleday, 1965). See also Joseph B. Soloveitchik, David Shatz, Joel B. Wolowelsky, and Reuven Ziegler. Out of the Whirlwind: Essays on Mourning, Suffering and the Human Condition (Hoboken, N.J.: KTAV, 2003). These essays were part of a lecture series Soloveitchik gave during the NIMH grant process. Due to space constraints, I do not address them here.
(69.) Soloveitchik, The Lonely Man, 10, 14.
(70.) Ibid., 19.
(71.) Ibid., 37, 10.
(72.) Ibid., 40.
(73.) Ibid., 36.
(74.) Earl A. Grollman and Irwin M. Blank, Rabbinical Counseling (New York: Bloch Publishing Company, 1967). Grollman later became a renowned bereavement counselor. Blank became a practicing psychotherapist.
(75.) Trub and Elias, "The Counselor Within," 164.
(76.) Tragically, Rabbi Morris Adler would be mortally wounded in 1966 by Richard Steven Wishnetsky, a man he once counseled. The violent episode unfolded in front of some seven hundred worshipers at Shaaray Zedek Synagogue in suburban Detroit. See T.V. LoCicero, "The Murder of Rabbi Adler." Commentary 41, no. 6 (1966): 49-53.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Publication:||American Jewish History|
|Date:||Apr 1, 2017|
|Previous Article:||The B'nai B'rith encounters Nazi Germany, 1933.|
|Next Article:||Sulzerism, Sulzermania, and the shaping of the American Cantorate.|