Agudath Israel Commends RCA Leaders
Upon consultation with its rabbinic leadership, Agudath Israel of America issued the following statement today:
Hamodia reports that Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, First Vice-President of the Rabbinical Council of America, has clarified that the RCA “in no way endorses the title ‘maharat’ or the ‘maharat’ program under the direction of Rabbi Avi Weiss.”
Rabbi Goldin further quotes RCA President Rabbi Moshe Kletenik as having stated that ordination of women “is a breach of our Mesorah and is unacceptable practice in Orthodoxy,” and that “it is also unacceptable for an Orthodox synagogue to have a woman on its rabbinical staff.”
Agudath Israel warmly welcomes the clarification and commends the RCA leaders for their forthright and principled words.
May we all continue to stand guard to protect the integrity of our Mesorah.
I think groups like these can communicate better in private and thereby avoid press release wars.
I’m glad to see the RCA backed down from the cliff they were standing on.
There is no purpose to this press release whatsoever. The public obsession with this issue by the RCA and Agudah can only serve to drive people away. Enough already.
It’s a gesture of achdus for klal yisroel, which is davka intended to be public.
The Agudah and the RCA each have constituancies and I guess someone felt a public rebuke of Avi Weiss by the Agudah meant next to nothing because it probably gives him credibility with his constituancy and won’t hurt his fund raising at all. The RCA is caught in the middle,having to publicly condemn something that most of their members are against anyway in order not to be out-frummed by the Agudah. If you read the first RCA statement, they are not in favor of ordaining women nor of women being rabbinic leaders in a non halachic capacity. There is an honest disagreement within the orthodox world as to what women can be taught and what role they can play in a public forum. Some allow women to speak before men, others find this offensive. Some teach women higher Jewish textual study and others oppose it vehemently. This does’t affect the Agudah but it does affect the RCA, which has some members with varying positions on the spectrum of what is an appropriate role for a female in 2010 within halacha. In this case, the RCA had to clarify ,so it looks like the Agudah got the best of them and Avi Weiss is just the red herring. It will be a long time before the role of women in this century is determined and I predict that we haven’t seen the end of Avi Weiss and who knows how popular and how many kehillos will follow his lead. Time will terll.
Given that the RCA doesn’t even endorse Yeshivat Chovevei Torah or welcome its graduates as members, the “clarification” is of absolutely no effect whatsoever.
“I think groups like these can communicate better in private and thereby avoid press release wars.”
I was suprised as well, because there is cooperation between Orthodox groups on other issues(see, for example, a recent article by an OU executive in Mishpacha and Jewish Action, “I remember attending a meeting at the headquarters of another national Torah organization…. I said to people in that room, “One day, wouldn’t it be wonderful if no one stopped and looked, and instead assumed it was a natural thing for Orthodox leaders to meet together on a regular basis?”). I suppose organizations, like poeple, are imperfect, and do not always communicate properly.
My guess is also that either the RCA consists of some members who do not see the concept of “Maharat’s” as beyond the pale, or more likely, the RCA wants to prevent the disunity that would arise by publicly declaring Maharat supporters beyond the pale. The bottom line is “all is well that ends well” between the RCA and Agudah, as the clarification was “warmly welcomed” by Agudah. As far as how the RCA will relate to any synagogue or rabbi who “breaches the mesorah” and allows “unacceptable” practices, perhaps that will be clarified after the RCA convention.
What is also interesting is how positions on both sides have changed somewhat. In a Feb. 6, 1998 NYT article about women “rabbinic interns” R. Avi Weiss called the call for women rabbis “unhelpful”; on the other hand, R. Shafran was quoted about Maharat’s a year ago that “in the end, though, our community is not particularly exercised by Jews who feel differently, even if we think them misguided. There are greater challenges facing us all these days that more urgently merit our attention”. On the other hand, as the first Maharat has said about her yeshivah, it’s about creating “facts on the ground”, so apparently, many in Orthodox world decided that the trend needs to be stopped before it gathers further momentum.
the agudah reaction chose to read the statement as if it chastized not just r. weiss but the employment of female clergy as is practiced at both the jewish centers in riverdale and manhattan.
Have we forgotten about Devorah HaNaviah? Remember how she was the SPIRITUAL and political leader of the Bnai Yisrael?
dr. bill – That is exactly what the Agudah intended to state.
Lichvod Devorah Hanaviah: I am not sure how your namesake established her bona fides, but I don’t think we’re dealing with someone of such stature, either objectively, or as compared to today’s leaders and sages.