Father & Son Rabbi Duo Speaking At Beth Jacob Sunday

Rabbi Ethan Tucker followed in his father’s footsteps in becoming a rabbi, but until this weekend, teaching together had been a rarity.

Rabbis Ethan and Gordon Tucker are the lecturers at this weekend’s Allen-Gorin Lecture, “From Parent to Child: Which Traditions Remain and Which Must Change?” at Beth Jacob Congregation. This is the second year of a lecture that was endowed and named for Rabbi Emeritus Morris Allen and his wife Phyllis Gorin on his retirement from the shul in 2019.

The event is free but registration is required. A brunch is served after the event. If you can’t attend, the event is being livestreamed.

“For the most part, our interactions are family,” said Rabbi Ethan. “Very rarely have we actually done co-teaching of this sort.”

The decision to bring the rabbis to Beth Jacob was a decision by the synagogue, but both current senior Rabbi Adam Rubin and the recently retired Allen are fans.

“I have long been an admirer of both the Rabbis Tucker,” said Rubin. “I had been studying Rabbi Gordon Tucker’s writing with my study partner some 20 years ago. And I remember thinking (then) what it would be like if the two of them had a conversation [or] exchange of views; how would they negotiate that? These two figures are really giants in the traditional, egalitarian world of Judaism.”

Said Allen: “They really represent significant leadership and a non-fundamentalist understanding of a halachic process,” he said.

Rabbi Ethan is the President and Rosh Yeshiva at Hadar, an organization that empowers Jews to create and sustain vibrant, practicing, egalitarian communities of Torah, Avodah, and Hesed. Rabbi Gordon is the vice chancellor for Religious Life and Engagement at Jewish Theological Seminary. It’s his second stint at JTS; he was the dean of the rabbinical school from 1984-92, and an assistant professor of Jewish Thought from 1979-94. He served as senior rabbi at Temple Israel Center in White Plains, NY, from 1994-2018.

“Rabbi (Gordon) Tucker is the rabbi who installed me as the first rabbi at Beth Jacob,” said Allen. “Several years later, when Rabbi Tucker left the seminary and assumed the pulpit in White Plains, I reciprocated and was the installing rabbi in his congregation.”

The Tuckers’ joint presentation will explore how the different landscapes that each encountered necessitated divergent paths toward the same ideological goals.

“I think what we’re really focusing on is, specifically in the context of thinking about egalitarian practice and Jewish life,” Rabbi Ethan said. “How much do we, should we, must we, think of those kinds of developments in religious life as continuous with the past, or sitting in disjuncture with the past? That I think is the kind of overarching question.”

Rubin said that the topic of egalitarianism in the movement is still front of mind to him, in part because of the challenges the movement is facing.

“It has declined over the last 30 or 40 years pretty precipitously,” he said. “I think it’s just very difficult being in the middle, committed to the serious observance of Jewish law and deep Torah study in the Hebrew language on the one hand, and also being modern and adapting to contemporary morays and values, particularly when it comes to gender egalitarianism. That is just a difficult space to occupy.”

Rabbi Ethan said that in the most fundamental ways, he’s standing on the shoulders of a giant when it comes to the relationship he has with his father.

“He is my teacher and all of that, and he was involved in the foundational work of shattering the glass ceiling for female, rabbinic leadership in the Conservative movement,” he said. “That was obviously a fundamental piece that had to happen. And he was instrumental to that.”