Sanctity and Tradition – Where Are Things Heading, and Why Should We Care? A Response to R. Ysoscher Katz
by Avrohom Gordimer
I must have really hit a raw nerve:
Another peeping RCA rabbi. R. Gordimer, like his colleague R. Freundel, is peeping into people’s bedrooms (who sleeps with whom and who’s married to whom) and perversely sexualizes the important conversations in our community.
These abusive Rabbis need to be stopped from further corroding our communal fiber. We can’t allow them to continue trespassing boundaries and trample on our standards of tznius and kedusha.
–October 30, 2014 Facebook post by R. Ysoscher Katz, Chair of Department of Talmud at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (YCT), reacting to my recent Cross-Currents article. (I presume that “who’s married to whom” refers to data in my article about several YCT students and a YCT rebbe being married to non-Orthodox clergy – something I and others find to be very concerning.)
Needless to say, I will not sling back the mud. Aside from the totally ludicrous content of R. Katz’ post, it is eminently clear from the innumerable sources documented in my recent article and in previous articles (such as this) which people, movements and institutions are “perversely sexualizing” the sacred and “trespassing boundaries and trampling on our standards of tznius and kedusha”.
But that is not why I am posting this essay. There is something far more fundamental that needs to be addressed; it is a question that Open Orthodox leadership has asked me, and those who are unfamiliar with the history and state of contemporary Orthodoxy have likewise posed this question – and in truth, beneath the mud, it is what R. Katz is really asking:
Why do I (and so many others) care about what is transpiring within Open Orthodoxy? Does it really matter in the larger picture? How in the world does it affect you? Just move on, focus on your own things, and let it be…
Those of us who are familiar with the Conservative movement recall all too well how various innovations allegedly within the bounds of Halacha led to the erosion and disintegration of that movement, which initially had functioned as the unofficial liberal flank of Orthodoxy. Conservative scholars, comprising the Rabbinical Assembly’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS), issued novel and progressive halachic rulings regarding, among other things, perceived archaic and chauvinistic aspects of Halacha that were preventing Judaism and its Conservative adherents from flourishing religiously and comfortably in the context of modern society. Over the course of more than half a century, innovative CJLS rulings redefined gender roles at public prayer, permitted driving to shul on Shabbos, sanctioned marriages and conversions that were heretofore not acceptable, authorized the ordination of female clergy, liberalized positions toward homosexuality in congregational life, and so forth. We all know that this dilution of Halacha and traditional attitudes led to the wholesale abrogation of Halacha and mass assimilation by Conservative Jewry. The innovations wrought utter and unthinkable disaster.
Those of us who are concerned about the actions and trajectory of Open Orthodoxy fear that this movement is rapidly manifesting itself as the new Conservative movement, as we see clear similarities and patterns, and we are sounding the alarms. Rabbis and writers throughout the Orthodox spectrum, to my right and to my left, see history repeating itself and detect great danger, and we dare not be silent in the face of significant and increasing innovations that portend the departure from Orthodoxy on the part of large numbers of Jews. (The inherent problems pertaining to many of Open Orthodoxy’s innovations, and the overall objectionability of the approach behind them, have already been discussed in previous articles, such as this, this, and this.)
Moreover, despite the contentions of some, Open Orthodox innovations do indeed impact well beyond the Open Orthodox community. Case in point: Last week, the rabbi of a large Open Orthodox congregation announced the implementation of “a radical change in (conversion) policy” such that henceforth, in consultation with the rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Maharat and in consultation with the Maharat (female rabbinic clergy) of his shul, the halachic protocol for conversions which he oversees will be significantly revised. This revision, which relates to the level of beis din supervision of conversions, will render most of the conversions overseen by this Open Orthodox rabbi invalid according to halachic consensus (v. Hil. Issurei Bi’ah 14:6, YD 268:2, Igros Moshe YD 2:127 but also 3:112), thereby causing untold future harm to this rabbi’s converts and causing most batei din to have to reject the rabbi’s converts as Jewish. This will result in further, critical schism within Orthodoxy, it most definitely will affect the Jewish People at large, and it will in particular impact the broader Orthodox community.
In a d’var Torah issued by Yeshivat Maharat this past week, it was suggested that Avrohom Avinu sexually exploited Sarah Imeinu (“Abram employs Sarai’s sexuality as a tool…”) and that Sarah therefore became a sexual abuser herself. (This egregious suggestion by far exceeds the interpretation of the Ramban on Bereshis 12:10; neither the Ramban, nor any Meforshim, have penned anything close to the outrageous interpretation proffered in this Yeshivat Maharat literature.) Another post this week by a YCT rabbinic leader stated that Bris Milah is an act of brutality (yet that we are commanded to perform it as service of God, despite the theological difficulty thereof). Although one can argue that such irreverent/problematic ideas, while somewhat common within Open Orthodoxy (as cited extensively in the second hyperlink above), should not affect those who object to them from without, these ideas are being promulgated en masse, and as Open Orthodox clergy and educators continue to increase their presence in more mainstream Orthodox synagogues and schools, the Open Orthodox approach to Torah, mitzvos and Biblical personalities will spread and become part of the mainstream. This is of grave concern to all of Orthodoxy. (It is clear that many within Open Orthodoxy do not subscribe to these objectionable interpretations and approaches to Torah, but a very vocal segment of Open Orthodox leadership and constituency does, and this is a real issue.)
I would love to cease posting these articles. How wonderful would it be for Open Orthodox leadership to decide that rather than modify Orthodoxy and challenge its foundational and classical values, it should place its focus on preserving Orthodoxy as is and it should use its dynamic, energetic and personable staff and student body to spread Torah in the original to those who otherwise would not have exposure to the beauty of traditional Judaism! No one would object, everyone would support the endeavor, and those currently involved with Open Orthodoxy would fulfill a holy mission that others cannot adequately execute.
I implore the leadership of Open Orthodoxy to assess where the movement is heading and to consider the momentous success in spreading authentic Torah that could be achieved by seriously recalibrating the system and redirecting the movement. That would be a win-win situation for all.
Rabbi Gordimer is a kashrus professional, a member of the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America, and a member of the New York Bar. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.
(In the event that any of the hyperlinks did not open properly, here are the web links in the order that they appear in the above essay:
Open Orthodoxy is growing due to two fundamental shifts within American Jewry. The firs is the disintegration of the Conservative movement and the second is the pervasive infiltration of assimilationist American culture into all parts of American society, including all groups of American Orthodox Jews.
