The Left Falls Over the Edge
R. Avi Weiss’ Hebrew Institute of Riverdale will have a woman leading Kabbolas Shabbos tonight.
It will be hard to figure out a way that the rest of us will be able to regard HIR, YCT, and IRF as Orthodox, by any reasonable stretch. I do not say this with any sense of triumph. While no fan of their running roughshod over Torah hashkafah and accepted halachic protocols, major schisms in the community are rarely good. Some will appreciate the (perhaps necessary) havdalah. I still think it is a sad day for Klal Yisrael.
Is anyone shocked that Avi Weiss is joining David Hartman and Yitz Greenberg in a new denomination somewhere between Orthodox and Conservative?
How do you define “Orthodox?” I define it as adhering to Halacha. For me the only question is, does RAV have a reasonable halachik basis for his actions. Not is it part of our mesora (a lot of now commonly accepted practices in or community were not part of our mesorah when they were introduced)? Or, is this good for the community (debatable)
[YA – We indeed have different definitions. But even according to yours, does his Shulchan Aruch elide the section on Kol Ishah? Or will he point to a da’as yachid, appropriately dug up for the occassion. (Don’t go scrambling to find it. I can tell you exactly where it is. It is also irrelevant to those with a very different attitude towards Halacha than you will find in his camp. If you need to be reminded of the difference between that way the left does halacha in contradistinction to the rest of us, see my earlier piece http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2009/07/17/artificial-halacha-two-more-flavors/ )]
What we are witnessing is a reaction to women’s emancipation; it goes back over 100 years. The vast, vast majoriy of the traditional orthodox community has legitimate red lines both on the left and the right. That said, allowing these issues to be the basis of a schism strikes me as unnecessary. Those on the left-wing of Modern Orthodoxy (and perhaps the RCA where R. Weiss is a member) who are most directly impacted, would be wise to disassociate themselves; it would have the most effect. MO, Centrists and those to their right are best off ignoring it. If anyone knows of any negative impact on the broader jewish community from Shirah Khadasha in Jerusalem (where all this and more is standard fare), i might change my mind.
aron feldman, I doubt that Rabbi Weiss is joining either Rabbis Hartman or Greenberg in any sort of movement. They and a small group of rabbis/professors who broke (to the right) from the conservative movement have been more a set of individuals than a movement. One way to help grow their prominence is by attacking them publically; those who are equipped/inclined to engage them in debate are best off doing it privately.
“Is anyone shocked that Avi Weiss is joining David Hartman and Yitz Greenberg in a new denomination somewhere between Orthodox and Conservative?”
Rabbi Hartman had the integrity decades ago to formally resign from the RCA for ideological differences. I heard Rabbi Hartman decades ago stating that parts of the Torah are barbaric and thus couldn’t be given by God. Rabbi Greenberg was a pulpit Rabbi in Riverdale-but has open theological differences with standard Orthodoxy. R Weiss-and those of you who read the blogosphere know that to put it mildly am not a fan of his approach is not afraid to push the envelope for change that I personally am not in favor-but note he tends to keep away from issurim.
Unfortunately, respect for standard practice has disappeared-look at Ashkenazin schuls in the US-how many have changed mizmor shir to after Shacharit-rather than Musaf, hoiw many have a stop between mizmor shir and hashem malach in kabbalt shabbos-plus the ultimate moving anim zmirot after shacharit which is no minhag-sefardim don’t have such a minhag to say it in the first place. Kabaalat Shabbat is not a tfilah-thus a monkey or kid could say it.
Despite what I wrote I believe this action is a provacative act by RAW like many others-but on technical haalchik grounds much worse is done all the time.
Accepting for the second this makes HIR non Orthodox, it does not make YCT Non Orthodox. Rabbi Weiss is not even the Dean
Unlike so many issues, on this one I find myself sitting on the fence, with feelings of ambivalence. The part of me that still has respect for Jewish law and tradition, sees no reason to change the way things have been for thousands of years. Why let a passing, secular fad like feminism alter the way traditional Jews have always done things, especially if there is no halachic basis for doing so?
And yet, I have both read about, and directly experienced, Jewish women not being treated as equals with their male Jewish counterparts. Right before my shocked eyes, I have witnessed Rabbis and other Jewish husbands humiliate their wives in front of guests, even telling them to shut up. I have heard about those buses in Israel, where women are forced to give up their seats for men, or are shoved to the back of the bus, just as Blacks in this country were before the Jim Crow laws were removed. I have been in so many synagogues, where women are given little space and forced to sit in the back of the shul, rather than sitting side by side (with a divider between the sexes, of course!) with their male counterparts.
So, my position on this is that while it is not necessary to give women roles of public leadership that is not sanctioned by Jewish law, we Jewish men still need to treat women as our equals, when basic human decency calls for it.
Yes, let’s get rid of Kabbalat Shabbat altogether. It’s an innovation that indeed split Orthodoxy. Women shouldn’t be singing/saying it, but nor should men! Sadly it won out and now it takes even longer to get back to our families where we belong!
On the other end of the spectrum, Eidah Cheredit just banned burkas!
YA – We indeed have different definitions. But even according to yours, does his Shulchan Aruch elide the section on Kol Ishah? Or will he point to a da’as yachid, appropriately dug up for the occassion. (Don’t go scrambling to find it. I can tell you exactly where it is. It is also irrelevant to those with a very different attitude towards Halacha than you will find in his camp.
I was assuming that his actions were based on a das yachid (Sridei Aish?), or some similarly halachik theory/practice that is outside the norm, but still reasonably in compliance with Halacha. The truth is that I would not feel comfortable davening at such a minyan, but I also would probably not feel comfortable davening at any number of minyan in Boro Park where I know that the rav and many of the mispalalim likely carried items to shul on shabbos, based on a das yachid and contrary to the opinion of Reb Moshe Ztzl, and commonly accepted halachik practice outside their community. At the same time, I would not say that these groups are not Orthodox, but I am wondering why you don’t. I can come up with other similar examples (heter machira, etc) where whole communities follow a practice based on a das yachid, which is likely only being relied on because of the perceived neccesity of the situation. I would still consider these communities Orthodox, but I wonder why you would.
[YA – I can’t say without looking at the specifics in such a hypothetical. The difference at the moment is whether a group is grasping at a single halachic straw, but in other regards acts like the rest of us (i.e. the mekilim regarding the eruv), or comes up with nothing but short straws in their entire collection.]
Do you think that there are ANY Modern Orthodox shuls in Los Angeles west of La Cienega Blvd. — oh, heck, west of St. Louis — that won’t copy this within a generation?
Is the shoresh of egalitarianism, I’ve often pondered, egel? (Obviously not, but the remez is noteworthy.) Scratch an egalitarian and you’ll find someone who will elevate the golden calf of egalitarianism above Torah each and every time.
The Sridei Esh discusses singing in groups, specifically zemiros, in a context where each women singing is NOT singing alone and is NOT being seen standing out singing. Does not appear to apply here.
IMHO R’AW is on the wrong side on this and yet (surprise) I’m still conflicted:
1. Losing anyone is painful-John Donne “Devotions upon Emergent Occasions” : “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
2. Once line drawing gets serious-Pastor Martin Niemöller:
“THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
THEN THEY CAME for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.”
HIR and Rav Weiss are hardly the only Orthodox institutions to institute this practice, so I see no reason to make this personal, or for the sarcasm about “his Shulchan Aruch”, which is no more called for than snarky comments about women supporting their husbands on the right.
It would be nice if once in a while someone decrying an innovation designed to address the alienation many women feel when considering the contrast between the broad roles women take on in economic and secular sphere and the narrow role in religious life would offer an alternate way to address the problem. This need not necessarily be a change in practice; it could be an approach to chinuch that would make the contrast less alienating. This is a serious issue the community needs to address. Those who do not recognize the problem have their heads in the sand; I am not sure their opinions can be worth much. Surely we do not need to drive more Jews away from the Torah, as the response of many rabbonim to the desire for broader knowledge did from 1850-1920 or so.
I guess Rabbi Adlerstein that you found my earlier comment
beyond the pale. I feel that the current culture that does not allow women’s pictures in a newspaper, builds higher mechitzos at gatherings, never allows a woman to speak to a mixed audience, and generally creates an all male environment publicly is just as radical and, in my opinion, contrary to our tradition as anything that Avi Weiss is doing on the other extreme. One erases women , one strives to equate women. In time, there will be a division and I do not know how things will look in another ten years. The normal middle is under attack.
As far as Avi Weiss is concerned, I doubt that his half measures will last too long. Once you say that women can do almost anything, it isn’t a stretch to say they can do anything. When the Conservative Movement allowed women to be ordained, it was a half measure and I do not think anyone adheres to the idea that a woman rabbi is not kosher to be a witness any longer. Either there is equality or there are gender roles, you can’t have both for long.
