December 12, 2018

Young Israel of Century City rabbi elected president of Rabbinical Council of America

Rabbi Elazar Muskin, senior rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, has been elected president of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), marking the first time a Los Angeles rabbi has headed the organization, which has a membership of 1,000 Orthodox rabbis in 18 countries.

“It represents the fact the world has changed,” Muskin said of his election.

He recalled that when he began his rabbinic career more than 35 years ago, a fellow rabbi told him: “If you want to have influence, the national scene is on the East Coast.”

Now, rabbis from all parts of the country make up the organization’s leadership. “There isn’t one officer from the New York area in this coming administration,” he said.

Muskin, who held the position of first vice president at the RCA, was elected to his new post on June 12, succeeding Rabbi Shalom Baum, spiritual leader of Congregation Keter Torah in Teaneck, N.J.

RCA presidents are elected to one-year terms, and most presidents are re-elected to serve a second year, he said.

Muskin hopes the RCA under his stewardship will be “proactive and not reactive.” Among other things, the RCA must work toward improving Diaspora Judaism’s relationship with Israel’s Chief Rabbinate, in light of clashes on marriage and conversion, he said.

“We try to sensitize [the Chief Rabbinate] to issues, and we do all the time,” Muskin said. “On marriage issues, on conversion issues, we’re working with them hand-in-hand.There are organizations that would like to see the end of the Chief Rabbinate, [but] that is not our agenda at all. We want to work with them.”

Muskin enters the presidency at a time of contention over female clergy in the Orthodox movement. Earlier this year, the Orthodox Union, a partner of the RCA, issued a ruling banning female clergy in its 400 member congregations across the United States. B’nai-David Judea, a Los Angeles synagogue, is among those at the center of the debate through its employment of Rabbanit Alissa Thomas-Newborn.

“The women’s issue is certainly an issue,” Muskin said. “We want to look at it in a positive approach. There are so many areas where women can have important roles in the Orthodox community and that will be our focus.”

Even with the demands of being the RCA’s leader, Muskin said Young Israel of Century City will remain his first priority. The congregation has 500 member families and is in the process of a major expansion of its facilities.

“I will do my work for the rabbinic council as well, but if there’s a [time] conflict, my shul comes first,” Muskin said.

Muskin is a past president of the Rabbinical Council of California. He holds a master’s degree in education from Columbia University and a master’s in medieval Jewish philosophy from the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies at Yeshiva University. He received his rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary.