Marvin Schick on Bans

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55 Responses

  1. mycroft says:

    “the foremost being Rav Aharon Kotler, ztl, against participation in the Synagogue Council and other rabbinical and congregational bodies together with Reform and Conservative clergy. This was probably the seminal event in the contemporary development of American Orthodoxy”

    It was the seminal event in American Orthodoxy in more ways than one. The signing of the ban against the students and position of another gadol Rav Soloveitchik (RYBS) was unprecedented in America. Until that time you in general had much more tolerance. One can see the position of R. Eliezer Silver in this matter. He refused to sign the ban-not because he was in favor of the Synagogue Council of America-he was opposed to it. He stated that if he were asked by a student should they belong he would say no-but he stated to R Kotler your students are not belonging anyway-the “ban” is aimed at the students of RYNS who are following their Rebbe.
    The “ban” was the beginning of non-acceptance of other Orthodox viewpopints. BTW-it is a debate whether or not that was R A Kotler’s intent to cause a divide between the various Orthodox groups-but it clearly happened. We are discussing the issue 50 years later.

  2. Steve Brizel says:

    One could argue that the statement by RAK and the other 11 Gdolim and RYBS’s views on mixed seating and ecumenical theological dialogue were the three most important public statements or stances across the Torah observant spectrum in the history of Torah Judaism in the US.

  3. Bob Miller says:

    Are we seeing in our current situation the vindication of the Mussar Movement and a reason to revive it seriously?

  4. HILLEL says:

    I’ll probably be a lone voice on this internet blog, but here goes:

    My rebbe, Rav Avigdor Miller, ZT”L, explained that our Father Abraham was called “Ivri”–because he was on one side and the entire world was on the other. That’s how he earned the right to be the father of the “Chosen People.”

    Our nation lives and dies on its ability to be “a separate people.”–“Am LeVaDad YishKon.”

    We live in a very dangerous time. It’s roughly analogous to the period of the Renaissance in Europe, when the Ghetto walls were torn down, and the Jews were finally permitted to integrate with gentile society. The result in France and Germany was rampant assimilation.

    In Russia, where the exclusion of Jews remained intact, Judaism flourished. In Hungary, where the Orthodox Hareidim separated themselves officially from the Reform and “Staus-Quo” community, Judaism flourished.

    The Jewish community in America is at serious risk of assimilation to the gentile culture. Rav Aaron Kotler used to talk of Jews in America as “30-40-50% Goyim.”–What percentage of our thinking is gentile?

    Music has the power to move the soul. It is profoundly influential. Shlomo Carlebach started the modern Jewish Music movement, and it has now evolved to the point where it is morphing into a sanitized version of gentile rock-and-roll and “Rap” music.

    The gentile world has finally awakened to the corrosive effect of this jungle music on the moral development of their youth. We, evidently, have not. We’re 10-20 years behind.

    Our Gedolei Torah are the people who are closest to our Torah ideals and Torah sensibilities. With all due respect to Dr. Schick and to Rabbi Alderstein, they are not as immersed in Torah to the same extent as our Torah leaders, who live and breathe Torah 24/7.

    If we can’t follow our Torah leaders, and give them our full support and cooperation–no matter how difficult–then we are surely lost.

  5. L Oberstein says:

    I wrote an email this summer to a leading Rosh hayeshiva questioning the language of the ban on the Jerusalem Concert. To my surprize, he anwered me but didn’t see my point. He wrote that Yerushalayim has a special kedusha and that the soicializing that takes place is inimicable to the kedusha of Yerushalayim. Now, I understand that the same text was used in the USA. Does anyone read the text before signing the ban? In all seriousness would the venerable 33 rabbis say that they signed onto the ban of the concert but took no personal responsibility for the wording of the ban? Did they agree in principal but not get involved in the formulation of the text? The answer, I believe, is yes. They went along in a general way and assumed someone else vetted the language.

    In my job writing a newsletter for a yeshiva, I go over the text many times and show it to others and make numerous minor changes to sharpen the meaning . If I do this for a newsletter, who is vetting the text of the Gedolim’s pronouncements that have major impact on Klal Yisrael?

    If the Gedolim are too busy to deal with the actual text, do they not all have advisors and assistants who could prevent them from signing something that is written so poorly for the purposes they espouse.
    It is unproffesional and unseemly for great people to be signed onto wording that they would never use. how can this happen and how can we keep the kovod hatorah that we are taught if time and again we are put to the test in this way? Who is saving our gedolim from this situation?

  6. R'M.S. says:

    I would have been comforted if these words had been written by my own Rosh HaYeshiva, or frankly, anyone’s. The real pain here is that no one seems willing to modify, edit, explain, or dull the results they created with this ban.

    In a sense I feel like its a regression to the days of “Ish hayasher beinav ya’aseh.” There is no leadership, really. ]

  7. Avigdor says:

    Let me offer a sort-of outsider’s perspective. “Outsider” because I am a Conservative Jew living in LA, and so this ban does not directly effect me. “Sort-of” because I am a Jew, and so anything that divides klal yisrael does directly effect me.

