Another Open Orthodox Rabbi Opens Up to Intermarriage?

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58 Responses

  1. mb says:

    ” Rabbis Daniel Sperber, Nathan Lopez Cardozo, David Rosen, Dov Linzer, Ysoscher Katz, Yitz Greenberg, Shmuly Yanklowitz, Jeremy Rosen, Haim Ovadia, Eugene Korn, Daniel Landes,”

    I love these guys!

    • mb says:

      oh, and before you get on my case, I love R.Adlerstein too!

    • Raymond says:

      I do not know most of the Rabbis on this list, but among the ones I do know, I find it hard to believe that they are part of the Open Orthodox movement.  Rabbi Landes was the one who conducted the wedding ceremony for my very religious younger sister and her husband.   While of course everybody knows Rabbi Greenberg, I have long took him to be part of Modern Orthodoxy, which is obviously totally different than Open Orthodoxy.  The one, though, that I personally find the most difficult to believe, is Rabbi Cardozo.   Back in the day, I attended many inspiring Torah lectures by him right in Ohr Sameyach in Jerusalem, as well as here at a local Orthodox high school.  I have read several of his very thought-provoking books, and never, not even for one moment, did I harbor the slightest doubt that he is anything but solidly Orthodox.  He may have a rather uniquely creative way of explaining his ideas, but his ideas are nevertheless completely within our Torah tradition.  At least that has been my long-standing impression of him.  And so until I hear his side of the story, I will give him the benefit of the doubt, and continue to consider his words to be kosher.

      • dr. bill says:

        an instructive way to look at the phenomena is to examine the actions of the past.  omitting names, just to provide a challenge: 1) a future head of the Eidah Hacharedit gave a moving (published) hesped for the most prominent Mizrachi RY about 100 years.  2) about 85 years ago, another future head of the eidah not wanting to place himself in a position where he would have to oppose a Zionist Gadol who he knew to be Volozhin’s greatest student.  3) the leading BD in Europe before the second world war was headed by an agudist with a mizrachist, second in command.

        today, some view such respect for diverse viewpoints an unmitigated sin.  how else would you explain one of america’s leading RW Gedolim being excluded from the Moetzet?

        those who argue that these individuals are too different might remember what another Gadol of a previous generation responded when asked why he personally contributes to X.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Dr Bill-you need not need to hide behind the fog of anonymity on this issue.Let me offer some speculation as to who you are referring to:

        1) Were you referring to the SE? I think that it is reasonable to conclude that the SE was a person who viewed himself as a product of the yeshiva world who had a doctorate and was a world class Posek but equally familiar with secular philosophy, Haskala and the issues facing German Jewry before WW2 but who was eminently respected in the pre war Yeshiva and Chasidishe worlds and who did not consider himself a Mizrachi RY  . Dr Shapiro’s excellent bio needs to be read together with the biographical section of a wonderful Haggadah based on the Torah of the SE.

        2) Who are you referring to here?

        3) Are you referring to R Chaim Ozer ZL and R Gustman ZL?

        4) Everyone knows that RYBS gave generously to many yeshivos and mosdos that were decidedly not MO. B”H I know many who give generously to or support the efforts of  yeshivos, mosdos and organizations in both the MO and Charedi worlds.

        Ask anyone in Baltimore how RHS was treated when he visited there. As R Gordimer has pointed out the Torah transmitted by RYBS, both in Halacha and Hashkafa is gobbled up as soon as a new volume is published-in both MO and Charedi neighborhoods simply because they do not have hashkafic litmus tests ( which IMO are thinly guised PC like rationales) on many such related issues.

      • dr. bill says:

        one for six.

        1) i gave you hints with died 100 years ago.  to be precise 102 years ago.  because of the war the hesped was given 2 years later.

        2) the head of the eidah has 2 great-great children who wear kippot serugot and are RY in two prominent hesder yeshivot.

        3) Rav gustman ztl was not second in command.  the person is known to most by the name of teshuva sefer.

        RHS, who i have the greatest respect for, sent (some of??) his kids to NI.  it is not him to whom i was referring, but the person and RHS had great shaychut.

      • Charlie Hall says:

        FWIW the person responsible for posthumously editing and publishing much of Rav Soloveitchik’s works with the permission of his family is Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot, who teaches at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and facilitates its annual Tanach Yom Iyun.

