The RCA and You: A Mutual, Long-Term Relationship
We are pleased that you are interesting in applying for membership in the Rabbinical Council of America. Becoming an RCA member constitutes a significant commitment to build a long-term, mutual relationship between you, the RCA, and your RCA colleagues.
Before submitting your application, please take the time to learn about us. First, review About Us to get an overview of the RCA, its history, and its diverse activities. Then, carefully consider the Core Principles, below, which animate that history and activity. Finally, read the information below describing what RCA membership means and detailing its benefits and responsibilities.
During your application process, we look forward to telling you more about us – even as we look forward to getting to know you. In this way, we will begin to create a mutually beneficial bond which will sustain you during your rabbinic career and help you to plan for, and thrive during, your retirement years.
RCA Core Principles
The RCA’s history, activities, and accomplishments reflect, in practical terms, the core principles which have long defined the RCA’s outlook:
- We affirm that God’s revelation at Sinai created an eternal covenantal relationship with the Jewish nation as a chosen people which obligates all Jews in all generations to lives of complete observance of the commandments.
- We affirm that God gave the Torah to Moses, who in turn gave it to the Jewish people. The laws of the Torah are immutable and apply in all generations.
- We are heirs to and participants in a millennia-old halachic process which is founded upon an unbroken chain of tradition from Sinai and continues until today, embodied in a literature which incorporates the Bible, the Talmud, Jewish law codes, responsa literature, and other authoritative works. This process greatly emphasizes tradition and precedent while also sanctioning the adaptation and application of Jewish law to new circumstances and evolving realities. Halacha includes internal mechanisms which uniquely guide its responsible development by acknowledged halachic authorities and which create and thereby sanction multiple views on many issues. In accordance with the principle of “These and those are the words of the living God” (Eruvin 13b), we affirm that each such view deserves respect and consideration.
- We are passionately committed to the ongoing flourishing of the State of Israel, seeing its establishment and continued existence as historic, Divine expressions of national dignity, sovereignty, and redemption.
- We seek to maximize the involvement in Jewish life of all Jews, including young and old, groups with diverse customs due to their countries of origin, as well as those with greater knowledge of Judaism and those who are novices. We affirm the essential uniqueness of each sex and the halachic distinctions between them. We also foster, in light of the many positive changes in the lives of Orthodox Jewish women over the past century, a diversity of halachically and communally appropriate opportunities for women’s lay and professional involvement in Orthodox Jewish life.
- We embrace our mandate to interact with, and to effect positive changes in, all of human society, in keeping with the view of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (in “Confrontation”) that Jews must “stand shoulder to shoulder with civilized society… and members of other faith communities, … committed to the general welfare and progress of mankind determined to participate in every civic, scientific, and political enterprise[, as we] feel obligated to enrich society with our creative talents and to be constructive and useful citizens.”
- As proud, loyal citizens of the United States, Canada, and elsewhere, we urge the Jewish communities we lead to comply with all non-discriminatory civil legislation, in fulfillment of the Talmudic dictate of dina de’malchuta dina (secular law has the force of halachic obligation).
- We believe that in addition to the ongoing study of Torah which is central to all Jews’ religious lives, Jews must pursue knowledge of the universe and humanity, including the natural, social, and applied sciences, humanities, and higher culture. Such knowledge is part of an integrated quest to know God, the unified Source of knowledge about His varied Creation.
Overall Significance of RCA Membership
Your RCA membership demonstrates accreditation by your peer professional group, similar to a lawyer’s membership in the American Bar Association or a physician’s membership in the American Medical Association Further, it tells employers, colleagues, and lay people that you are not a solo practitioner but rather a professional, who is recognized and respected by his peers; who follows the accepted and customary practices, expectations, and standards of his peers; and, whom his peers hold accountable for serious infractions, God forbid, of the standards they jointly uphold as RCA members. Hence, RCA membership is subject to ongoing adherence to the RCA’s Constitution which allows for termination of membership under extreme circumstances and after due process.
In light of the above, it is clear why communities expect or require their rabbis to have the professional credential of RCA membership, and why so many yeshivot prize having RCA recognition of their semicha. Your ability to secure a rabbinic position as an RCA member stems not merely from your access to a listing of available positions, but primarily from the very fact of your RCA membership and your allegiance to the RCA’s principles.
Specific Benefits of RCA Membership
RCA membership also conveys a variety of professional, financial, and personal benefits:
Placement, Contract, and Career Guidance
RCA Placement Services brings together Orthodox synagogues, institutions, and rabbis in North America and beyond. RCA chaverim are eligible to apply for wide variety of available rabbinic positions, at all career levels.
More broadly, RCA’s rabbinic staff and its Placement Director provide support, guidance, and, where requested, suitable intervention as a member engages in new, renewal, or retirement contract negotiations, lay-rabbinic relationships, or situational challenges. They also assist in reviewing a member’s overall career and professional development.
Through its activity on the JWB Jewish Chaplains Council, the RCA’s military chaplaincy endorsements are recognized by the United States Armed Forces. The RCA supports military and health care chaplains through dedicated conferences, email discussion forums, awards, and other services.