    As I see it, one great divide in the Orthodox world is how to think about modern secular culture. On the one hand, it has produced some tremendously wonderful things and (at least some like me would argue) provides some great insights into life that are otherwise lacking in traditional Judaism. On the other hand, it has produced some tremendously terrible things. Orthodox groups differ in how much secular culture and life they are willing to embrace or reject.

    Secular America views Orthodox Judaism in many different ways. Some consider it wonderful, others consider it quaint and benign although unusual, and others consider it crazy. And this latter negative perspective is not limited to outwardly different appearances: men with long beards, kippot, and tzitzit on the outside, and women with covered hair in very long skirts and blouses. But also deeper issues: laws with no apparent purpose, the ultra-legalistic distinctions that seem bizarre and unnecessarily complicated, minute attention to rituals, and the prohibition of lots of things that just seem fun and harmless.

    Any young American Orthodox Jew, living to some degree or another in both worlds, is aware of this tension. One problem with these types of bans is that they seem to have no rational purpose. A 17-year-old Orthodox Jew might not like a ban on, say, secular rap concerts, but he certainly could understand that the messages conveyed in such music are inappropriate. The reason for such a ban would be clear, even if the 17-year-old was unhappy about it. But here, no such reason is apparent. Thus, the Gdolim are acting in a way that is consistent with the negative secular view, and apparently inconsistent with the Orthodox view of Gdolim as great thinkers, scholars, and leaders. And this only serves to weaken Orthodox Judaism in the mind of a young Orthodox Jew, and strengthen negative perceptions.

  8. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    The ban was not a unilateral act. According to Louis Bernstein’s “Challenge and Mission” it started as a shaaleh by talmidim of Torah Vodaas to Rabbis Kaminetski and Schorr about joining the RCA since it was a member of the SCA. Those two rabbonim brought in the other 11, because they realized the seriousness of the question.

    It should also be noted that after the ban (or psak, depending on your point of view) was issued, members of the RCA halacha committee were asked by some of the RCA members about continued participation in the SCA. The RCA halacha committee responded that because of the emotional atmosphere attached to the question, they would not give an answer at that time. However, they also cautioned that declining to give an answer should not be construed as a heter for “present practices.”

    In addition, the position of Rabbi Soloveitchik was decidedly ambiguous. A year prior to the ban (or psak) he wrote a fiery piece published in the Tog-Morgenjournal which railed against participation in mixed rabbinical and congregational groups. And there are several rabbonim who will testify that they heard from him that he was against participation, but wouldn’t say anything in public because he wouldn’t issue an issur that wouldn’t be followed.

  9. mb says:

    “We live in a very dangerous time. It’s roughly analogous to the period of the Renaissance in Europe, when the Ghetto walls were torn down, and the Jews were finally permitted to integrate with gentile society. The result in France and Germany was rampant assimilation”
    Hillel

    I think you maybe getting your history confused, The Rennaissance was way before the ghetto walls came down
    Perhaps you were referring to the Enlightenment of the 18th and early 19th century. Indeed, this did lead to rampant assimilation, but how much of it was because of Orthodoxy’s failure to deal with it? And that’s analagous to our times, where the information age is just not understood in the circles that it should be.

  10. YM says:

    In the last year or so, Jewish entertainment had been getting out of control, including a magazine “JE” (http://www.thejemagazine.com/)devoted to the topic and bigger and bigger concerts. It would have been great if a ban had not been necessary, but planning a large concert for Manhattan targeted at young adults from Brooklyn and other outlying areas was unprecedented (previous Manhattan concerts were usually targeted at an older demographic) and obviously not a good idea.

  11. mycroft says:

    One could argue that the statement by RAK and the other 11 Gdolim and RYBS’s views on mixed seating and ecumenical theological dialogue were the three most important public statements or stances across the Torah observant spectrum in the history of Torah Judaism in the US.

    Comment by Steve Brizel — March 10, 2008

    To be fair RYBS did not agree with the ban of RAK ZT”L, and I doubt RAK would have agreed to any dialogue as opposed to the general “theological” dialogue that RYBS in general was opposed to.

    Not disputing “The ban was not a unilateral act. According to Louis Bernstein’s “Challenge and Mission” it started as a shaaleh by talmidim of Torah Vodaas to Rabbis Kaminetski and Schorr about joining the RCA since it was a member of the SCA. Those two rabbonim brought in the other 11, because they realized the seriousness of the question”-but if so to follow R. E. Silver’s approach the proper response should have been an answer to the sheilah=question.
    I am aware that others in other times have been responded to similar to what R E Silver recommended. I was talking about this issue once to some Rabbi and he became overjoyed-he had asked his RY should he join a local community organization that sponsored lectures by Orthocox, Conservative and Reform Rabbis-he was told not to but don’t criticize those who do as it is obvious they are following their Rebbe RYBS.

    ” A year prior to the ban (or psak) he wrote a fiery piece published in the Tog-Morgenjournal which railed against participation in mixed rabbinical and congregational groups. And there are several rabbonim who will testify that they heard from him that he was against participation, but wouldn’t say anything in public because he wouldn’t issue an issur that wouldn’t be followed.

