Rabbi Jack Engel brings a fresh approach to serving the needs of the Anshei Emuna community. His over thirty years of experience as a pulpit rabbi in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand gives him a uniqueness in comprehending the diversity of the global Jewish community. He is a strong advocate for promoting a spirit of Religious Zionism and is passionate to refocus Orthodox Judaism on the Torah’s core values.
Rabbi Jack has cultivated strong relationships in the broader Jewish community and believes that being an Or Lagoyim – a light unto the nations refers first and foremost to our Jewish brothers and sisters. He is open minded yet firm in his conviction, but is always willing to discuss matters of halachah pertinent to the Modern Orthodox Jew.
A MESSAGE FROM THE RABBI
Rabbi Jack Engel A RABBI’S MISSION STATEMENT: A PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE I am often asked what denomination of Judaism I belong to. I respond that I am merely a Jew and practice the religion that descends from Abraham and Moses. I belong to ancient people whose ancestors founded monotheism and chose to accept upon themselves the dictates of Torah at Mount Sinai. I also belong to a people that have a profusion of philosophies and a disproportionate number of philosophers. However, I don’t allow my obedience to God to be encumbered by labels and I refuse to be pigeon -holed as orthodox, conservative, or reform. I am a Jew, and quite honestly that should be enough. And if perchance some take offense with my inconclusiveness, I join the ranks of Abraham, Moses, Hillel, and Maimonides who were all label -free Jews. Jonah too, in his response to the captain’s question stated: Ivri anochi, Vet elokim ani yare — I am (just a plain) Hebrew and fear the lord.
Some may look at my resume and unfairly typecast me as unenlightened, intolerant, and anti -progressive, while others think that at best I am slightly heretical. My bio states that I am an orthodox rabbi serving as a pulpit rabbi in an orthodox synagogue, but that fails to accurately define who I am. My coreligionists on both sides of the religious landscape are dangling on a precarious and dangerous balancing act. The liberals are moving so far to the left as a means of offsetting the conservatives moving so far to the right. While the conservatives pursue an extreme right wing agenda to offset the radical liberalism permeating society. Often, the only compelling justification for a new rabbinic edict is the fear of being labeled as too lax and lenient. The new standard of the religious right is that all is forbidden because we haven’t proven with absoluteness that it’s permissible.
I too, maintain a delicate balancing act; I heed the rules and regulations of Judaism’s founding fathers but realize that at times their limited scope of relevant medical, scientific and technology render some of their rulings obsolete and unsustainable. Rabbinical scholars have decreed that heart transplants are forbidden while smoking is permissible; that in vitro fertilization using donor eggs produces an illegitimate offspring but bloodletting is permissible on Shabbat due to its medical benefits. My aim is to make Judaism more relevant for the ‘Jew in the pew’ and not to produce religious clones of myself. I try to promote a Judaism that enhances each individual’s spiritual journey without curtailing their individuality with predefined parameters of success. I am honored to serve a community where the majority of members are not strictly orthodox but nevertheless are comfortable having an orthodox setting as their spiritual home. I believe a rabbi must be fearless in maintaining the sanctity of the religion, but more fearless in maintaining the sanctity of man. It is often said that it is far easier to be strict than to be lenient but our true halachic leaders pursued creative loopholes to advance lenient opinions.
I follow a Judaism that may be the precursor for one of the most sacred principles in the American criminal justice system, holding that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty. Our sages of antiquity ruled that not only is a defendant presumed innocent until proven guilty but most halachic ruling are based on a similar principle. An animal after being ritually slaughtered is presumed kosher unless it is proven to be un-kosher. All food is permissible unless there is a reason to prohibit it. Work on Shabbat is permitted unless it is categorized as one the 39 forms of labor that are exclusively forbidden, And finally no mission statement can be complete without articulating a basic tenet of our religion stated in Pirkei Avot: Ve-heve dan et-kol-ha-adam le-kaf zekhut. All people (rabbis included) should be considered meritorious unless it can be proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that they are meritless