For reasons that are not clear to me, it has become “in” to be Jewish in the US to the point that many non-Jewish Americans are suddenly “discovering” supposed Jewish ancestors. In addition many non-Orthodox Jews who are often quite alienated from the mainstream of world Jewry and particularly Israel, which has almost half of the world Jewish population, are suddenly adopting PARTS of Jewish observance which ignoring or rejecting others. There are several organized Jewish congregations whose leaders are encouraging observing Shabbat in some somewhat traditional way and the same with laws of Kashrut and the hagim, while at the same time being militantly anti-Israel and anti-Zionist and encouraging boycotts of Israel. They are also militantly pushing the “progressive” political and cultural agenda such as encouraging the break-up of the “patriarchal, militarist and capitalist” traditional family and pushing homosexual marriage and culture.
Open Orthodoxy may be flourishing due to these trends. There are no doubt a number of Jews who want some sort of traditional Jewish observance that is still more robust than the existing Conservative movement (more Hebrew in the service, more knowledgable laity) but still largely accepts the all-pervasive “progressive”-assimilationist American agenda. Thus OO is filling a void that has been created. We all know that in the end it will go the way of the C movement but this will take time.
It is for those of us who are committed to the Jewish people, primarily in Israel and who realize the Torah is our Constitution to be aware of this new challenge and to have the right responses to it. It is not enough to say simply that OO is “luring away” religious Jews because a religious Jew who has a strong identity and understands the dangers of America’s assimiliationist “progressive” agenda will have the strength to realize what these new trends really are and the danger they pose.
We ought to be asking why any Orthodox person would be so naive or misguided as to take Open Orthodox religio-political positions or quasi-rabbis at face value. Examination might prompt us to upgrade Jewish education. Time taken to debunk certain false attitudes and ideas and to promote the Torah hashkafic approach to current issues is not wasted!
“and we dare not be silent in the face of significant and increasing innovations that portend the departure from Orthodoxy on the part of large numbers of Jews.”
It must be tiresome to have been appointed G-d’s police force.
Yet–clearly Conservative Judaism needed to happen, and run its course, and Open Orthodoxy will be the same. Certain swaths of Jewish longing for an integrated life are alienated from halacha in galus. This has always been the case, in Alexandria and medieval Spain and even Eastern Europe. Some children of these movements will lose an active Jewish practice, or graft on another spiritual practice, or intermarry, etc. while others will return as ba’alei tshuva. G-d is in charge here, as elsewhere, and no one is being duped. The reactionary indignance and devalidation that comes in forums like this has fared very poorly over the ages. I advise the author to take his own advice, to “spread Torah” and expose people to its beauty, and maybe even find cautionary remazim in Torah that could make the point in a way it could be received, without fomenting sinat chinam, and without appearing to want to take the reins from HKBHu.
FYI–I am not associated with Open Orthodoxy. I think that each “side” of such polemics confesses their lack in emunah amiti through their small-minded skirmishes on the big screen.
”this movement is rapidly manifesting itself as the new Conservative movement ‘
Well said. They do not threaten to become a new Conservative movement; they already are.
The RCA should officially declare that YCT/OO is not Orthodox, all of their rabbis should be banned from teaching in Orthodox schools, and a shul that hires such a rabbi must be dismissed from the OU. Avi Weiss’ membership in the RCA must be terminated.
Where is the RCA? Why must Rabbi Gordimer be left to fend for himself?
This poster makes comparisons between OO and C that simply don’t hold water. I’ve known maybe 2 Jews in my entire life that have actually held by the CJLS ruling on Shabbat driving. That is to say, most Conservative Jews I’ve known either don’t drive at all, or drive to shul…and everywhere else. The Conservative synagogues were top down affairs by rabbis who were Jewishly knowledgeable and observant, and the laity, who generally were not and were still climbing the socioeconomic ladder. The CJLS was trying to address ex post facto the fact that no-one was showing up to services on typical Shabbat mornings.
With OO, we are dealing with an entirely different situation of rabbis and laity alike who are much higher socioeconomically, including levels of secular education and certainly levels of Jewish education among men and women alike. Their shuls are packed on Shabbat and often the laity will give learned divrei torah from the bimah.
There is one commonality between the two, however–addressing the needs of women. Some women were already bolting the C movement in the late 60s and 70s after JTS and many C synagogues continued to treat them as 2nd class citizens. It would have been a stampede had the movement not done something about this (by the way, one of the things that the movement did in response was to elevate the Bat Mitzvah to Shabbat mornings–before, it had been mainly relegated to Friday nights). Similarly, there can be no doubt that OO’s attention to detail has made the lives of their synagogues more refreshing and uplifting to far more Jews in their synagogues as a result.
History does have a way of repeating itself. On the other hand, assuming that YCT and JTS will follow similar paths, is an assumption, nothing more. On the one hand, the level of scholarship of a number of JTS professors of the previous century has not been even been approximated at YCT (or even elsewhere, for that matter.) Neither are the social climates similar. Back then there was a negligible (extreme) right-wing in the US/Israel and even in most of Europe. The movement was away from tradition, not towards it. The Knesset member to teach a deeply meaningful Midrash in her first speech, was not from a religious party. Ben Gurion thought the new Israel would return to the Bible, leaving Talmud in the dustbin of history. Was he ever wrong!!
More fundamentally, Orthodoxy will win if and when it can confront issues not people. YCT is an insignificant example of the problem. Academic forays in Bible, Talmud and Halakha care little about proclamations of heresy by those opposed to their positions. There are a few first-rate scholars in YCT, (maybe); however, they pale in significance compared to the leading scholars at Yale or Harvard or NYU, let alone the Hebrew University or Bar Ilan. It is easier to declare beliefs heresy than to confront them. Questioning the motives of their promoters (may have) worked in the past, these days it has a rather empty ring; Bruriah’s advice applies.
While there is some truth in R. Gordimer’s assertion that the Conservative halacha committee had “functioned as the unofficial liberal flank of Orthodoxy,” it is giving far too much credit to its “various innovations allegedly within the bounds of Halacha” when he claims that those innovations “led to the erosion and disintegration of that movement” or the “mass assimilation by Conservative Jewry.” Conservative Jewry fell apart because while it preached fidelity to halacha and observance, albeit in an diluted and distorted form, the vast majority of its membership was almost totally nonobservant by any standard. As a result, the observant faction of Conservative Judaism defected to organizational Orthodoxy almost in its entirety, while the nonobservant part continued down the slide of assimilation. There used to be a joke that the children of Conservative rabbis would never daven in the fathers’ synagogues. Half had become Orthodox, while the other half had stopped davening at all.