    Comment by Lawrence M. Reisman —”

    One must distinguish in RYBS’s view his support of the SCA-partially because it was in existence already-with his opposition to boards like the New York Board of Rabbis. The SCA-had a veto power requirement-thus nothing could take place that the Orthodox objected-the SCA specifically limited itself to klapei chutz issues involving all Jews. Others opposed it but it is pure revisionism to say RYBS was opposed to continued participation in the SCA-I believe Prof Kaplan has written in another bolg of many who were clearly very close to RYBS who were active in the SCA and even told stories how RYBS helpedthem in strategy to staying within the SCA.
    It should be noted without RYBS-after his ptirah when the SCA folded due to REform and Conservative objections that they couldn’t get things done-his students did not join the successor organization. As one of them once told me-do you think without the imprimatur of the Rav I would dream of jo9ining an organization like the SCA.

  12. Steve Brizel says:

    Lawrence M. Reisman-there is extensive correspondence in Community, Covenant and Committment from RYBS re his position on the ban as well as a shiur on the Aseres HaDibros in which RYBS publicly stated that we would win the war against the heterodox movements by showing Jews the depth and profundity of Torah, as opposed to bans and excommunications. WADR, RYBS’s POV was hardly “decidedly ambiguous” and remained consistent -alliances for issues that were Klapei Chutz were permitted, discussions and alliances on issues that were Klapei Pnim were prohibited.

  13. Moishe Potemkin says:

    “More than anyone else I can think of, Rabbi Schick’s columns presented the leadership of Torah luminaries in the most glowing terms, refusing to give an inch in the struggle by some to chip away at the role of Gedolei Torah as the proper address for leadership and direction.”

    Why is it so difficult to consider the possibility that some of the people dismissively described as “chip(ping) away at the role of the Gedolei Torah as the proper address for leadership and direction” were, in fact, expressing the exact same concerns over an increasingly and excessively restrictive culture as Dr. Schick and Rabbi Adlerstein are expressing now?

  14. LAWRENCE KAPLAN says:

    Lawrence Reisman: I do not know where you got your information about Rav Soloveitchik. You have misread the article in the Tog. The Rav always distinguished between klapei hutz and klapei pnim. More to the point, such distinguished rabbinical and lay leaders, all of whom were close confidants of the Rav, as Moe Feurstein, Rabbi Walter Wurzburger, Rabbi Louis Bernstein, and Rabbi Israel Miller, z”l, all either wrote or publicly stated that the Rav privately ecouraged both the OU and RCA to remain in the SCA.

  15. mycroft says:

    using a google search I cam across the following re RYBS and the Synagogue Council of America

    To be sure, the Rav could not have harbored the slightest sympathy for Jewish religious movements which deviated from halakhic norms. His conception of Judaism was so halakha-centered that he denied any Jewish religious significance to purely subjective attempts to reach out for Transcendence. Moreover, his followers in Boston did not belong to the interdenominational Rabbinical Association or to The Associated Synagogues, a lay body consisting of some Orthodox and a large number of Conservative and Reform congregations. He went so far as to rule that one should not worship in a Conservative synagogue, even when there was no other opportunity to listen to the sounding of the shofar. What prevented the Rav from joining other roshei yeshiva in demanding withdrawal from interdenominational umbrella groups was his fear that leaving organizations in which Orthodoxy had participated for many years would be a divisive move at a time when Jewish unity was so essential. Although ideally he would have preferred that these umbrella groups would not have come into existence, his ideological considerations were subordinated to his overriding concern for the welfare of the Jewish people and the security of the State of Israel. He therefore did not object to the participation of Orthodox organizations in the Synagogue Council of America, as long its functions were limited to representing the total Jewish community to governmental agencies or non-Jewish denominations (kelappei hutz).

    There are some revisionist accounts of the Rav’s attitude to the Synagogue Council. It has been reported that while the Rav opposed the continued membership of Orthodox groups, the Rabbinical Council refused to abide by his instructions. To point out the absurdity of this claim, one need only take into consideration the indisputable fact that as the chairman of its halakha commission, the Rav was the unchallenged halakhic authority of the Rabbinical Council of America

    certainly a different view than maintained by Lawrence M. Reisman .

  16. Holy Hyrax says:

    >The result in France and Germany was rampant assimilation.

    I believe the number of Jews leaving Judaism was higher in Eastern Europe than it was in western. If you really want to keep Jews from assimilating, take a look at Italian Jewry and how they were able to cope with Europe chaning around them. I think you will be suprised it bared little resemblance to the Judaism you are talking about.

  17. la costa says:

    i think the most shocking revelation i have heard in years was last year when it was revealed that the foremost godol of the litvishe world had no idea what a credit card was.

  18. Mordechai says:

    Dr. Schick makes some good points, however he is mistaken to portray this as a ‘Yeshiva world’ story with no mention of Hassidim, when it is primarily a Hassidic story. True, there were some ‘Yeshiva world’ signatories thrown in to make the ban look less narrowly based, however, the targeted singer is a streimel wearing Hassid who resides in New Square, those behind the ban are Hassidic, who, in part, reportedly oppose him because of antics in which they felt he disrespected Hassidic Rebbes, it was published in the Hassidic-controlled Hamodia newspaper while the Yated refused it at significant cost, and Lipa met with Hassidic leaders when he capitulated.