Unique Tax-Advantaged Retirement Plan
Members may enroll in the RCA’s full service, professionally run Retirement Plan, which has more than $60,000,000 currently (2015) under management. Unlike conventional pension plans, your retirement withdrawals from this plan are eligible for exclusion under parsonage provisions of United States tax law. This feature can dramatically reduce your retirement tax bill. The Plan also includes guidance in arranging congregational participation, plan portability, high quality investment advice and options, and online reporting and investment management.
Committees and National Leadership Opportunities
The RCA’s many committees take advantage of the leadership talents, experience, and knowledge of its members. They function primarily by conference call, email, and other electronic media. By participating in a committee, RCA members have the opportunity to take on regional and national leadership roles in a variety of areas.
As a recognized national leadership policy-making body, the RCA’s past and future public policy pronouncements and resolutions add weight and informed opinion to a member’s pronouncements and public positions.
Given the often lonely nature of rabbinic life, being part of a fellowship with colleagues is of significant professional and personal value. The RCA facilitates chevrashaft in many ways.
- Rabbinic Discussion email forums, hosted on Google Groups, allow chaverim to enrich their thinking about the full spectrum of issues of concern to rabbis by discussing ideas, challenges, questions and answers, halachic and other texts, as well as personal and professional concerns, directly with one another.
- Membership emails include informational updates covering RCA news, developments in the Jewish and rabbinic world, rabbinic resources, sermonic material, and much more.
- The RCA Membership Directory – online and also in an “app” for smart phones – allows a member to locate and contact chaverim throughout the world.
Face-to-face collegial interaction is also a major feature of the RCA annual convention.
RCA Annual Convention
This extensively planned, subsidized, and catered event brings together a full spectrum of RCA members to form, renew, and deepen personal relationships with one another. Shiurim, presentations, and workshops are led by outstanding poskim, community rabbis, and lay professionals. Conferences are held from time to time in Israel and throughout North America.
Torah Education, Professional Enrichment, and Halachic Services
Beyond the annual convention, RCA fosters ongoing Torah learning and professional growth which are essential to every rabbi’s personal and professional success.
- A dedicated section of our website features a wealth of Torah and professional material, including written and audio shiurim on innumerable Torah topics. Included are major presentations from decades of RCA conventions and entire courses with a panoply of outstanding rabbinic and lay presenters; shiurim, derashot and stories relating to every parasha and Yom Tov; halachic discussions and forms; a special section with material by and about Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik; pastoral resources regarding all major life cycle events; ideas for community programming, and much more.
- Each member receives a hard copy of the RCA’s world-renowned Torah journal, Tradition, as well each volume of Yeshiva University’s renowned Torah U’Maddah Journal.
- The RCA’s primary poskim as well as the staff of our affiliate Beth Din of America (BDA) are available for sensitive or complex halachic inquiries. In cooperation, as needed, with other leading batei din around the world, BDA’s gittin, dinei Torah, personal status (Jewishness, eligibility to marry) documents, agunah resolution, and much more, are critical tools for rabbis. Use of these professional, disinterested, flexible, and widely respected services can reduce a possible source of tension between a rabbi and a congregant, transforming stressful moments into opportunities to deepen a pastoral relationship.
- The RCA is proud to partner with Eretz Hemda to enable its members to study and master hilchot gittin.
- Conversion through the RCA’s “GPS” (Geirus Protocals and Standards) system not only gives a convert and her/his descendants certainty that their conversion and resulting Jewish identity will be recognized by the State and Chief Rabbinate of Israel, but also reduces the professional tensions which conversion of community members can create. With hundreds of converts and years of practical experience, GPS leadership and batei din provide a standardized yet flexible overall process (including the final ma’asei giyur, and beyond), reading materials, halachic guidance, references to suitable tutors if needed, and much more.
- The RCA “Lifecycle Madrikh” includes essential tefillot, forms, and standard procedures for special occasions. The RCA ketubah and wedding kits (in first and second marriage formats), its Halachic Health Care Proxy, and its Halachic Prenuptial Agreement are widely used.
Applying for RCA Membership
The Application Process
- Membership Application
Click here to complete the RCA Membership Application Form. The form will be submitted automatically to the RCA office.
- Other Documents – To be submitted to the RCA office via email (email@example.com)
- Photos of all Semicha and similar documents
- A recent photograph
- Application Fee
- Membership Requirements
- Beit Midrash Learning
- To qualify for RCA admission, an applicant’s semicha must be the culmination of at least six years (for at least five hours a day) of post-high school learning in a traditional beit midrash setting. On-line semicha programs are not accepted.
- A Yoreh Yoreh semicha in Issur ve-Heter granted by either an RCA-recognized, established Yeshiva-based program, or by an RCA-recognized Masmikh.
- In addition, completed studies in at least two other areas of Halachah: Niddah, Eruvin, Kiddushin, Geirut, Shabbat, Avelut.
- Beit Midrash Learning
- Pastoral Training
- The RCA prefers but does not require that a semicha program provide pastoral training to its musmachim. RCA Placement Services discusses the importance of pastoral training with both employers and RCA chaverim applying for positions requiring such skills.
- All applicants are interviewed by the RCA’s Membership Committee.
- Annual dues are $500; if paid early, $425. First year post-ordination members are retirees pay $150/year, and residents of Israel pay $125/year to receive full membership benefits. Israeli residents can avail themselves of Israel regional membership with limited benefits at NIS 100/year. As a matter of policy and practice, no applicant is turned away for lack of ability to pay full dues; special arrangements are made.
- Click here to pay your dues online.