The problem with what happened is that without a viable Conservative movement for those observant Conservative Jews to go, they joined the Orthodox movement and continued to practice their Conservative Judaism within an Orthodox framework. Furthermore, in the past, those raised Orthodox who had become less observant or less firm in their belief could “defect” to the conservative movement; now they can no longer do so, so they remain Orthodox and try do claim their watered-down beliefs as a bona fide part of Orthodoxy. So we are faced with these two groups and their desire to make halacha and observance more consonant with their social views and claiming that this fits within the framework of Orthodox Judaism.
Another well-written article. The real issue, as I see it and which Rav Gordimer refers to is the obvious similarity between the history of the Conservative movement and OO. For years, as conservative Judaism has moved more toward reform it was likely that a different stream was going to take its place and follow the same path. I’m not sure how many people are being misled into thinking that OO implies they’re part of the orthodox spectrum, the positions taken seem to indicate otherwise.
“Where is the RCA? ”
Its Beit Din of America has just named a female faculty member of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah to its Board. Maybe they have finally realized that the criticisms levied by some of the rabbis associated with Open Orthodoxy regarding their attempts to centralize conversions were actually valid.
“I would love to cease posting these articles.”
We now have had three attempts to centralize conversion authority and all three have crashed and burn. Rav Druckman’s attempts in Israel led to the Dati judge of the Israel Supreme Court (correctly) overturning the rulings of a Rabbinate Beit Din. Rav Tropper was put in charge of conversion for the entire world by most (not all) leading charedi rabbis and that effort ended in a chilul HaShem. And now the RCA’s attempt, which lacked any checks and balances, has also ended in scandal. Perhaps Rabbi Gordimer might want to examine the fact that Open Orthodoxy is the only major branch of Orthodoxy NOT to have had a major conversion scandal.
Why is it that Rabbi Pruzansky was criticized heavily, even by his own colleagues, for comparing the editor of the Jewish Week to Streicher and Der Sturmer and no one is calling for Katz to apologize to Rabbi Gordimer for his outrageous remarks?
It is ironic that Y Katz writes of Rabbi Gordimer that he “perversely sexualizes the important conversations in our community” while YCT and its leadership see everything sacred from a sexual prism. Aside from absurd comments delivered by Maharat about the relationship between Avraham Avinu and Sarah Imeinu, one of their leading roshei hayeshiva conducted a shiur, recorded on their website, in which he claimed the Avodah of the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur was sexual in nature. I wrote to that rosh hayeshiva a month ago but have yet to hear from him.
Kol Hakavod to A Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer. Thank G-d his talent is on our side!
OO = not O
But it is an indication of how far Orthodoxy has come that a movement which rejects and repudiates Orthodoxy nevertheless craves the respect and prestige of the “Orthodox” label. That was not the case fifty years ago.
For a little background, a May, 2008 New York Times article by Debra Nussbaum Cohen titled, “Among Orthodox Jews, More Openness on Sexuality”, discussed “a movement among more liberal Orthodox Jews toward open discussion of sexuality and sexual health”. At that time, YU’s Center for the Jewish Future sponsored the “Tzelem” pilot project. Dr. David Pelcovitz was quoted in the article about an event in Congregation Ohab Zedek, “I don’t know that it would have taken place a few years ago,” he said of the forum. “Now, the community was willing to have it.” YCT is mentioned in the 2008 article as co-sponsoring another event with JOFA at Drisha in Manhattan. It would seem natural for the liberal YCT to continue with this approach that already was happening to some extent in Centrist Orthodoxy.
However, there are limits both regarding the sexual openness issue as well as regarding humanizing figures in Tanach. I did not read/listen to R. Katz’s presentations, but in “Are “Gedolim Stories” Good for Chinuch?”, R. Simcha Feuerman, cautions against excesses at either end:
“Discussing the emotional lives of our Forefathers in a cavalier fashion would be inappropriate and, of course, we must tread carefully out of respect for their great characters that in many ways are beyond our comprehension. Nevertheless, some reflection on this topic is in order. No amount of tortured pilpul and darshanut can completely eliminate the reality of Yaakov’s emotions. When Yaakov sees Rachel for the first time, he kisses her and cries (Bereishith 29:11). True, it was a chaste kiss, perhaps the kind one gives to a young relative, but it was still an emotional embrace. Yaakov’s love for Rachel makes the seven years of labor feel as if it were a mere few days (ibid 29:20). You can call it any kind of love you want, love of her virtue or love out of gratitude that she will be one of the matriarchs– but it was a strong and powerful emotion. Seforno (ibid) comments on this verse that “Love makes people think in a less than logical manner.”
There seems to be a trend among rank-and-file American Democrats- not necessarily liberal themselves- to get swept along with whatever their “betters” tell them to do. Positions that would have been inconceivable only two or three years ago are now *required.*
Perhaps it’s because so many OO are liberals- indeed, that seems to be a driving factor for many of them- but them seem similarly unable to resist cultural waves. R’ Katz, sadly, seems to be one such example. I have yet to see him put his foot down and declare that some new shtick coming out of OO (or American liberalism in general)is unacceptable. Rather, he splits hairs and finds ways to excuse everything.
Of course, the alternative- that he actually agrees with all the revolutions and is a leader- is worse, but certainly possible.
Without adherents, there is no movement. I’d suggest more thought be given to why OO is attractive to adherents at the ground level. If you want to effectively address what you consider inappropriate deviations, it pays to understand the causes before you determine a course of action. I have no data but would suggest at least two hypotheses for study:
1. There is a perceived cognitive dissonance for many in “amcha” between “traditional” torah values and modern western values. OO seeks to resolve the dissonance at a macro level and is thus attractive.
2.There are those who first choose a lifestyle and only then seek philosophical justifications. Certain lifestyles that include a desire for an “orthodox” affiliation are best subsumed under OO.
There may also be personality issues (e.g. big fish in smaller pond) but I’d start with these.
BTW one could do similar analysis for MO, UO etc.
Charlie Hall wrote above, “Perhaps Rabbi Gordimer might want to examine the fact that Open Orthodoxy is the only major branch of Orthodoxy NOT to have had a major conversion scandal.”