    Let’s call a spade a spade.

    Lipa sings in Yiddish, in the pronunciation akin to that used by many Hassidim, he is part of that community, and that’s where the ban came from.

  19. Dr. E says:

    The issue of Daas Torah has been discussed here and many other places. While Emunas Chachamim and Rabbinic guidance is an almost universal assumption in the Orthodox world, the question is how far to push it.

    The recent era of bans on various themes brings to light a generational tension with regard to Daas Torah. Writers on this blog as well as many in the Yeshiva world had their worldview informed by Gedolim of a previous generation. Those Gedolim were no doubt confronted with other serious issues of the day which confronted them, their constituencies, and Klal Yisrael. Their approach was fundamentally different than what we are seeing today from the leadership in the Yeshiva world. (Some will take the position that the extreme approach is necessary as we live in far more dangerous spiritual times. Personally, I’m not buying that bill of goods as it is all relative.) They did not ban that for which their were opposed, they led by example and scholarship.

    Does Daas Torah mean that we must set aside the way of life laid out for us by Gedolim of yesteryear and today from whom we learned profound lessons? Would it be inappropriate for us to set aside the bans of 2007, 2008, etc. and project what Rav Moshe would say, what Rav Hutner would say, etc.? (Or must we spin what they would say and conclude that if they were alive, they would be the first to sign onto the Hashkafa of ban-o-mania?) Must we be that ideologically fickle to be forced to blindly follow everyone whose color picture appears in the Chareidi press? I’m not sure how people are able to make that inferential leap, but obviously so many are. Do we set aside the opinions of the Rama, the Chofetz Chaim and Shulchan Aruch, just because we have Rabbanim today? Not to mention family minhagim, where some people today are so quick to adopt what is popular, either l’chumra or l’kula.

    It is obviously apparent from this incident and others that the approach of the Askonim/Kannoim is to shoot first and aim second. I think that most readers of CC have come to “differ” with that chevra. But, what I don’t get is where signators themselves intimate post hoc something along the lines of “they made me sign it” or “we just had to do it”.

    At the risk of sounding heretical, none of the signators on the concert ban and others are my Rabbeim. So, what they say is totally irrelevant to me. Does that make me an Apikores? I don’t think so, but others are free to differ and not marry into my family. But, despite what many fail to believe, there are many well-respected and qualified Rabbeim and Rabbanim who never get into the Kol Koreh business in the first place. I prefer to be in their corner. And despite the intentions of the Askanim to the contrary, the number of the Yeshiva-educated who are disenfranchised is growing by the minute. I heard that Karl Rove is looking for some work. Maybe the Askanim and signators should give him a call.

  20. Akiva Wagschal says:

    The Gemoro in Gittin daf 56A tells the story of a man named Bar Kamtza who’s public embarrassment in the presence of Rabbonim who did not object to it led him to get even by telling tales to the Roman governor. He had the governor send an animal to the Beis Hamikdosh as an offering and then inflicted a blemish on it, rendering it unfit for offering up on the alter.

    The Rabbonim were faced with a dilemma. If they rejected the offering, they would offend the governor, so they considered offering it up anyway but Rebi Zecharia ben Avkilas said to them, “people might say, ‘blemished animals are permitted as offerings’” they considered executing Bar Kamtza to prevent him from reporting back to the governor, but Rebi Zecharia ben Avkilas said to them, people might say, “one who inflicts a blemish on an animal sent in for offering on the alter deserves death”. Rebi Yochonon commented, “the ‘tolerance’ of Rebi Zecharia ben Avkilas (for Bar Kamtza’s life), destroyed the bais hamikdosh and sent us into exile”

    It appears to me that Rebi Yochonon held that, Bar Kamtza should have been executed to prevent him from reporting back to the governor, since he didn’t say that the ‘strict interpretations’ of Rebi Zecharia ben Avkilas destroyed the Bais Hamikdosh.

    I wonder why Ravina & Rav Ashi included this story in the gemoro. I wonder what lesson they wanted us to learn from it. They did not need to teach us that the Rabbonim are not infallible, we have numerous examples in torah sh’biksav to illustrate that.

    Maybe it’s an illustration of the dictum, Yiftoch b’doro k’Shmuel bdoro “Yiftoch in his generation was like Shmuel in the previous generation” and ein l’cho shofet elo shebyomecho, “you’ve only got the current Rabbinic leadership”, it is futile to compare them to previous generations.

    Maybe the lesson is, that “al pi hatorah asher yorucho” mandates that we follow the dictates of our Rabbonim even when doing so may cause the churbon bais hamikdosh.