      • nt says:

        dr. bill is comparing a molehill to a mountain. It is astonishingly disingenuous to compare the debates between Mizrachi and Agudah to Orthodoxy and OO. Everyone in those debates agreed that following the Shulchan Aruch is the most important and first rule of any Jewish ideology; OO clearly does not.

      • dr. bill says:

        please provide a link to a YCT statement supportive of your claim: “Everyone in those debates agreed that following the Shulchan Aruch is the most important and first rule of any Jewish ideology; OO clearly does not.”

        and if you do not see the complete lack of civility that has overtaken the chareidi world, just examine how Rav Kook ztl was viewed by contemporaries across the religious spectrum versus the behavior that was pervasive in the second half of the last century.  then again, i am making an assumption that you admit that Rav kook felt halakha is binding.

        on a detailed level, following the SA is NOT the same as being halakhic; there are a very small number of counter-examples where the psak of the SA was abrogated by some/many.

      • mycroft says:

        I agree with Dr Bill on his post. ” versus the behavior that was pervasive in the second half of the last century ”

        The way MO and the Rav were treated was of treating them as beyond the pale. See eg how someone could  write an original edition of   a History of American Orthodoxy wo mentioning the Ravs name.I suspect Dr Bill may be aware of one good result    of that; not long before the Ravs ptirah the OU sponsored a session in honor of the Rav,IIRC among speakers were Rabbi Lamm,  Julius B erman    and the Rovs sons-in-law . I believe  tapes were           made would be worthwhile listening to if they were ever put on line.

      • mycroft says:

        “on a detailed level, following the SA is NOT the same as being halakhic; there are a very small number of counter-examples where the psak of the SA was abrogated by some/many.”

        Why psak is not  the same as following SA.Of course yemenite Jewry is san example of not following SA yet halachik.

      • nt says:

        dr. bill responded: on a detailed level, following the SA is NOT the same as being halakhic; there are a very small number of counter-examples where the psak of the SA was abrogated by some/many.

        There are many many examples when poskim of the era of the SA disagreed on halacha, and often later poskim such as the Mishna Brura say we have to take their opinions into account. This has nothing to do with “abrogating” halacha; it is a difference of opinion among experts.

        The reason to focus on SA is that it is easy for people to claim that they are being halachic while rewriting Jewish practice to fit their  preferences. Conservative Judaism has done this for decades.

        Just to humor the doctor, I googled “yct lgbt” and found this article on the YCT NEWSROOM. The author does not say he is not halachic, he just says that

        “As long as we retain our firm commitment to the centrality of Torah and halakha in all areas of human endeavor, we can be secure with the knowledge that we are engaged in the holy work of continuing the process of revelation.”

        This continuing process of revelation is exactly how Conservative Judaism justifies its changes in halacha:

        E.g. Elliot N. Dorff Conservative Judaism: Our Ancestors to Our Descendants 1996 – Page 201 “We believe in God’s revelation to us at Mount Sinai and in God’s continuing revelation to us through study of Jewish texts and through our lives as Jews. 



      • dr. bill says:

        nt, this is not the venue to discuss continuous revelation in all its manifestations.  your quote from the OO musmach using the phrase “continuing the process of revelation” read charitably, is a far cry from the notion of continuous revelation adopted by others;  there are kabbalistic variants as well as others.  i personally would not use the phrase “the process of revelation;” it is ambiguous and likely to be assumed identical to radical ideas expressed using similar language.

      • nt says:

        Dr. Bill, What makes it problematic is that he is using this concept to justify potential changes in practice. Otherwise I would agree with what you wrote.

      • dr.bill says:

        nt, that is the context in which the phrase normally occurs.  changes in practice are justified under various circumstances using a variety of explanations centered on the ability of future generations to use a critical societal change as justification for halakhic change arguing that change means that the halakha no longer applies.  you can argue its use each time it is, claiming the change should not affect the halakha. But that is how change is normally justified throughout the ages by poskim.

      • mb says:

        Quite right Raymond, ignore the foolish

        comments about them!

