Ready for Prime Time??
Wednesday October 19th 2005, 9:44 pm
Filed under: Slices of Life

So, up to this point, I’ve considered this site a work in progress. Now it’s ready for prime time. Such as it is. I mean, people are not sitting on street corners with baited breath, awaiting the latest rants and ramblings from Defrocked Rabbi, now are they?

But, I did send a note to two “not-defrocked” rabbi friends whose replies told me that this is now a real blog.

So here’s a bit of the back story:

I had been thinking of creating Defrocked Rabbi for several years. I have a first draft all laid out in lovely HTML in my “Old My Documents” folder somewhere. Somehow, the last kick to put it online never quite kicked in. I think I thought that once I put it up, what will I add? This was way before the big wave of blog-dom had crashed the proverbial information technology coast.

Then a few weeks ago while cleaning out a dead email box I found a note from a rabbinic colleague I’d never met who had re-discovered my article “Rabbis Don’t Get Defrocked but Some are Unsuited” from 1999 while packing her library (yes, her position had been, ummm, downsized), and she wrote to express appreciation. (So maybe I can write afterall.) While not “defrocked,” she is now “differently frocked.” The annotated, updated version of said article is reproduced here as “So What’s the Whole Story?”

Then I stumbled over a note about a free blogging software ( which looked very nice and good technical writer that I am, I figured it was time for me to learn a bit about php and MySQL. And the rest, as they say, is history. (Who are “they” anyhow?)

So after I posted my Kol Nidre sermon I emailed said new rabbinic colleague friend and one other rabbinic colleague friend announcing this new venture.

So here’s a bit of way-back story:

This other rabbinic colleague is one I’ve know since we were rabbinic students together during the Vietnam era. A few years later as young (fully frocked) rabbis, we lived in the same city for several years and we bonded closely. Then a few too many mornings and a few thousand miles came between us. We hardly communicated for a decade or two. Recently, however, due to my wife’s intervention, we’ve reconnected. Over the last couple of years, we’ve spent a few hours together a few times. (This is more time than I’ve spent with all other rabbis on Earth over these same years.) Reconnecting with him has been a most heart-warming experience. While not “defrocked,” he is likewise “differently frocked.”

So his reaction was so positive as to be overwhelming. Maintaining his anonymity, he wrote:

I love it….but, Bill, O Bill,

…’re really crazy — brilliant, but crazy!! — i’m never sure whether you denigrate the rabbinate or yourself …but i was happy to get a copy of the ccar journal article which i will reread and i did like the fasting points (if you are into fasting…and this year i did not…first ever) and the lenny bruce stuff which never really understood when — i was too straight — i was 18…most jews are goyish these days…like my sermons this year, too long….

i love you a lot bill…even over these years and miles…but there is something profoundly self-deprecating about this…i think you are one of the great creative minds of our generation of rabbis and i would like to see you move beyond the unsuited part…your jeans, oops-genes–are forever appropriate and you are forever a rabbi…you say that clearly…skip the apologies, you don’t need to….

that you have created this blog is a testimony to your being a rabbi and a deeply engaged one….here’s what i can’t handle for me (!):

letting other people set the agenda …whether it be the CCAR (rabbinical union), the people who no longer call for the ceremonies, or the people who only call once in a while for a gig…

you need to have an independent jewish-rabbinical schtick which is beyond all that….and this is what i would suggest:

….take a text, any text, anything that is written pre-today…but it ought to be a serious text (lenny imay or may not be not serious enough as a jewish text) and do a commentary — a long, extended, bill-commentary…go back up into the attic of the garage and look through the old books and see what turned you on then and re-read it….it’s damn hard and i’m struggling with the same thing right now, too…

here’s what’s at stake: the conventional guys are too market driven to maker a new contribution to the future of jewish thought and jewish praxis — you have the blessing of being independent and therefore landing on some real truth that may be helpful top your grandchildren and mine…

if you need some suggestions, i’m here for you….


Like I said, I am overwhelmed at such praise.

But OK, this is big-time food for thought: a) give up the self-depreciation, and b) find a literary quasi-rabbinic task. As for the self-depreciation, it’s easy to be humble when you had a career crash and burn big time. Back in the day, I did maintain a bit more rabbinically-appropriate ego. However, I must say that this whole blog thing is a pretty heavy ego trip in its own right.

As for a task, several years ago I began the process of translating/editing the Passover Hagada. It was to be “The Laconic Hagada.” (or “The Internet Hagada,” in its more recent beta 2.0.) Traditional but clear, concise and readible. I cranked out a first draft of “up to eating the meal” which I’ve used at my own Passover Sederim for two or three years now. I created a marketing plan and a website for it, but I never quite got up the energy to finish the project. Suddenly I feel like maybe now I will.

Thank you, r. (And I will expect significant edits to said text as it emerges!)

So then I received the response from the first-mentioned friend above. It included:

I am most complimented that I am among the first to be privy to your new site. The timing of it is fascinating, as I just read in Alban institute’s mag, Congregations, an opening article about the need for exiting clergy (i.e. ones leaving pulpits voluntarily or involuntarily) to tell their stories, as well as the need for preventive action to cut down on the sizable percentage of clergy who are leaving. …

I wonder, though, at the name defrock. It is self-deprecating, and there is the connotation to “defrock” that the clergyperson has done some kind of wrong, such as sexual impropriety. And so the name can connote shame or humiliation. I do, of course, appreciate the shock value and interest that such a name arouses. What about something like exitingrabbis, or rabbisontheouts–something that does not imply blame, and especially not on the clergypersons themselves.

At one point you said this website is now your pulpit, and that is perfect. But then you said something to the effect that you can say anything you damn please and if the reader doesn’t like it they can… I know that is an exaggeration, but my point is that the image that came to mind was of a toddler banging on pots and pans to its heart’s content with no one in the room to curb its behavior. May I suggest that you ennoble your cyberpulpit with some sentiment about the need to tell our stories, gain insights, a call for creative ideas to be rabbis in nontraditional ways, etc. As with the site name, we do not want to diminish ourselves in any way.

The sermon was engaging, nice creative opener w/ Lenny Bruce, and good old fashioned concepts from our tradition about fasting, including the “not yet” approach to becoming more observant….

I hope you will take all my comments as lovingly given from one colleague to another. Maybe i can call upon you once in awhile for some objective feedback (?). Yours, K

Thank you, K.

OK, so with two parallel suggestions in the same direction, maybe I should rethink the “defrocked thing.” Will think on this, but first reaction is, “Hey! it’s a marketing gimmick!”

So anyway, now I will look up a few other not-quite-long-lost rabbinic colleagues and send them a link here and see what else emerges. Meanwhile I’ve added the link to have this included in the Jewring and I’ve started watching Google anticipating them spidering here.

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