    Whereas questioning is fundamental to both learning and growth in torah knowledge, passing judgment must be left to the Ribono shel Olom, that is a mishna in Pirkie Avos 4:10

  21. L Oberstein says:

    I find it interesting that many of the comments focus on the Rav. Tragically,we don’t have leaders like the Rav or any of the signatories on the ban against joining the Synagogue Council. We are an orphaned generation.
    Dr. Schick’s point was that the wording of that ban was written in a different style than the more recent bans. Another point made in one of the comments is that the ban was only issued after deliberations and discussions among the Roshei Hayeshiva. The tragedy of today is that most people that I speak to do not respect the process of how these bans are now being issued because they believe correctly that they are written by kanaim and not written in a way that shows derech eretz. Instead of kovod hatorah, they cause bizayon hatorah.
    It is time for normal frum people to stand up for kovod hatorah by somehow persuading the great rabbonim and rebbes and roshei yeshiva to deal with issues in a different way. Even if the concert needed tikun, the way the ban came about and its harsh wording was not the way to go.
    That is the overwhelming feeling of everyone I have spoken to.

  22. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    To Mycroft: It would be helpful to know who said this and when.

    To Lawrence Kaplan: RYBS was pretty forceful about rabbinical groups in the article. I would say let the reader decide. And while Moe Feurstein, Rabbi Walter Wurzburger, Rabbi Louis Bernstein, and Rabbi Israel Miller will all testify that he urged the RCA to stay in the SCA, there are those such as Rabbi David Hollander and many of his close talmidim from his shiur who say he was in principle opposed. Certainly, the declaration of the RCA halacha committee, on its face, is a decisive decision in both directions. And therein lies the reason the yeshiva world found RYBS so frustrating. He never came out publicly on one side or another of any issue. And please don’t tell me he was afraid of right wing harrassment. Rav Yechiel Weinberg, whose public pronouncements were far more to the left of RYBS, was respected by the yeshiva world. And neither Rav Eliahu Henkin nor Rav Eliezer Silver, both of whom refused to sign the psak, was harrassed for their positions.

  23. Garnel Ironheart says:

    There’s an old joke I once heard about when the Titanic struck the iceberg. The captain sent out a signal from help and was answered from a nearby ship.

    “What’s the problem?” they asked.
    “We’re sprung a small leak,” the captain replied.

    The significance of Marvin Schik’s column cannot be understated. Those of us outside the Chareidi community have been watching with amazement and wondering when those inside will finally see the direction things are heading in. No concerts, but lavish $100000 bar mitzvahs that, let’s be honest, the local rav will always attend if invited, Agudah policy or no. No newspapers except the Modiah and Yated with their digitally altered photos.

    If someone on the inside is already admitting there might be a “small leak”, this merely confirms the fears the rest of us have had until now.

  24. dr. william gewirtz says:

    Mr. Reisman – continuing on Dr. Kaplan’s (and mycroft’s) point, a close Talmid of the Rav ztl become head of the Conference of Presidents, another umbrella group, with the full support of his Rebbe.

  25. Aryeh says:

    “I wonder why Ravina & Rav Ashi included this story in the gemoro. I wonder what lesson they wanted us to learn from it. They did not need to teach us that the Rabbonim are not infallible, we have numerous examples in torah sh’biksav to illustrate that.

    Maybe it’s an illustration of the dictum, Yiftoch b’doro k’Shmuel bdoro “Yiftoch in his generation was like Shmuel in the previous generation” and ein l’cho shofet elo shebyomecho, “you’ve only got the current Rabbinic leadership”, it is futile to compare them to previous generations.

    Maybe the lesson is, that “al pi hatorah asher yorucho” mandates that we follow the dictates of our Rabbonim even when doing so may cause the churbon bais hamikdosh.”

    Notwithstanding how one understands “al pi hatorah asher yorucho,” the Ramchal in Mesilas Yesharim (ch. 20, Mishkal Chasidus) explains that the point of that gemara is to teach that extra-piety and extra humility (the definition of chasidus in Mesilas Yesharim) can lead to bad consequences and therefore become a sin instead of a mitsvah. So too, R’ Zechariah ben Avkulos’ humility in not wanting to “bend” the halachah, or by being concerned for possible misunderstanding was actually a bad thing because he failed to take into account the consequences of his concerns. R’ Yochanan (according to Ramchal) was not praising R’ Zechariah ben Avkulos, but rather criticizing him.

  26. Steve Brizel says:

    Lawrence Reisman-WADR, on issues of public policy and what is Klapei Chutz/Klapei Pnim, Rabbis Wurzburger, Bernstein and Miller ZTL and Yivadleinu LCHaim Tovim Aruchim R F Schonfeld always were considered far more Talmidim Neemanim on this issue than R D Hollander or any of the unidentified “close talmidim from his shiur”. FWIW, RHS has always stated in public that RYBS drew the distinction between Klapei Pnim and Klapei Chutz. Your claim that RYBS “never came out publicly on one side or another of any issue” is simply belied by the well documented and public stances of RYBS on mixed seating and ecumenical theological debate. R YY Weinberg, if one reads his letters and R D M Shapiro’s biography, had nothing to do either with the Charedi world or MO except for his dealings with R D E Berkovitz ZTL.