      • Raymond says:

        Speaking of which, I now have a good indication that I am right about this issue.  Rabbi Cardozo is coming out with a new book, called Jewish Law as Rebellion.  Well, one of the people endorsing his new book is none other than the former Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, namely Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, whom I very much admire and whose credentials are beyond question.  And if Rabbi Cardozo’s thoughts are good enough for Rabbi Sacks, then they are good enough for me, too.

      • David Z says:

        Raymond, obviously I can’t speak for your hashkafa or why you read Cross-Currents, but R’ Cordozo in particular has changed significantly in the past few years.  Perhaps spurred by OO.  So yes, do take a look at his more recent writings for his current hashkafot rather than stuff from even five years ago.

        And I would almost say the same for R’ Saks since leaving office.  But he is certainly not as radical.  And perhaps this book he wrote an approbation for isn’t as well.  And perhaps that’s why he wrote it.  It’s R’ Cordozo’s approach to halakha that seems to have changed the most, being more open to “change.”  That may not affect a book on philosophy.  Or it might.  I don’t know, but I won’t condemn R’ Saks’s approbation without having read it.

      • Mycroft says:


        hamechadesh chol Yom tamid

      • Steve Brizel says:

        I think that you should read some of the more recent writings of each of the rabbis mentioned in your post before asserting that their views in 2017 can be considered MO, as opposed to OO.

      • Mycroft says:

        If one accepts the category of OO and MO, IMO Rabbi Yitz Greenberg is probably to the left of Rabbi A Weiss, Rabbi Linzer. Certainly not the standard MO.

  2. dr. bill says:

    let me try in very practical terms to present the nature of the dilemma.  an entirely uncommitted/secular jew is dating a non-jew.  we can begin in one of two ways.  we could start by telling  them that their relationship is not halakhically sanctioned and go from there. or we can tell them that their relationship puts the jewish partner’s attachment to judaism at profound risk and go from there.  the argument for the latter approach may have merit in numerous real life situations and may well be the better way to begin the conversation, particularly if the goal is not to create a traditional jew as much as creating one with continued identification with Judaism.

    i have no personal knowledge (either from study or actual life experience) from which to conclude how to proceed; i doubt many in the orthodox community are better equipped to decide such sadly all too common situations.  in this, like many other areas, lo matzasi laguf tov mei’shetika.

    and frankly, in the main, this issue will have minimal impact on how the future plays out.  i suspect  that in the world where some YCT graduates live, these sort of issues are more prevalent than in my world or that of most of us living in more traditional communities.   if i were interested in studying this issue, and i am not, i would talk to a very different group of individuals.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      A close relative of mine once bemoaned the fact to me many years ago that he, a traditional but not fully observant person could not invoke any reason to his children against intermarriage except a negative warning based on what he vaguely called “tradition”.. He contrasted that with the fact that we were raising our children with a positive and important view of living as a Shomer Torah UMitzvos. I think that is where the discussion must begin. All other ideas re “Jewish continuity” and “Jewish identity” will founder because they are apologetic on such dilemmas as particularism vs universalism, dismiss the notion of Halacha as having any binding affect , and fail to comprehend the simple fact that Jewish identity is a process of the present transmitting the past to the future

      The two linked articles illustrate what happens when you see critiques of halacha as “tribalistic”, which it is because Halacha is how a Jew is supposed to live his or her life, and when you claim in what can only be viewed as periously close to intellectual dishonesty writ large to be ignorant of sociological evidence that intermarried couples and their families have a decidedly apathetic view towards support of Israel or interest in Judaism.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      You could also think outside of the box-how about inviting the uncommitted/secular Jew to your house for a Shabbos meal, or to a simcha if you know the person well enough?That  might just get the person to start  thinking  about whether there are options beyond dating a non-Jew.


      Your response precisely begs the question: To whom are these essays regarding intermarriage addressed?

      Anyone who has had no affiliation with Orthodoxy will have no interest in what any Orthodox rabbi has to say on the subject- however “inclusive” he may be. Therefore it is reasonable to conclude that they are aimed at someone who was once a part of an Orthodox community but no longer continues observance at that level.

