1dcb1d_171e0167ac0b4cceb6c6c3fe5b4ec1b0Rabbi Emanuel Rackman was one of the most prominent, profound, and outspoken Jewish leaders in our time, who advocated tirelessly for women’s rights and social justice. His activism stemmed from a conviction that halakha, the Jewish legal system, is a central moral force to rectify injustice. Rabbi Rackman had consistently asserted that Judaism could and must fully engage modernity in all spheres and respond with sensitivity and creativity to its many challenges.
He was both a brilliant defender of halakha and a spur to its practitioners to do better for the Jewish people and the world. Alongside his deep commitment to the halakhic system, Rabbi Rackman was dedicated to the advancement of women’s rights both in Jewish and civil law.
Born June 24, 1910, Rabbi Rackman was ordained at Yeshiva University. Following an impressive career in the military teaching chaplains of all denominations, he served as Rabbi of the prestigious Fifth Avenue Synagogue in New York City and Shaarey Tefila Congregation in Far Rockaway. He also taught Jewish law at the City University of New York, New York Law School and Yeshiva College. He served as President of the Rabbinical Council of America, the New York Board of Rabbis and the Association of Jewish Chaplains of the Armed Forces of the USA, among numerous other positions. In 1977, he moved to Israel with his beloved wife, Ruth, who passed away in 1997.
Rabbi Rackman served as a role model for a generation of Rabbis entering the American Orthodox Rabbinate. Through his teachings, Rabbi Rackman demonstrated that “Modern Orthodoxy” is a coherent and convincing ideology, a philosophy not of compromise, but rather of commitment.
Rabbi Rackman advocated tirelessly for women’s rights and social justice. In 2001 Bar-Ilan University established The Ruth and Emanuel Rackman Center for the Advancement of the Status of Women in recognition of his immeasurable contribution to the Jewish people and his outstanding efforts to improve the status of women. The Center, headed by Prof. Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, was established with the goal of improving the status of women and bringing an end to gender discrimination in Israeli society. Through legal aid, public advocacy, research and women’s empowerment, the Center aims to fulfill the vision of Rabbi Dr. Emanuel Rackman in advancing women’s rights in Israel and bettering women’s standing within Jewish family law.
Rabbi Rackman published three books: Israel’s Emerging Constitution, One Man’s Judaism, and Modern Halacha for our Time. He also published many essays, which are scholarly masterpieces that lay out a clearly defined worldview. The central theme in his writing is that there is a creative principle in halacha; that Jewish law must evolve in order to be a more central moral force in rectifying the injustices of the modern world.
Throughout the years, Rabbi Rackman reached out to the halachic leaders of the day and challenged them to broaden their understanding and to explore unique solutions to the halachic problems that cause suffering. He was a brilliant defender of halacha and encouraged its practitioners to do better for the Jewish People and the world.
Rabbi Rackman was committed to the unity of the Jewish People, and he unceasingly argued that the survival of Judaism and the Jewish People is dependent on transcending denominational differences. No Orthodox leader in our time has been as outspoken as Rabbi Rackman in believing in the power of Klal Yisrael – the Jewish people as a whole.
In 2000 Bar-Ilan University honored Rabbi Rackman with a Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his outstanding leadership and of his inestimable contribution to the development of the University.