    R E Silver and R E Henkin ZTL were not harassed for their POV, but one cannot compare the Kavod accorded both of these Gdolim with the well documented lack of respect that the Charedi world accorded RYBS both in his life and posthumously.

  27. Steve Brizel says:

    I find it curious that so many posts are devoted to RYBS’s POV on this issue when it is well known, not disputed or even debated why or for what reasons R H Neuberger ZTL of Ner Yisrael sat on the board of the federation in Baltimore for decades-and was Mkadesh Shem Shamayim in the process. IMO, this is evidence of a double standard that borders on the intellectually dishonest.

  28. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    “the claim that RYBS “never came out publicly on one side or another of any issue” is simply belied by the well documented and public stances of RYBS on mixed seating”

    Which stances? On one hand, his letters to the RCA quoted in Boruch Letvin’s “The Sanctity of the Synagogue” say one thing, while the fact that he never objected to or attempted to stop YU’s policy of allowing mixed-seating synagogues to recruit YU graduates says another.

    The Jewish Week, in its obituary, state “He allowed his students to issue highly divergent rabbinic rulings, with both camps able to claim [him] as their legal source and mentor.”

    I’m not saying that his position against membership in the SCA and NY Board of Rabbis is more authoritative than his position in favor. All I’m saying is that he took different positions with different people. And therefore, one cannot say with certainty that the 11 roshei yeshiva who issued the psak (and that’s what it was since it was issued in response to a question posed by rabbonim who learned in Torah Vodaas and who were members of the Igud HaRabbonim) was necessarily “against the students and position of another gadol Rav Soloveitchik”

    By the way, at the time the psak was issued, Rabbi David Hollander was the president of the RCA. He had just spent a goodly amount of time in the efforts to establish a joint Orthodox-Conservative Bais Din. That effort, which fell apart in the Autumn of 1955, had the support of both RYBS and (to a lesser extent) Rav Aharon Kotler. The RCA halacha ruled it was issur to join such an effort in January of 1956, a full 7 weeks before the 11 roshei yeshiva issued their psak.

  29. eLamdan says:

    Interesting article, but I have always thought that what really has changed is not the culture in the Yeshiva world, but the existence of the internet. If the internet were not around to analyze & pick apart every detail, would this ban really be such a big deal?

  30. LAWRENCE KAPLAN says:

    I was about to make Steve Brizel’s point regarding who were the talmidim ne’emanim of the Rav on issues of public policy, but I see he (and Mycroft) beat me to it.

    Mycroft: Thank you for reminding me about Julie Berman.

    Lawrence Reisman: I hope you won’t take the following the wrong way. There are issues where the Rav’s positions were unclear and his stances are open to legitimate differences of interpretation, but on this issue, with all respect, I think you are simply wrong.

  31. Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

    #17

    That’s one way to look at it.

    The other way is to note that in the space of a minute or two, he quickly grasped what it was about – and was able to pasken the question

  32. Baruch Horowitz says:

    ” This world has been my spiritual home and much more. It is what I have given much of my life to…”

    “At the same time, we ought to feel the pain of a dedicated community worker whose personal spiritual world has suddenly spun out of orbit and headed into free-fall”

    No matter whether someone feels a particular ban is justified or not, I think that a person should at least be able to feel the pain of someone who might be disoriented by it. A person that was used to the American Yeshivah world of the 1950’s through the 1990’s, and suddenly woke up today, might understandably feel disoriented and ask, “what has become of the world I used to feel a part of “? Being able to relate to that perception–correct or incorrect– is empathy, and not a matter of hashkafa (ideology). When one puts this confusion in perspective of real, serious life problems, it of course becomes less of an issue, but one can nevertheless relate to someone who is troubled by it.

    An historical context might also shed some understanding on why bans are happening; I find it helpful to compare the current raising of walls in some communities against certain aspects of secular culture, to the responses in earlier times to intellectual and social encounters with outside cultures. What I think is different in our day is that , unlike Orthodox communities in Eastern and Western Europe, there is no geographic separation between portions of the Orthodox worlds today, and sometimes, one group needs to sacrifice its needs for the other in order for both to be able cohere as a single, vibrant group.

    Finally, one should note that the dust has not yet settled from the latest issue in question, and positions might be further clarified. Producer Sheya Mendlowitz was quoted in the Jewish Press that, “there are rabbanim that are extremely concerned about the way this was handled…”. Mr. Medlowitz has also repeatedly urged the public to be patient and maintain respect and kavod Hatorah, and I found it inspiring to hear him, specifically, speak like that.

  33. Jacob Haller says:

    Mr Garnel’s comment (#23) reminds me of speech made by Pres Ronald Reagan where he beseeched the public

    “I urge you to beware the … temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all”

  34. Rachel W says:

    When will we realize that each generation has the leaders it deserves. If you find fault with our present day gedolim, perhaps you should start with looking at your own self.

  35. nachum klafter, md says:

    I think that Professor Schick deserves a great yesher koach for this article, which is a true statement of ahavas yisroel.

