Chicago Board of Rabbis
30 S. Wells Suite 4149
Chicago, IL 60606
Rabbi Michael Balinsky - Bio
Executive Vice President
Founded in 1893 as the Chicago Rabbinical Association, the Chicago Board of Rabbis, the successor body, is the most comprehensive rabbinic group in the community, encompassing Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist and Reform rabbis.
Through its committees and commissions, it helps to interpret Judaism in all of its phases to the Jewish and general community. Together with representatives of other faiths, it participates in civic and communal affairs and is recognized as the religious spokesman for the Jewish community.
Always taking a leading role in the religious development of our people, The Chicago Board of Rabbis particularly gained added recognition in recent years with its involvement in numerous programs and projects, all designed to enhance the integrity and status of the Jewish people.
In 1960, under the leadership of Rabbi Philip L. Lipis, North suburban Synagogue Beth El, Highland Park, the first president of the reorganized Chicago Board of Rabbis, and Rabbi Irving J. Rosenbaum, its first executive director, many areas of achievement were advanced. Among them was that of the organization and development of an efficient Chaplaincy program designed to bring solace, comfort, spiritual guidance and direction to Jewish patients and inmates of hospitals, mental institutions, homes for the aged, prisons and training schools throughout the State of Illinois.
The Chicago Board of Rabbis also continued in its role as the religious spokesman of the Jewish community. During the administration of Rabbi Ernst M. Lorge, Temple Beth Israel, the CBR found itself deeply involved in communal matters. Foremost among these was the National, as well as the Chicago Conference on Religion and Race (CCRR), in which the three major faiths played a most significant role. The CBR was involved in all phases of local planning and was extensively represented on the program and the many subsequent activities which emerged from the Conference. The Conference subsequently expanded to include almost all other major judicatories in the community and is now known as the Council of Religious leaders of Metropolitan Chicago. The CBR has been deeply committed to the goals and objectives of this program and has continually spoken and acted in the religious tradition of our heritage.
In August, 1963, Rabbi Mordecai Simon became the Executive Vice President, and remained in that capacity until his retirement in the summer of 1995, representing and guiding the organization and its officers and spokesmen in all areas of commitment and involvement. Rabbi Simon was succeeded by Rabbi Ira Youdovin, who was then succeeded by the current executive director, Rabbi Michael Balinsky, in July of 2008.
The CBR established, and functions through its various commissions, all movements of the Jewish community are offered representation as members and officers. It was understood at its outset, that no action would be taken by the CBR that would negatively affect the Halachic or ideological view of any segment of the group.
The Religious Standards committee and the Social Action Committee contributed greatly to the spiritual level of the Jewish community.
Through the Broadcasting Commission, the CBR acted as the central agency for the production and broadcasting of most local Jewish religious radio and television programs. Over the years, the CBR pioneered a children’s program called “The Magic Door,” special holiday programs, “The Eternal Quest,” and “Karnzitz,” a program designed to discuss questions of interest to the teenager; “What’s New?” a program of current Jewish news and interviews; “Of Cabbages and Kings,” and weekly radio program, “Outline for Living,” which discussed great books and questions with representatives of other faiths. The CBR also published a monthly bulletin called “Shema,” which was well received locally and nationally.
The Chaplaincy Commission was originally under the auspices of the JFCS, but was placed under the direction and responsibility of the CBR by the Jewish Federation once the CBR was organized. Rabbi Irvin M. Melamed was its director until he retired due to illness after 17 years of service. He was succeeded by Rabbi Ephraim H. Prombaum, who was appointed coordinator of Chaplaincy services as well as serving as the Jewish Chaplain at Michael Reese Hospital.
The CBR published a pamphlet of prayers for the ill entitled “Help and Comfort” (still in use), “Shema Kolenu” (still in use although out of print), and "In Times of Grief” for the bereaved.
The program of the CBR was made possible through the support of the Jewish Welfare Fund (later merged with the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago), by membership dues, by congregational allocations as well as by the contribution of public-spirited citizens. These continue to be its source of support to this day.
The Chicago Board of Rabbis has issued a response to the recent ruling from some community rabbis in Israel that forbids leasing property to non-Jews. In the wake of the widespread criticism and rejection of this ruling from both the political and religious realms, Israel has reaffirmed and shown its ongoing commitment to the civil rights of all of its citizens.
Read the response here