Given OO’s shaky concept of Torah and Mitzvot, can’t we say that accepting it falls short of what a convert needs to do? That could put OO-administered conversions at risk of being null and void.
“This poster makes comparisons between OO and C that simply don’t hold water.”
OO is a version of Conservative Judaism. Of course OO differs from most versions associated with the official Conservative movement, but that is not the point. The point is that OO has abandoned Orthodox belief and practice. There are many varieties of non-Orthodoxy and OO is one among many.
Charlie Hall wrote above, “Perhaps Rabbi Gordimer might want to examine the fact that Open Orthodoxy is the only major branch of Orthodoxy NOT to have had a major conversion scandal.”
If there are no standards, you cannot have a scandal.
Have you heard of Conservative or Reform conversion scandals? Of course not, because there are no standards to measure against. The scandal is that anyone considers them conversions at all.
The same applies to the OO, the reason why you say there is no scandal is only because there are no standards at all. Anything goes, including normative halacha, right out the window.
The whole OO movement is in and of itself a scandal of the first order. An ever increasing chillul Hashem.
The comment by Yoscher Katz above is alone proof of the abominable chillul Hashem that the OO movement has grown into. Hahem yerachaim.
“There seems to be a trend among rank-and-file American Republicans – not necessarily conservative themselves- to get swept along with whatever their “betters” tell them to do. Positions that would have been inconceivable only two or three years ago are now *required.*”
That also makes sense. Hmmmm.
“The whole OO movement is in and of itself a scandal of the first order. An ever increasing chillul Hashem.”
Actually, I think OO is striking a nerve because, changes in the C movement, this movement is likely to have real staying power. It’s a “threat” to the increasingly reactionary Orthodox establishment that cannot be wished away, as the number of OO rabbis, institutions and adherents committed to the movement (and not just paying lip service to it) is likely to grow in the coming decades.
In the earlier generation there was considerable crossover between the C and O worlds. No more–so-called “centrist” and so-called “modern” Orthodoxy have moved dramatically to the right over the past few decades in a variety of spheres. There is a wider and wider space in which OO serves a growing and essential need for educated, serious American Jewish men and women.
50 years ago was already after the driving responsum, Toby. That was, arguably, the breaking point between Mod O and Conservative. Until then, what was there? Both Orthodox and Conservative-affiliated shuls were taking down their mechitzos. Both were embracing academic Judaism; many of the professors at JTSA were Orthodox, such as Ginzberg, Finkelstein, Heschel, Lieberman, etc. In the mid-1920s, the Reform financiers who were supporting both RIETS and JTSA tried to force a merger; they couldn’t see why they needed to support two Orthodox seminaries. Theologically, they seem to have already split by then; JTSA tolerated Kaplan’s Spinozism, while he had been forced out of the Jewish Center in the early 1920s. But halachically? No real difference until the 40s.
R’ Gordimer, what you don’t seem to realize is that you personalized and, yes, sexualized the argument in your footnote xxiii – by using the religious affiliation of the wives of teachers and students at YCT to tar the movement. The accommodations between husband and wife of different religious sensibilities are varied and NOT AN OUTSIDER’S BUSINESS. Certainly not a reason to condemn an organization. You wrote, in a sense, about what goes on in the marital relationship of R Katz’s students, and in so writing, drew us into your perverse gaze upon women whose lives you have NO business critiquing. No, it is not looking at other men’s wives naked, but it is bringing out that which is private about men & their wives, into the public eye, embarrassing them and us. That is why R’ Katz responded as he did.
Also, R’ Katz’ readers found out a day or two ago, that his own daughter plans to attend Maharat school. Which further personalized it, although you may not have known it – it turned your peering gaze into an attack on his daughter. And what parent worth his or her salt would not defend his child when attacked?
Once again, R Gordimer hits the nail on the head and demonstrates why the POV espoused in the writings of thos affiliated with OO, YCT and Maharat deserves to be considered and classified as Kefirah and Apikorus and redolent with over the top pyschobabble and apologetics that have no basis whatsoever in the transmission of Torah.
Charlie Hall- Open Orthodoxy HAS had a conversion scandal: Rabbi Zev Farber was the head of conversions for the IRF, and he was removed him from that position after the outcry following the publicizing of his problematic views
Jon and Reb Yid are both right and wrong. Jon has the history correct, but missed Mrs. Katz’s point, which is clearly true: the Conservative movement did not consider it at all prestigious or worthwhile to be called “Orthodox,” even at the moment of its formation. Even when the Union for Traditional Judaism dropped the word Conservative from its name (much more recently than fifty years ago), it did not think to claim the Orthodox moniker.
Reb Yid may be right about Zev Farber, but has misread the comparison with Conservative Judaism and misunderstood contemporary Jewish sociology. Is the desire to deviate from the Mesorah, while claiming to continue to practice Judaism, such a new thing that “OO is striking a nerve?” This “trend” is thousands of years old — and precisely like the Conservative movement, OO introduces “various innovations allegedly within the bounds of Halacha.” That path leads to erosion and disintegration. Which form of Judaism is expanding at an explosive rate? And, for that matter, is it the traditionalists or the “innovators” within Orthodoxy who are responsible for the bulk of that growth?
Jon is also wrong in his challenge to Rabbi Gordimer. What Ysoscher Katz said was a truly vulgar ad hominem, well beyond the bounds of civil discourse.
A Jewish marriage is a team effort, focused upon the next generation. We do not have an obligation to get married, but it is a necessary precondition for Pru U’rvu, the obligation to have children. My spouse is my partner in conveying the glory of our Mesorah to the next generation, providing a Jewish education to holy Jewish neshamos (souls).
That being this case, this is nothing like Carville and Matalin. To marry someone who promotes Kefirah, e.g. a member of the Reconstructionist clergy or a female Reform cantor, would be anathema to anyone who took Halacha and “v’shinontom l’vanecha” (and you shall teach them [the Mitzvos] to your children) seriously. What would we say about an “Orthodox rabbi” who opened a Jewish school with a Reform Director of Education? Would we claim for a moment that the school or the Rabbi were committed to Torah Judaism?