  36. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    Dr. Kaplan:

    I accept that you think I’m wrong. As we both know, it won’t be the first time. But, you told me 9 years ago at the first Edah convention, you considered me to be a serious observer of the Modern Orthodox Community. I hope that opinion hasn’t changed.

  37. Steve Brizel says:

    Lawrence Reisman-who says that the JW obituary, let alone the infamous JO obit, was accurate on this issue? Any RIETS musmach who asked RYBS his view on mechitzah was told his POV. OTOH, RYBS did not sit and render Psak for all of RIETS or YU, but rather for those who viewed him as their rebbe on all issues. Again, I don’t think that anyone can compare R D Hollander with any of the other prominent Rabbonim that Mycroft and I mentioned as a Talmid Neeman of RYBS. R Hollander clearly has made his POV known consistently over the years that he considers himself far more aligned with the Charedi world than RUETS. One cannot understand the letters in Baruch Litvin’s book without reading the letters in CC&C.

  38. joel rich says:

    Baruch,
    I’m sure that Mr. Mendlowitz said what he said out of true belief.

    As a thought experiment, is there any other response that someone masquerading as a community member who wished to stay in the community but not bought into the community standards, could have made that would have had a long term more likely positive return for him than the one made by Mr. Mendlowitz?

    As a separate issue, isn’t there a big difference between certain communities forcing individuals out for minor deviances (assumedly not with the direct approval of gedolim), and a ban signed by many major gedolim with no known opposition from other gedolim? In the charedi hashkafa, how does one question such a ban? Is there an implication that the points being raised now were not thought of by the gedolim signing the ban?

    KT

  39. LOberstein says:

    “I find it curious that so many posts are devoted to RYBS’s POV on this issue when it is well known, not disputed or even debated why or for what reasons R H Neuberger ZTL of Ner Yisrael sat on the board of the federation in Baltimore for decades-and was Mkadesh Shem Shamayim in the process. IMO, this is evidence of a double standard that borders on the intellectually dishonest.

    Comment by Steve Brizel — March 11, 2008 @ 5:08 pm ”

    Pardon my ignorance but please explain whom you are accusing of intellectual dishonesty. I don’t know to what you are referring.
    Perhaps there is a misunderstanding as seen in the comment quoted below:

    Mr. Reisman – continuing on Dr. Kaplan’s (and mycroft’s) point, a close Talmid of the Rav ztl become head of the Conference of Presidents, another umbrella group, with the full support of his Rebbe.

    Comment by dr. william gewirtz — March 11, 2008 @ 1:36 pm

    Don’t mix up two totally different issues. To my knowledge, the ban was on joining a “Rabbinic” group which meant giving legitimacy to non orthodox denominations. No one said that belonging to a Jewish Community Relations Council or the board of a Federation was wrong. We are members of the community representing our part of the community.
    If Agudah can sit in the Israeli Knesset, we can sit on a community board.

  40. mycroft says:

    To my knowledge, the ban was on joining a “Rabbinic” group which meant giving legitimacy to non orthodox denominations

    The Synagogue Council of America was not a “Rabbinic” group. As part of its membership it had the membership of the OU and the equivalent of Reform and Conservative Judaism. The lay groups each had a veto power as did each of the Rabbinic groups. It specifically was not limited to Rabbis.

  41. Jewish Observer says:

    “When will we realize that each generation has the leaders it deserves. If you find fault with our present day gedolim, perhaps you should start with looking at your own self.”

    – there are plenty of good leaders in this generation; not all of them market themselves as such

  42. lacosta says:

    #31

    that’s one way to look at it. and undeniable. on the other hand the pasuk says ‘navi akim..mikerev acheihem’– from amidst their brethren. not mikerev malachim. undeniably, many of the Gdolim seem to be malachim, living at most on bread and water [ this particular godol i also read only ate a half a grape so as not to half a safek of bracha achrona]. that may be mikerev acheihem for the majority of chareidi jews including r adlerstein shlita, but it doesnt work for those of us who are not malachim. if a malach is giving a malachic psak for bnai adam, wouldn’t you expect a disconnect? [ i know the answer will be that that just reflects poorly on the jews , not their leaders]…

  43. Steve Brizel says:

    Dr Gewirtz-one comment that Charedi advocates have raised continuously as a critique is that RYBS approved working together with heterodox groups. Yet, noone even comments on the fact that R H Neuberger ZTL sat on the board of the Federation in Baltimore.

  44. joel rich says:

    R’SB,

    Why would that surprise you – how many variations of “that was them,this is us” applied to individuals and groups both large and small have you seen here and on other blogs(this is not specific to any blog or subgroup of bloggers)? Anecdotall it seems most of the world develops a narrative and then bend inconvenient facts to fit. Only a few publically admit it and even fewer will ever consider changing part of their narrative.

    KT

  45. dr. william gewirtz says:

    Steve – why the question to me? In any case, the distinctions are obvious. 1) local does not equal national. despite attempts to cloud history, there are too many instances, where gedolim of previous generations interacted with community level jewish organizations. 2) Unlike R. neuberger ztl, or even r. henkin ztl or r. silver ztl, the rav ztl was clearly a threat. he represented a pov that was clearly different, differentiated and could not just be ignored. With the others there were tactical disagreements; the Rav had a fundamentally different Hashkafa. Observe his mode of dress, his written works even at that time(ish hahalacha and kol dodi dofek to name two), his public interactions with a broader audience, etc.