I understand that Avi Weiss;s halachic justifications are weak and labored. In Jewish history , it would not be the first time that rabbinic leaders have struggled to find a way to justify the zeitgeist.
If I were approaching this from a sociological standpoint, I would ask: If Conservative Judaism has proven to be a failure , why would Avi Weiss’ brand of liberal orthodoxy be more successful in the long run? My main concern is that historically nothing but the real orthodoxy that believes in the Oral Law seems to have long term viability. If it is not viable, I have no use for it.
In all fairness, Rabbi Weiss is just as concerned with Lo Sisgod’du, and is famous for working with all of Klal Yisrael without sacrificing red lines demarcating his integrity.
[In all fairness, lo sisgodedu isn’t the main issue here, but mesorah and kol ishah. And if you buy the argument that I developed here a year ago, it isn’t a particular halacha that is the chief issue, but the way R Weiss and so many in the YCT/IRF axis treat halachic process in general. Rather than searching for halachic truth from a position of depth learning, they employ a pick and chose process only a half step ahead of Blu Greenberg’s infamous “Where there is a halachic will there is a halachic way.”
The issue is thus not R Weiss’ personal integrity, but the integrity of halacha, as well as mesorah. Many people feel that he has overstepped many red lines, and is in no danger of stopping to find new ones to cross.]
Re: the comment about Rabbis Greenberg and Hartman:
Is there truly anyone here on this board who would not eat in any of their homes?
[YA – There certainly are, in the case of one of them.]
Is there truly anyone who thinks their commitment to shmiras shabbas and taharas hamishpacha is less than in the cross-currents camp?
Can we not distinguish between Orthodox people/rabbis who do things that make others feel uncomfortable, and those who are not orthodox who nonetheless practice some of what orthodox people practice?
Chicken Little is not falling. People are upset. That is legitimate. But let us not, in our galus existence, create new Andes-size mountain-regions of mischaracterizations over small, albeit significant, steps taken from a sense of moral obligation, rooted in commitment to Torah, not in other “ism”s.
would offer an alternate way to address the problem. This need not necessarily be a change in practice; it could be an approach to chinuch that would make the contrast less alienating.
You’ve just offered it. There is no question that many women, right to left, are bothered by the issue. But the solution does not lie in changing practice, it lies in finding satisfaction in one’s role, which depends on Chinuch and Hashkafic perspective.
I don’t see how pushing the envelope as far as one can, or even beyond, addresses the problem at all. There are insurmountable barriers to Halachic parity between the sexes, and that’s just how it is. Saying Shelo Asani Ishah quietly when women are present doesn’t erase the berachah out of existence, and having a woman lead kabbalat shabbat doesn’t allow for her to serve as Cantor for the High Holidays.
I don’t see how women can avoid feeling alienated, not by the current leadership, but by Chazal, and by extension, Hakadosh Baruch Hu Himself, without accepting the basic premise of different roles for the sexes. Once that is in place, then this or that communal innovation would seem not to matter. If that is not in place, then leading kabbalat shabbat, which can be done by a six year old, seems to be no more than a band-aid on a serious wound.
We can do without innovations that address real or apparent difficulties but do not conform to Torah law. Any rabbi who holds that Torah law is elastic enough to allow whatever he wants should tun in his badge.
The Rabbi has yet to fully clarify his position and how to harmonize it with numerous instances in halachah that seem to directly conflict with his newest innovation.
Why just yesterday’s Hilchusa D’Yoma’s portion of M”B (219:3) forbids women from reciting Birchas HaGomel before ten men; it is deemed improper behavior. I don’t think any of those Achronim ever dreamed of a day when it’s considered OK for a woman to stand before ten men and sing zemirot.
The real issue is how one can argue with a straight face that this practice is designed to raise the profile of, and empower women, when the rationale for the innovation is an argument that it ( Kabbalat Shaabat) is not really an important part of tefilla. The implication is that if it were, we certainly wouldn’t allow women to do this.