Indeed, the YCT alum who condemned the YK Mincha Torah reading, in a different article, explicitly celebrates how he and his wife, the Reform cantor, are bringing up their children in a “loving Jewish melange.” To mention and highlight that this is what he, purportedly an “Orthodox rabbi,” promotes and celebrates, is entirely appropriate and correct if we are to understand how far so-called “open” Orthodoxy has wandered. [If you read the article, he uses classic Reform blather about making Judaism “personally meaningful” and “creating” a Mitzvah.] To claim that it’s okay for him to write about his partnership with a Reform cantor in raising Jewish children, but not for anyone else to comment about it, is ridiculous. And to claim that Rabbi Gordimer has somehow “sexualized” the discussion, much less that this entails a “perverse gaze upon women,” is simply disgusting.
The footnote in my previous article which presented data that several YCT students and a rebbe there are married to non-Orthodox clergy is not at all a personal issue. You may recall that RIETS was about to withhold semicha this past spring from a talmid whose wife attended a partnership minyan, as the Orthodox rabbinic conduct expected of a musmach pertains to the type of religious lifestyle and home that he has chosen to establish.
Several people, all of whom are respected Centrist rabbis who became aware of the YCT rebbe and students married to non-Orthodox clergy, came to me with great concern, indignant that YCT could ordain people whose homes and marital commitments indicate a lack of Orthodoxy. (These YCT marriages to non-Orthodox clergy are listed all over the internet on the bios of these YCT men – the bios were written and posted by them voluntarily.) The Centrist rabbis who showed me these bios were furious that YCT is knowingly admitting and hiring such people for its rabbinical program, as it reflects very poorly on whatever Orthodox rabbinic standards one would expect.
It is a religious, rabbinical issue – NOT a personal one.
R’ Gordimer’s reference to who is married to whom had nothing to do with any married couple’s intimate lives, and anyone who thought it did has a serious problem. I will judge favorably (at least between the two possibilities I can see) and assume that Katz and those who defend the statement here didn’t really think R’ Gordimer meant that, but rather thought it would make a good sound bite to say that he did.
The “Reform Cantor” that you bring up who is married to a YCT musmakh does not serve in a synagogue or as a cantor at all. She works in a Jewish non-profit (which many NY area shuls are the beneficiaries of). She covers her hair at all times and lives an Orthodox lifestyle. The wife of another musmakh who graduated the JTS rabbinical school also covers her hair and works as a chaplain, not in a synagogue. While I admit that a YCT rabbi who is married to a Conservative or Reform rabbi or cantor that serves in a synagogue is problematic, in these cases you are truly overreaching.
“Ridiculous,” it is not only her Orthodox husband celebrating the fact that she is and remains a Reform cantor. She herself said:
If you believe that she has to officiate in a non-Orthodox synagogue in order to be “problematic” as the spouse of a purportedly-Orthodox rabbi, then I believe you missed my point — and what I said about Jewish marriage — entirely.
“Rabbi Zev Farber was the head of conversions for the IRF, and he was removed him from that position ”
Indeed he was removed from his position. Meanwhile, the YU musmach RCA member who led the famous joint conversion effort in Denver remained a member-in-good-standing of the RCA to the end of his life. In fact, he was listed as one of the featured rabbis on the RCA’s web site and some of his Torah is still on YU’s web site. The one YCT musmach who participated in a joint conversion was immediately condemned by Rabbis Weiss and Linzer and he is no longer listed as a YCT musmach.
I’ve just demonstrated that not only is that a false statement, but that the RCA has lower standards.
“I would have to forge a new path.”
Once upon a time, people who left the Reform movement to become observant and affiliate with orthodox synagogues were celebrated, even at the beginning of the journey. Apparently those days are gone.
1) There continues to be another second “Reb Yid” poster. Why the moderators do not ask him to change his name, I don’t know. He is one who is taking pot shots at Zev Farber.
2) I am extremely proud to be a friend and neighbor of the YCT rabbi and wife who have been attacked by Yaakov Menken, Avraham Gordimer, and others. They and their children are a beautiful family who have significantly enriched the lives of the larger Jewish community, school and shul where they (and we) belong. They do so while living halachically observant and ethical Jewish lives–period. It is offensive to suggest otherwise. They also add incredible vitality, energy and creativity which is so sorely needed to the many aspects of Jewish life.
Charlie, are you seriously suggesting that you would hand over the education of your children to anyone willing to adopt basic “Orthopraxy” and affiliate with your synagogue, regardless of their personal beliefs? Because that’s the comparison you’ve just made. Personally, I’m happy to see anyone at any level of observance come to an Orthodox shul, and hope they grow from there — but claim to have been a bit more picky when it came to the foundation of my home and my children’s education.
“Reb Yid” — on point 1 you are correct. Since you have a real name, and cannot lay unique claim to the name “Reb Yid,” I suggest you start using your real one to avoid the problem.
On point 2, I fail to see where “attack” comes into any of Rabbi Gordimer’s statements about them, or my own. I have no doubt that they have a lovely family and have enriched the Jewish community, and I am sure you do not mean to suggest that there are no families of two Reform-affiliated spouses who have done likewise.
According to both of their public statements, the YCT rabbi and Reform cantor blend a family with two contrary ideologies, or at least did so at the time those statements were made. Rabbi Gordimer’s point was quite simple: the fact that said YCT Rabbi chose a marriage partner outside Torah Judaism, and was prepared to entrust the education of his children to the same, indicates no less (and, indeed, much more) about his own commitment than were he to found a school with her as Director of Education. Do you not feel that reform clergy who choose non-Jewish marriage partners say something about reform’s commitment to Judaism and the Jewish future? Choosing a non-Torah marriage partner says the same thing about commitment to Torah.
That’s not an attack, it’s just reality. And the fact that Katz could not address Rabbi Gordimer’s critique without a truly vulgar ad-hominem speaks volumes.
“I’ve just demonstrated that not only is that a false statement, but that the RCA has lower standards.”
You have not demonstrated anything at all.
YCT has him as a bible teacher even with his outspoken heresy.
He was not removed because of OO standards, rather there was absolutely no way they could have made any reasonable case that there was even a smidgen of a basis for their Geirus to be considered orthodox and acceptable while Farber was involved. Even the NY Slimes would not have been able to publish Avi Weiss’ hateful missive and chillul Hashem while Farber was associated.
Removing him was purely a monetary decision. There was no way they could fund raise with him attached.
Yet another example of the utter lack of standards.
Another YCT musmach’s wife is an athiest. See Toronto Star writeup here: http://www.thestar.com/life/food_wine/2011/01/28/so_the_vegan_rabbi_came_for_dinner_.html.
