Only two years ago, when I was scheduling teachers for Introduction to Judaism in San Francisco, I was sharply aware of the shortage of qualified teachers for the class. Reform rabbis were a scarce bunch, with more demands on their time than they could possibly meet. The Jewish press talked about the "rabbi shortage" and it was the topic of discussion at UAHC Biennials, too.
When I began the process of application to HUC, I joked that I'd decided to do something about the rabbi shortage -- study for the rabbinate! Well, I wasn't the only one. I'm not sure anymore how many of us there are precisely, but here in L.A. there are more than 20 of us piled into classrooms that would be cosy for half that number. And next year, we're expecting another large group of second-year students.
This is good for the Reform movement, very, very good. It is a challenge, to put it mildly, for our teachers: as our Commentaries teacher said today, the last time he taught this class, he had six people around a table and could give everyone personal attention. There are legions of us: we're like puppies, all over the place, gangly and not quite sure what we are doing, but very enthused to be doing it. I imagine that many of our professors look at us and want to tear their hair, just at the numbers.
When I get cranky about it (and I do sometimes; I envy that class of six), I remind myself of those days when I couldn't find a rabbi who could schedule even one session of an Intro class. I think about all the people who were spilling out the doorways of classrooms, eager to learn.
Something wonderful is happening in the Jewish world, and we're all part of it.