Letter to the editor in the Five Towns Jewish Times

The letter below, from the Philadelphia Rosh HaYeshiva, appears in the current issue of the Five Towns Jewish Times

Dear Editor:

It has come to my attention that a recent article published in this paper by Rabbi Aryeh Zev Ginzberg has resulted in much negative reaction. Several rabbonim encouraged Rabbi Ginzberg to write his article, and he wisely chose not to state their names and expose them to the anger he feared might result from his words (though they were respectful and measured words throughout). As one of those who encouraged him, and to whom he submitted his article to ensure that I approved of it, I would like to publicly commend him for what he wrote.

The subject of Rabbi Ginzberg’s article was an invitation by an Orthodox shul to a speaker who is prominent because she received an “ordination” from an Orthodox rabbi. The invitee was asked to address the entire congregation as a “scholar in residence” and Rabbi Ginzberg correctly saw that fact as a subtle but clear embrace of what her “ordination” represents – an erosion of mesoras avoseinu, the holy Jewish heritage that governs the lives of all believing Jews.

That mesorah does not allow for women to fill certain roles of men, and rabbanus is one of those roles. This is not a matter of prejudice against women. It is a matter of recognizing that Hashem created men and women to serve different roles in life. Nor it is a matter of any dispute among recognized poskim. It was not only the rabbonim of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah who drew that line but rabbonim who are looked up to for direction by Orthodox Jews outside the haredi world as well.

Knowing Rabbi Ginzberg as I do, I am certain that he does not, cholila, have any ill will toward the speaker. What motivated him to write what he did was a rightful obligation to defend the integrity of our mesorah – an issue larger than the invitee, larger than her rabbi, larger than the differences between various Orthodox shuls and their respective standards.

An Orthodox shul, whatever “stripe” it is, has a responsibility to avoid promoting, even unintentionally, departures from our mesorah. Rabbi Ginzberg saw the invitation here as inconsistent with that responsibility. And I feel, as I felt when he approached me, that he is absolutely right.

Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky

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