If people believe this is healthy to have this kind of leadership to inspire people to Torah u’mitzvos, that is not a good sign. Doesn’t this compromise the whole enterprise? these couples are entitled to marry each other and do whatever they want. However, when they are public about it and are in positions of leadership, it is fair that this should be made known to the public.
Charlie – come on! Zev Farber only was removed after a hullaboo/outcry was raised. It was a reluctant removal as evidenced by defences penned at the time. The views expressed were not considered problematic. It WAS pressure from Orthodoxy (mainstream Orthodoxy) that resulted in his removal, as I recall from that time.
Rafael, I think one line from the article you introduced just about says it all. I’d like the defenders of YCT to tell us if they believe the reporter simply fabricated the quote in order to lie about this family, or the woman lied to the reporter, or whether I’m “attacking” her by quoting the agnostic (not quite atheist, as she reportedly said, “I don’t believe in that kind of god or maybe not in any god at all”) spouse of a YCT rabbi verbatim, without comment:
Reb Yid: I sincerely apologize for using the name Reb Yid, not having seen that you have already used it here! I just went with a good generic anonymous frum type name without bothering to check if anyone else was using it. So sorry to everyone for the confusion. I have changed my commenting name now. Please be mochel me! Kol Tuv
Many of my talmidim, friends, and colleagues have attended YCT, are on its faculty, or are otherwise affiliated with the OO movement. While I was dissapointed with their choices, I understand the dynamic that caused it. The common denominator I see with them is an alienation from today’s orthodox community. First, the constant narrowing of what constitutes Orthodox belief has resulted in an attitude of “well, I’m a kofer anyway because i believe the world is more than 5775 years old, so why not let girls wear tfilin?” Second, the corruption and scandal they see in the Orthodox community, especially what appears to be a tolerance of sexual abuse, leaves the, with a lack of confidence in the integrity of the system. Perhaps if we enlarge our tent to the size of the actual mesorah, and our leaders all demonstrate the courage of the CBD, there will be room for them to feel they belong. One who prohibits that which is permitted will ultimately permit that which is prohibited, or at least cause others to do so.
I will not. I think that is very problematic (though the specific statement is pretty flippant, I wouldn’t call her an atheist). I wouldn’t belong to that shul after an article like that came out, not because the rabbi’s wife has theological issues but because it is simply irresponsible as a rabbi to allow yourself to be portrayed that way. But I wouldn’t revoke the rabbi’s semicha either. (And neither would you, or else YU is going to have a lot of semicha revoking to do as well.) That rabbi graduated from YCT in 2004, so it is not reasonable to believe, however, that this woman necessarily held these views at the time of his semicha.
I think this thread (as well as those on other blogs) has clarified people’s perspective (I might say biases) more than adequately. I doubt anyone’s viewpoint has been even minutely changed except perhaps to view their positions as yet more obvious.
I remember reading some of the give and take years back between an orthodox rabbi from Lakewood and some member of the reform clergy. What struck me was not just their willingness to engage, but their obvious lack of familiarity with the other’s sources, perspectives or issues. While that lack of familiarity allows both sides to exult in the others ignorance, it did not add knowledge or clarity to the debate, in any meaningful way.
When the Rav ztl published “The Lonely Man of Faith” with its explicit portrayal of Adam I and Adam II and even more so when his SIL taught in Har Etzion with Rav Mordechai Breuer ztl, despite objections to Rav Breuer’s approach by serious (orthodox) scholars, I thought that in future years, the trend of orthodoxy dealing with the real issues of Biblical criticism might continue. Except within more academic circles, I was dead wrong. The vast majority of the orthodox world today knows (a great deal) less about these issues, or even about how rishonim addressed parts of the problem, than I (and some of my classmates) did as a teenager 50 years ago.
One anecdote will illustrate the issue. About 5 years ago, I attended a lecture at a modern orthodox shul, led by a right-leaning thirtyish Rabbi. The lecture was by the same orthodox scholar referred to above, who had written a famous essay critical of Rav Breuer, years back. During the Q&A, the Rabbi asked the last question to which the scholar answered – “read the Anchor Bible.” In talking to the Rabbi afterwards, it was clear he had no idea what the Anchor Bible was or what he might find by following the suggestion. I remarked to the scholar, that a similar question got the same response, albeit understood, from a very famous orthodox scholar about 40 or so years back, to which he smiled and said “barukh she’kivanti.”
I could illustrate something similar about Talmud or Halakha. We are still a few generations from orthodoxy incorporating acceptable positions vis-à-vis a host of these issues. Until then, however that may (or may not) come to be, keeping the rhetoric restrained and talking concretely about ideas, as opposed to people, will not be an easy task.
YCT has been unable to advance these issues; there are many others that are advancing deeper non-traditional thinking. Serious engagement with them by orthodox thinkers would be much more fruitful than these political (and increasingly personal) disputes. My guess “ki mi’Tzion taitzeh Torah” may prove itself yet again. Of the last 6 books on these subjects I read, only one was by an author from outside of Israel, and that author was not even Jewish.
[YA – YOur frustration is well-taken. But the proper response must come from responsible bnei Torah who have years of real learning under their belt, and even greater people to mentor them. It cannot come from shu’alim ketanim.]
Thinking about it, I do wonder about what people were thinking – was R’ Katz just trying to be ironic, by calling R’ Gordimer’s article “sexualizing”? Was he reacting because R’ Gordimer personalized the argument into something beyond “look what YCT musmachim have done”? Was R’ Gordimer unfair in attacking people’s wives? After all, I knew a guy who wanted to be a heterodox rabbi, but was married to a Catholic. All of the heterodox seminaries rejected him because he was intermarried. “Even” they have standards.
On another historical note, though – I get the impression that whatever he writes about on the Web, R’ Farber does not teach bible criticism (unlike YU). I wonder if they’re making the same accommodation for him that mainstream Orthodoxy did for R Mordechai Kaplan until 1922, or to this day with R’ Yitz Greenberg?