We are dealing with very intelligent and determined women here. How long before they realize, if thay haven’t already, that you will never be able to change far enough or fast enough to give them the empowerment they really want There are two things that we neded to bear in mind. One is that there are women who take this seriously, and the second is that they are not stupid. Before you let all the toothpaste out of the tube, Rabbi Weiss, you should either revisit what you are doing, or admit that you are hiding your true agenda.
rABBI DR. bERNHARD rOSENBERG
Regarding the Rabbi Avi Weiss story. I HAVE NO COMMENT. I wish him well as he has done much good in the Jewish world. IN i992 I was threatened by the RCA president to resign lest they ruin the shidduchim of my children and that my wife and I would burn in Hell. WHY WAS I SINGLED OUt?. I WAS PLACED IN THE CONSERVATIVE SHULS BY MY ORTHODOX YESHIVA. MY ONLY SIN WAS FOLLOWING THEIR ADVISE. MY KIDS ARE VERY FRUM AND AND MARRIED VERY FRUM SPOUSES. Am I the only one worthy of such treatment. P>S> I AM STILL IN THE SAME SHUL AND RAISED OVER ONE AND A HALF MILLION DOLLARS FOR MY Seminary.
Gee things have changed. Rabbi Rosenberg
Rabbi Eckstein said:
I don’t see how women can avoid feeling alienated, not by the current leadership, but by Chazal, and by extension, Hakadosh Baruch Hu Himself, without accepting the basic premise of different roles for the sexes.
I can accept that, but it seems to me that that would require a clear explanation of what those roles are. Such an explanation, would have to be unapologetic, consistent with social reality (the way men behave, the way we treat women for activities other than t’filla b’tzibur, and the fact that increasing lifetimes and universal schooling for girls means that women are spending a smaller fraction of their lives in full-time child rearing), and with some evidence that it is from Sinai rather than ancient social practice that has become ossified. I have never heard an explanation that comes close to this.
Rav Schachter, for example, talks about how everyone should imitate God’s midas hahistatrus but that men are required to violate this so we can have public prayer. I have never met a woman who was convinced by this; indeed, I am not convinced, because it is not consistent with the eagerness with men seek out these roles. Indeed, the one time I was at a chuppah where R. Schachter was m’sader kiddushin (this was over 20 years ago so it may not represent his current practice) he, like everyone else, announced who was being honored with the various brachot–not who had agreed to waive his midas hahistatrus.
Re: joel rich
“1. Losing anyone is painful-John Donne “Devotions upon Emergent Occasions” : “No man is an island, entire of itself…”
Indeed it is painful, which is why R. Adlerstein proffers this post in sincere pain on a charedi website even though the synagogue in question isn’t charedi. We’re not islands, and the public actions of a self-identified Orthodox rav will have implications even outside the left-wing sphere that is his home.
“2. Once line drawing gets serious-Pastor Martin Niemöller:
“THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist…”
OK, can we please declare an unconditional multilateral moratorium on the misemployment of Pastor Martin Niemöller quotes? Please — there are no Nazis, communists, Maoists, Islamists or other genocidally inclined agents of destruction on the prowl for people whose kabbalat Shabbat service was led by a woman. Nor, if any such agents got loose, would protection from their predations be conditioned upon attendance at male-led kabbalat Shabbat services.
There’s been enough kitschy melodrama in this debate already; we don’t need anymore.
The Meiri approvingly cites the following in his preamble to his commentary on Eishes Chayil. It seems clear that עיקר שבחה is her domestic attitude and aptitude, but make of it what you will:
אל תבזה אשת חיל מהנשים, כי יש נקבות טובות מן האנשים, וספרו ממדותיהן, העוזבת מדות אביה ולומדת מדות אישה עד שתדומה בת בעלה ולא בת אביה, המאירה פניה לבעלה בעת שיכעיסנה, המכבדתו ביראה בעת חסרונו כאשר בעת עושרו, ובימי הזקונים כבימי הנעורים, הכבדים רגליה לצאת מביתה, הקלים ידיה לתת מן הפת לעני, העובדת עבודתה בין שפחותיה, המינקת ילדיה ולא תתנם למינקת אחרת, השומעת מן המדבר ולא תמהר המענה, הבורחת מישיבת מבקשות מדינים, האומרת ברעבונה שבעתי, השמחה באורחים כשיכניסם האיש בביתו, ועובדת אותם כאחת השפחות.
Regarding Rav Schachter’s practice, I am reminded of the story of R’ Yaakov Kamenetzky encouraging another Rosh Yeshiva that they both conspicuously walk into a packed hall so that their wives will derive nachas in seeing other stand for them, and gain chizuk to persevere in their role. The first Rosh Yeshiva embodied Rav Schachter’s basic attitude, and Rav Yaakov showed that sometimes being in the public eye is necessary for a greater good. It is indeed a nisayon not to seek the public eye for self-glorification.