  46. Steve Brizel says:

    Joel Rich-I am not surprised-rather I am perturbed that such a facile standard which seems to bend logic like a pretzel is applied.

  47. Chaim Wolfson says:

    Steve,
    I AM surprised, at your uncharacteristic lack of discernment. As Rabbi Oberstein pointed out, there is a vast difference between secular orginizations like the Federation and the Conference of Presidents, and religious orginizations like the SCA and the NY Board of Rabbis. Joining a religious orginization, whether lay or Rabbinical, can certainly be seen as granting legitimacy to the streams represented in that orginization, which was the point of those who signed the ban; joining secular orginizations cannot be perceived as granting any such sort of legitimacy. To say that one cannot join a secular Jewish orginization because some or most of its members happen to be heteradox is to write off heteradox jews from Judaism, and no one ever advocated that (the unfortunately worded Agudas HaRabbanim statement notwithstanding). Read the text of the ban and you will see that this distinction is obvious; it certainly does not require “bend[ing] logic like a pretzel”.

  48. dr. william gewirtz says:

    Chaim – the nub of the issue as it often is in halacha is not if x is treif but if y=x? the rav ztl (correctly if you examine their adgenda) judged the role of SCA as a klal oriented group; the banning Gedolim did not. They agreed at the conceptual level.

  49. JosephW says:

    Steve,

    As Chaim pointed out, you missed the obvious distinction. The psak of the Roshei Yeshiva was a repudiation of the legitimacy of the kfira groups Reform and Conservative. They did not assur sitting on boards which include individual unorthodox Jews – even if those Jews are members in Reform temples. (That actually is a different machlokes – e.g. Rav Schwab was against any involvement in Federation, includung simply accepting funding, while other Roshei Yeshiva including Rav Ruderman did not have a problem with it.)

    Furthermore, I find it hard to believe that Rabbi Neuberger would do anything that his close Rebbe, mentor, and brother-in-law – Rav Ruderman, would have a problem with. (Remember, Rav Ruderman signed the psak, along with Rav Moshe, Rav Yaakov, and other leaders who Rabbi Neuberger worked for and with.)

    You seem to not get the point of the problem with sitting on a board such as the the synogogue council, which has REPRESENTATIVES from Reform and Conservative. Don’t you agree that any observer of such a council walks away with the understanding that Judaism has three valid groupings? Doesn’t sitting on the board indicate being ok with the very fact that Reform Judaism can call themselves Judaism? (Personally, I cringe whenever I hear the term.) A gulf seperates such an organization from a grouping of Jews who get together to deal with issues in their communities – and aren’t representing “Reform Judaism” – such as Federation.

    The Roshei Yeshiva (correctly, if you understand their intention properly) decided that participation in SCA is assur EVEN THOUGH it is a klal oriented group. It was the implied legitimacy of the Reform and Consevative movements’ claim to feality to Judaism that creates the issur; irellevant of the focus of the organization. (This is where Rav Soloveitchik might have disagreed; but don’t foist his opinion on them.)

  50. Steve Brizel says:

    Like it or not, I see no diffference in sitting on the SCA or participating in Federation. Both are klal oriented in nature. In the SCA, the RCA and OU had a veto over discussing anything that even remotely sounded pluralistic in nature, as opposed to Federation, where any O representatives would be and still are decidedly outnumbered. WADR, I see the argument as to “legitimacy” as having merit to groups such as the NY Board of Rabbis,as opposed to Klal oriented groups that focus solely on Klapei Chutz issues.

  51. Dr. E says:

    Gotta agree with Steve Brizel here. Any distinctions between the SCA and the local Federation are purely semantic and not substantive. The latter certainly had and still has clergy from other denominations. The 2008 counterparts of those who signed the SCA ban years ago would most certainly see no such distinctions. The truth is that the SCA was clearly a more visible entity to the NY Yeshiva world and especially given the personalities involved, slightly different standards were implicitly allowed for an “out-of-town” situation.

  52. Chaim Wolfson says:

    Steve, I would have been very dissapointed in you and Dr. Gewirtz if you didn’t see things the way your rebbe did. Nevertheless, the distinction is certainly not illogical, especially when the matter of public perception is taken into account.

  53. Bob Miller says:

    Can someone lay out for us any accomplishments of the SCA?

  54. dr. william gewirtz says:

    Chaim – we are not arguing theory we have a record of 40 years to look at, during the time the SCA existed. Argue what you wish, but there adgenda was klapai chutz. In the 50’s it had to do with how you read the situation; 50 years later, the historical record is available.

  55. Steve Brizel says:

    Bob Miller-Thanks to involvement by the RCA and the OU, the SCA confined itself to working on such relatively benign issues as supporting Israel and the rights of Soviet Jewry. The ever present threat of a veto by the OU and RCA over any discussion that remotely looked like pluralism was one of the main factors in this remaining the case.

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