R JJ Schacter and Dr Jeffrey Gurock wrote about Kaplan’s relationship with the Orthodox. He was ordained by JTSA in 1902, and became the rabbi of Kehillath Jeshurun, when the congregation wanted an English-speaking rabbi. Starting around 1910, Kaplan started writing about his lack of belief in a traditional God. Was he cast out? Not at all – he was by then known as a major public speaker, a kiruv speaker particularly, and was still a major catch. In 1916, Joseph H. Cohen as money man and Kaplan as rabbi, split off to form the Jewish Center as an Orthodox synagogue on the West Side, so Cohen and many others wouldn’t have to keep walking across the park to KJ. Kaplan was still writing about his weird ideas, but not preaching them from the pulpit. They continued for about 5 years, until Kaplan started preaching his odd theology from the pulpit. At which Cohen put his foot down, and forced him to resign. In 1927, when the Reform financiers who were paying for both JTSA and RIETS tried to merge the two, thinking “why do we need two orthodox seminaries”, Cohen, on the inner board at RIETS, put his foot down and said that as long as Kaplan teaches at JTS, we cannot merge with them.
So the criterion, even for an ideologue like Cohen, was preaching unorthodox ideas from the pulpit. Writing about them was OK. We see the same bargain today with R’ Yitz Greenberg. Since the 1970s, he has been consistently writing, in academic journals and books, that he believes in a deus absconditus, a God who no longer listens to the prayers & actions of Jews, who has abrogated the Covenant(s), the sign of which is the Shoah. That’s literally Epicureanism, Apikorsut – a god who does not communicate with the human race or the physical universe. But he doesn’t preach about it in Orthodox settings, and he’s a terrific fundraiser, advising one of the major foundations where to direct their money. So Orthodoxy has not cast him out.
So too here, if R’ Farber confines his unorthodox theories of revelation to his writings, and doesn’t bring them into the classroom, there’s no real reason to throw him out, especially since he’s one of the bigger minds to have graduated YCT.
How an anyone say a rabbi’s spouse is irrelevant to the man himself? If he can’t even insist upon basic Jewish standards in his own house, how will he ever do it for a congregation at large? These are not private citizens, they are rabbis. The number one item on a rabbi’s job description is a backbone. Yes, its possible to be overly inflexible. That’s an occupational hazard that good rabbis will navigate successfully. But marrying women with viewpoints completely antithetical to tradition, and raising children accordingly? That’s not tolerance, that’s weakness.
Thank you for the good insights and history – very helpful and interesting.
The issue is not so much Farber himself (notwithstanding the highly objectionable views he espouses), but the Open Orthodox establishment’s acceptance of his involvement in the movement.
Unlike Yitz Greenberg, who was exiled from Modern Orthodox institutional life following his fallout with R Aharon Lichtenstein (who basically forced Greenberg to leave YU), Farber remained the head of the IRF Vaad Ha-Giyur for months after his heresy was made public, until out of damage control did the IRF replace him in that position. (The leadership of YCT had initially defended Farber’s Orthodoxy, in three separate statements.) And even today, Farber remains on the board of Yeshivat Maharat and is a central contributor to its Torah journal, where other writers therein cite his current positions on halachic matters with great deference.
This is the same issue with Orthodox rabbis married to non-Orthodox clergy. For OO to knowingly ordain such rabbis, while already upon ordination they are married to women who publicly identity themselves as non-Orthodox clergy, is alarming, as is the fact that OO is comfortable with the inclusion of Farber, and so much more…
Jon – Reform is in fact grappling with the issue of allowing their clergy to marry non-Jews. See here: http://forward.com/articles/175093/reform-jewry-grapples-with-intermarriage-among-rab/?p=all
As for Yitz Greenberg, I don’t consider him Orthodox at all (same goes with David Hartman a”h). Of course, I am a self-identified American Chareidi so what do I know. I thought he was beyond the pale when I read his opinion about G-d choosing again and again in the Jewish Action (which R’ Hillel Goldberg eloquently rebutted in those same pages), so I don’t know what really goes on the MO community. Who still considers Greenberg Orthodox?
To Avraham Gordimer:
You do not know the wife of this YCT rabbi who is married to an ordained cantor. She is not a pulpit cantor, however. She is not affiliated with any Reform congregation. She certainly plays an instrumental role in her Orthodox synagogue’s Women’s Tefilah, however.
She is a pillar of our community’s Orthodox kehilla (as well of the general Jewish community). Why you find her and husband objectionable is beyond me.
Prof Greenberg stayed at YU until 1972 when he left to be head of the Jewish Studies Department of CUNY. Rav Lichtenstein went to Gush in 1971. Rav Lichtenstein had his famous debate with Prof Greenberg in 1966 in YUs student newspaper. During that time period both RAL and the Rav were open unsuccessful opponents of YUs change of charter separating RIEts from YU. I thus do not accept that RAL forced Prof Greenberg out of YU.
I tend to agree in general terms with Rafael Araujo about R Greenberg and Orthodoxy.. One must note that R David Hartman had the intellectual honesty to resign from the RCA not c
Claiming to be Orthodox.
frum xtians have the concept in marriage of ‘equally yoked’ in a religious sense. to have the O spouse yoked to ‘ol malchut shamayim’ , and the other to Personal Choices , makes them just friends with benefits. this may work for them at home , but it certainly is not exemplary in the religious setting—other than to give Heterodoxy equal footing to Tora Judaism…
[this is differnet than a coupel that started in the same lane and one goes OTD or BT at the other’s expense….
it starts from non-O clergy couples , where essentially , they can practice their field in any temple of any denomination —- the membership isn’t going to say ‘you are violating R or Reconstructionist halacha ‘ [ unless maybe they advocate voting republican….]
Rafael Araujo wrote, “Reform is in fact grappling with the issue of allowing their clergy to marry non-Jews.”
When did Reform ever prohibit any Jew from behaving as a thoroughly liberal non-Jew might behave in the same situation?
I think that R Menken is correct. A rav and his spouse , whether or not she is an active rebbitzen, are a team effort. It strikes me as bizare that someone who purports to be an Orthodox rabbi could be married to someone who subscribes to R theology.
Jon Baker-when was the last time that RYG wrote in an Orthodox journal or was featured as a scholar in residence in an O shul in the US-outside of a certain shul in Riverdale ( not HIR)? I think that RAL’s dissection of RYG’s theological positions and R Hillel Goldberg’s exposure of RYG’s views on Gerus and so-called “joint Beth din” for Gerus in Denver rendered him persona non grata within the MO world decades ago.