Yes, but the Shulchan Aruch and Posekim (O.C. 136) discuss who is entitled to or has priority for aliyot, not who is obligated to reluctantly accept one for the greater good.
Rabbi Yitz Greenberg still is honored as a former rabbi at the Riverdale Jewish Center, and I’ve also personally heard him speak at one of the local day schools, so he seems to be accepted as Orthodox here in Riverdale.
You wrote, “having a woman lead kabbalat shabbat doesn’t allow for her to serve as Cantor for the High Holidays. ”
Rabbi Avi Weiss agrees with you 100%. He speaks regularly about the fact that Judaism is non-egalitarian.
“Rabbi Avi Weiss agrees with you 100%. He speaks regularly about the fact that Judaism is non-egalitarian.”
Not all rabbis are equal in knowledge, judgment, and temperament.
I am facinated at how the OU, of which the HIR is a member, seems to be ignoring the controversies coming out of there. What will Rabbi Weiss have to do to get the OU to take notice?
BTW, both Rabbi Hartman and Greenberg are/were Orthodox Rabbis, neigher came from the Conservative movement, as far as I am aware.
“both Rabbi Hartman and Greenberg are/were Orthodox Rabbis, neigher came from the Conservative movement, as far as I am aware”
Both Rabbis Hartman and Greenberg were ordained as Orthodox Rabbis, both served early in their careers as Rabbis of Orthodox schuls. Rabbi Hartman has for decades openly denied certain basic tenets of Orthodox Judaism-eg questioning authenticity of many parts of the Torah. Rabbi Hartman resigned from Orthodox Rabbinic organizations. Rabbi Greenberg still maintains that he is Orthodox. Rabbi Greenberg publicly maintains beliefs that according to many are inconsistent with Traditional Yahadus.
Rabbi Oberstein asks, “If I were approaching this from a sociological standpoint, I would ask: If Conservative Judaism has proven to be a failure , why would Avi Weiss’ brand of liberal orthodoxy be more successful”
Conservative Judaism has proven to be a failure because it has not created a community of observant (even by their own standards) Jews. 90-95% of your standard Conservative synagogue’s membership doesn’t observe anything except a Pesach seder and maybe lighting Chanukah lights, and shows up on Rosh Hashonnna, Yom Kippur, and for a bar mitzvah when invited. Since an institution serves the needs of its members, Conservative synagogues exist to serve the needs of those who don’t observe. This has driven most of the “observant” Conservatives into Orthodox affiliations. The problem is, that all too often, they bring their Conservative hashkofos with them.
Orthodoxy has created communities of observant Jews. It has created institutions to serve those observant Jews. Had Conservative Judaism done the same, the market for RAW’s innovations would be far, far smaller. In other words, we are a victim of Conservative Judaism’s failure, and our own success.
Lawrence, what you’re saying is true now, but if you look at history, Conservative was a lot like HIR 60 years ago. Most of its members came from an Orthodox childhood, and because of that were observant in a Conservative context. But a generation later we see the problems that result. It’s not enough to answer about HIR now, the question is why a generation later will be different from Conservative if radical changes are put in place now.
“Conservative was a lot like HIR 60 years ago. Most of its members came from an Orthodox childhood, and because of that were observant in a Conservative context.” And those of their children who remained observant returned to Orthodox synagogues. The point is that we’re stuck with those who want to be “observant” in the classic Conservative mode, and the only place they can do so is in Orthodox synagogues. Again, the difference (and it’s the only difference) between the radical Orthodox and the classic Conservative is that Conservative institutions are geared towards serving the nonobservant, while Orthodox institutions are geared towards serving the observant. That is why radical Orthodoxy will do better than Conservatism, which is now in decline.
Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not happy about it. But having spent a lot of time studying the radical left fringe (see http://www.jofa.org/pdf/Batch%202/0016.pdf for my article on feminism and Orthodoxy from 1998), I’m deeply afraid that it will have staying power.
“Had Conservative Judaism done the same, the market for RAW’s innovations would be far, far smaller. In other words, we are a victim of Conservative Judaism’s failure, and our own success.”
“Our own success” has included our success in excluding objectionable innovations regardless of the label adopted by the innovators.
“Right before my shocked eyes, I have witnessed Rabbis and other Jewish husbands humiliate their wives in front of guests, even telling them to shut up”
“It would be nice if once in a while someone decrying an innovation designed to address the alienation many women feel ”
“We are dealing with very intelligent and determined women here. How long before they realize, if thay haven’t already, that you will never be able to change far enough or fast enough to give them the empowerment they really want”
“Rav Schachter, for example, talks about how everyone should imitate God’s midas hahistatrus but that men are required to violate this so we can have public prayer. I have never met a woman who was convinced by this; indeed, I am not convinced, because it is not consistent with the eagerness with men seek out these roles.”
