I’ve been in Allentown, PA now for almost eight years, and have found my position here incredibly rewarding, as well as incredibly challenging.
But there are times when I meet someone from out of town – like New York, say – and they ask, “Where are you a rav?” And I reply, “Allentown,” and I can see them think to themselves, “Oh. That’s not a real rabbonus.” Or they seem to assume that this means I (a "hick rabbi") am somehow less competent than a metrorav, a rav from a major city.
It’s silly, of course. The rabbi in a non-metropolitan community tends to have more responsibilities than a rabbi in a big city. Kashrus, Eruv, Mikvah, Chevra Kadisha, it’s all in our bailiwick. We teach everything from Daf Yomi to Jewish history, we are counselors, ambassadors, lifecycle officiators, teachers for Bar Mitzvah, teachers for gerus, newspaper columnists, etc.
The Rabbanim I meet tend to understand this, but, as I have said, others do not. I suppose their reaction is just part of the metrocentricity which many people, Jewish and otherwise, feel. It’s the “If I can make it there (New York), I can make it anywhere” approach that implies its opposite, that one who makes it anywhere else could not necessarily make it in New York.
But I never wanted to be a metrorabbi:
I don’t like a lot of the politics I see in larger Jewish communities; better to be in a community where the focus is more on the meat of Judaism.
I also want to be in a place where I feel I make a substantive difference for people's lives, not a city where I am one of an army of rabbis competing to provide the same services.
So I first served a small shul in Rhode Island, and then moved here when I wanted more to do.
In retrospect, I suppose that this wasn’t the greatest “career move,” because of those people who dismiss the hick rabbi. If I were to try to publish a sefer, I'd probably meet some resistance from publishers who would wonder who I am. But I love being here...
Ah, well. All may change eventually. We only have a day school through eighth grade, and my kids are getting older. The oldest is in fourth grade, so I have four years to ponder sending my kids away for school, finding a rabbinate in Israel, or becoming one of those metrorabbanim myself...
[In light of the first comment on this post, I hasten to add: I am not announcing any resignation here! I have four years until High School is a reality.]