I also think that R Gordimer is correct-one of the major issues that any potential husband and wife discuss in the course of their getting to know each other is hashkafic compatibility-this should never be remotely confused or considered as “peeping into people’s bedrooms” and/or ” “perversely sexualizing” the sacred and “trespassing boundaries and trampling on our standards of tznius and kedusha”. When a YCT leader’s spouse is a trained heterodox cantor who is active in a WTG, and another YTG grad’s wife doesn’t even keep a kosher house, IMO, that speaks volumes as to the overall direction of OO-it is the notion that pluralism trumps all legitimate boundaries of halacha and hashkafa. Like it or not, a “loving Jewish melange” should never be seen as, or confused with a “Bayis Neeman BYisrael.”
“Adina is a trained opera singer and Reform Cantor.” http://limmudfsuus.org/presenter/adina-frydman/
“But in my own home, where an Orthodox rabbi (me) and a Reform cantor are raising our children in a Jewish mélange…”
“Most of the people that I knew who had become Orthodox had completely severed any ties with their former Reform lives,” Frydman said. “I, however, still believed in much of Reform ideology, but simply wanted to live a more observant lifestyle. There wasn’t really a model for me. I knew one thing for sure: I would have to forge a new path.”
Aside from the Reform cantor identifying herself as such not too long ago, well after being the rebbetzin of her Orthodox husband – meaning that she voluntarily identifies with a heretical movement, she states that she still believes in Reform ideology. Her husband writes that the kids, being in the home of an Orthodox rabbi father and a Reform cantor mother, are being raised in “a Jewish mélange” – rather than with full Orthodoxy.
But my issue is with the yeshiva that knowingly ordains people married to non-Orthodox clergy, for even if that clergy goes along with the Orthodox lifestyle, to identify as non-Orthodox clergy in and of itself is a major problem.
Steve Brizel: In 1990, RYG was brought up before the RCA Vaad HaKovod, which had the power to expel him from its membership. It chose not to, allowing him to remain a member in good standing. Hillel Goldberg’s expose in Jewish Action was written somewhat later, and had very little to do with gerus or what happened in Denver. Instead, it focused on other parts of RYG’s writing, such as his portrayal of JC as a “failed messiah” rather than a “false messiah.” In any case, Jewish Action allowed RYG space to respond to the Goldberg article, and Rabbi Goldberg followed up with a detailed rebuttal.
“I remember reading some of the give and take years back between an orthodox rabbi from Lakewood and some member of the reform clergy. What struck me was not just their willingness to engage, but their obvious lack of familiarity with the other’s sources, perspectives or issues.”
From RYA’s review of the book in the Jewish Action:
“Again, Rabbi Reinman’s effort stood this argument on its head. He showed Orthodoxy unafraid to debate, self-assured in its beliefs and fully conversant with the arguments of the competition. Indeed, while some readers will reject many of Rabbi Reinman’s arguments, they will not be able to dislodge the image of a supremely confident and articulate Orthodox personage whose knowledge runs rings around his Reform counterpart…To do a good job, Rabbi Reinman did not have to slam-dunk every question put to him. All he had to do was demonstrate depth, confidence and humanity, and he would burst bubbles of negativity that envelop our image. The book was never intended to be a modern rerun of the medieval church
debates in which both sides attempted to bring irrefutable proof to establish the True Religion. It did not have to
be perfect. ”
(I did not read the book but I find discussions about controversial books almost as interesting as the subject matter 🙂 )
I read Rabbi Reinman’s book and was very impressed. IMO it was a mistake for his mentors to discourage future dealings by him in the field.He had the unfortunately rare skill of being able to talk and write in a respectful manner with those with whom we disagree. Re RYG I have no direct knowledge of RCA Vaad Hakavod but I suspect that it was a little before 1990 -IMy wife and I were guests for Shabbos lunch a little before then and I remember telling the person that his family was responsible forRyg staying in RCA. Due to family influence on major institution-not RCA and important person then fighting for RYG.
It is also my impression that it is easy for the Vaad Hakavod to deal with people who violate Halacha but much tougher in cases of hashkafa with no smoking gun. Hashkafa is tricky idf are those who believe The Rebbe is the Moshiach within acceptable hashgacha? Thus even if one believes that a hashkafa is not compatible with Traditional Yahadus and one could tell RYG to his face that if he had integrity he would resign and stop masquerading as an Orthodox Rabbi which were rumored to have been told to RYG by MO Rabbis. I have heard from reliable sources rough confirmation of the general tenor of what I wrote.
Lawrence Reisman-IIRC, the discussion in JA by Hillel Goldberg definitely concerned the so-called “joint bes din” in Denver, and that the RCA’s Vaad HaKavod was concerned about the views of both RYG and the founder of YCT-which went nowhere when a prominent attorney appeared on their behalf. It has been almost 20 years since 1990-I can’t remember when since 1990 or for many years beforehand that either RYG or the founder of YCT have been speakers at any Orthodox shul other than in Riverdale or a shul with a similar orientation to HIR. RYG has portrayed himself as beyond any denomination except when great Talmidie Chachamimk such as RAL or such intellectually honest Talmidei Chachamim as R D David Berger view his hashkafic writings as beyond the pale. That’s when RYG views himself as the victim of the Charedi world and its sympathizers in the MO/OU/RIETS world.
People saying, you do your way, and I’ll do mine, is not Jewish. We are responsible for each other, both physically and spiritually. This is not a good time to be lenient in halacha and do it however you choose. We are before Moshiach and are going through a difficult purification process. It doesn’t have to be if we choose to cleanse our selves, we don’t need suffering. It’s up to us to make a difference so we can bring redemption more smoothly. Let’s each work on our selves what we need to improve on in our avodas Hashem
R’ Gordimer, I don’t know you, but I can only say I am so sorry that you would ever be the subject of a Facebook post like that. It is a post that should be reserved for sexual predators. May it never happen again, never happen to any of us, and may it be a kapara.
David Z.: Thank you so much for your kind words. They are truly appreciated.
I really did not take offense at the Facebook slur. On the contrary, I understood it to signify an inability to respond to my arguments on the merits; hence, the only way to rebut was through a personal attack.
May all strife cease, and may Hashem bring us shalom, nechama, and guide us in the clarity of His Torah.
Steve Brizel: The RCA Va’ad HaKovod never took up the Denver issue, which became public only when the Joint Bes Din dissolved in the fall of 1983. RYG was up before the Va’ad HaKovod in 1990, which is before YCT even started. And RYG had nothing to do with Denver. The only outside Rabbi that was involved was Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, who encouraged the “traditional” rabbis to go ahead. (No rabbi from a bona fide Orthodox synagogue with separate seating was involved.)