If, like 82 percent of American Jewry, you are unaffiliated with a temple or synagogue, but still desire a rabbi to officiate at your special occasion, then telecommunications engineer David Segal of Phoenix, Ariz., has designed a Web site just for you.
The site is www.Rabbirentals.com, and once you log on, you can use your credit card to rent a rabbi, who will then rock up to your door and invoke the necessary blessings to make your special occasion a religious one. Be it weddings, bar mitzvahs, house blessings or funerals, Rabbirentals.com has rabbis for all special moments, at a variety of prices. While the site does not list any of the rabbis by name, it does give some biographical details, so you can choose between a rabbi who was "formerly a corporate executive, [who] entered rabbinic school at the age of 30," and one who "earned his license as an Israeli desert guide."
Segal said he started the site when he and his friends, all of whom were unaffiliated with a temple, started discussing how convenient it would be if there was a Web site where they could access a rabbi's services without having to incur any of the membership costs involved with joining a temple. Segal, who was involved with United Jewish Communities, started using his contacts to amass a list of rabbis who would be willing to be rented and had the site up and running by January 2002.
Currently, the site has 54 rabbis of all denominations listed, and by using Rabbirentals.com one can rent rabbis who will officiate at services all across America. So far, 48 customers have used the services of the site, and the site gets 200-400 hits a day.
While Segal has taken a battering from some rabbis who fear that his site will draw Jews away from temples and synagogues, he feels that once people have a connection with a rabbi, they might actually be inspired to join the temple.
"I just created an opportunity for a more cost-effective means for someone to attain a rabbi," he said.