I think it’s clear from the above comments that there is one very basic thing that men and women have in common – the innate drive to kick against what the Torah demands of us – or, in other words – the yetzer harah.
So, JUST AS men have a SPECIFIC MALE yetzer to, among other things, exploit their greater natural physical strength to pander to their desire for kavod, and domineer and generally engage in egregious behavior to tyrannize women in various ways, such as “humiliate their wives in front of guests, ” for example, SO TOO, women have THEIR OWN, yetzer harah to, among other things, “feel alienation ” or “want empowerment”., etc. etc….
However, the Torah mandates us to curb precisely these types of behaviours – and not delude ourselves into rationalizing them – which we are equally good at doing for lying, stealing, speaking loshon harah, etc., etc. etc………
As a woman struggling with just these types of yetzer harahs, and getting immense satisfaction on the occasions when I actually win the battle, I find it quite pathetic to see how the whole raison d’etre of a Torah life – the sublime aspiration of refining ourselves and coming close to Hashem by the subjugation of our whole being to the will of Hashem – is being compromised by the self-delusion of turning simple, gross, mundane desires for kavod and independence into high-falutin, politically correct, and totally secular, feminist ideals.
Ms. Meltz, I have a lot of sympathy for women who face the struggles you do. As these are not my struggles I really try to put myself in others’ shoes, rather than be dismissive.
As I read the quotes you included, I couldn’t help but remember hearing Warren Kozak (author of The Rabbi of 84th Street) talk about his exposure to the world of Orthodox women. He said that the women he met are smart, funny, and truly run the show. I won’t deny that there aren’t a lot of dissatisfied Jewish women out there, especially with the myriad pressures we all face in life, but it’s not exactly all coming from religious oppression.
” Conservative Judaism has proven to be a failure because it has not created a community of observant (even by their own standards) Jews.” I have been making this same point for years. The other day a dearly beloved young woman explained to me that the orthodoxy she knew in Manhattan (Jewish Center affiliated and Ramaz educated) is of a different type than what her yeshiva trained Baltimore bred husband grew up in. She said that she was never taught that one cannot carry on Shabbat (because they held Manhattan was an eruv,I told her), that you kept kosher as much as was practicable but ate dairy out of the house, that you kept Shabbat up to a point but didn’t go crazy if your car would arrive home a few minutes late on Friday,and many other “kulos’ that she said are normal in her circles of Manhattan. She described a level of observance and hashkafah that might be called “Conservative” by some but is called orthodox in her circles. When she moves to Riverdale soon, she will most probably daven at HIR because the gender roles she sees in our form of orthodoxy conflict with her education and self image. Isn’t it possible to appreciate that she is honest, sincere and very committed to Judaism,and to show respect for her identity . I am not saying that the rabbi of the Jewish Center taught these things, but that the zeitgeist of the community allowed these leniencies. Feminism is much more prevalent in Modern orthodoxy with women religious functionaries in other shuls besides HIR. It is just that Avi Weiss is pushing the envelope by doing things in a public way that garners attention.
“I don’t see how women can avoid feeling alienated, not by the current leadership, but by Chazal, and by extension, Hakadosh Baruch Hu Himself, without accepting the basic premise of different roles for the sexes.”
In an age when women can rise to the highest levels in all other areas, it is indeed a challenge to maintain gender separate roles in religion alone. This, including the fact that the Torah only allows a man to initiate and give a divorce, are major issues for a large number of observant Jews. Although I am a card carrying member of the normative halachic community (so I like to think), I can’t pretend that these issues can be swept under the rug. For example, isn’t part of the shiduch problem that girls are so much more sophisticated and better educated than the boys they are set up with? I know a girl whos is studying to be a scientist, and the shadchan asked her if she would go out with a boy who wears blue shirts. Is there a disconnect between thinking people who need to find a path for today’s young women and those who are anxious to fenced them in and erase them. You may not agree, but I think that not teaching secular studies in yeshiva high schools as a religious imperative is as great a danger to our survival in this country as a few extremists who let women hold the polls at weddings, recite the sheva brochos under the chupah and allow a learned woman to teach in public. Avi Weiss is by far not the only one, he is just the most media conscious one.