He was exotic, but familiar; well connected, yet independent; serious, but flexible. It was love at first sight for Amsterdam’s Orthodox community and Rabbi Aryeh Ralbag.
But six years after appointing Ralbag as the chief rabbi of Amsterdam, the community’s board is considering an end to the long-distance relationship, which has been strained by cultural gaps.
Ralbag, a rabbinical judge and the rabbi of a congregation in Brooklyn, NY, has traveled several times a year to Amsterdam since accepting the nonsalaried position in 2005. It is his second go-round in Amsterdam. He had worked here in the 1970s, making a name for himself as a reformer who married New World entrepreneurship with an understanding of European communities.
Some, however, worry that Ralbag’s US obligations shackle Amsterdam’s Jews to his politics and business across the ocean while depriving them of effective guidance because of his frequent absence.
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