      Perhaps the audience is the significant percentage of Modern Orthodox young adults who shed their religious affiliation while in the secular academic world and continued a non-Orthodox lifestyle since. They are not particularly interested in a heterodox form of Judaism as it doesn’t speak to their conception of faith and practice. While they have been pulled by the draw of the general culture to live in a manner that is mainstream for millenials, there may still be ambivalence about their religious choice. Even more, the parents of these individuals – much like the Reform Jewish parents of the 70s who greeted patrilineal descent with much relief since it meant their grandchildren would still be Jewish – would be sensitive to the subject of intermarriage for the very same reason. Consequently, the pronouncements of ostensibly Orthodox rabbis regarding the permissibility of intermarriage may be of real significance to decision-making regarding choosing a life partner.

      While there are cases of non-Jewish spouses coming to Orthodox conversion along with a return of the Jewish spouse to observance, they are exceedingly rare. When it does happen, it is not a result of sensitivity and inclusivity. It is the outcome of an unqualified stance that explicitly affirms there is only one proper way for a Jew to have a genuine marriage and that is with another halachic Jew of the opposite sex.

      From the Reform experiment we know what will happen with any dilution of this position. Most will take the ambiguity presented and interpret it to mean they can “follow their heart”. It is Open Orthodoxy’s focus on emotions over reason that distorts truth and the true meaning of kindness. Kindness is helping a person reach perfection, not just satisfying a desire.


      • dr. bill says:

        you are entirely mistaken.  particularly outside metro areas, rabbis, certainly lwmo and oo,  serve wider constituency, well beyond the currently and formerly traditional for a variety of reasons.  in any case, we are normally talking about how to relate to people after the fact – a very complex and situation dependent dilemma.

      • ROBERT LEBOVITS says:

        I must strongly disagree.

        I have lived my entire life outside the NY/NJ area. It is quite unusual for someone affiliated with a heterodox community to seek out an Orthodox rabbi when their own clergy are present.

        The unaffiliated are not likely to address this issue at all as it has very little significance for them.

        The essays do not make a distinction between before the fact or after the fact, only that the stance on intermarriage ought to be more elastic.

      • Mycroft says:

        It is a matter of fact, depends where. When I lived outside NY some of the Orthodox schuls had substantial percentage of their members who were not shomer Shabbos. 

      • dr. bill says:

        your own phrase “when their own clergy are present.”  explains what happens.  and before the fact refers to marriage not the relationship; if you think otherwise please re-read.

      • ROBERT LEBOVITS says:

        My original question as to whom these essays are addressed remains. Members of a heterodox community are uninterested in the stance of any Orthodox rabbi – other than perhaps to cherry pick comments that would simply bolster already-held positions.

        Nearly all out-of-town Orthodox congregations have members who do not follow Orthodox observance. They continue to affiliate for a variety of reasons, often because of generations-long family ties and/or because they recognize the authenticity of Orthodoxy.

        These individuals are precisely the ones who need to hear the clear and absolute truth that intermarriage is never correct; otherwise how does Orthodoxy genuinely differ from Reform or Conservative “tradition”?

        By offering situational acceptance for inter”marriage” the door is left wide open for pursuing a relationship prior to marriage since there is no adverse consequence for doing so. “Before the fact” and “after the fact” becomes a meaningless distinction.


      • dr. bill says:

        the distinction between intermarriage and the intermarried is important similar to Bruriah’s well known adage, particularly once the decision to marry has been made.

      • Sarah Elias says:

        dr. bill:  As I understand Bruria’s dictum (יתמו חטאים ולא חוטאים) we should be doing our best to break up that intermarriage, while still exhibiting our love for the Jewish half of that relationship.  Is that what you were suggesting?

      • dr. bill says:

        sarah, no.  we are categorically opposed to intermarriage not the intermarried  wrt whom we behave in a more nuanced and situational way with the goal of maximizing the probability of (maximal) jewish connection versus extinction.

      • Sarah Elias says:

        After the fact.

        If we proclaim our intention to behave in a nuanced and loving way towards the intermarried, we remove that disincentive from those considering such a marriage.

      • dr. bill says:

        sarah elias, i agree that that possibility is somewhat real.  however, it is made larger by those conflating what i said with supporting intermarriage,  In various situations acting correctly can have unintended consequence, what is hilchot shabbat are called psik reisha de’lo nicha lai.  in any case, the current overwhelming negative reaction is likely to drown out other voices.

  3. >Radical Inclusivity 


    This term summarizes why these OO’s cannot bring themselves to draw a line even on intermarriage.  Along with terms like gender expansive and intersectionality, radical inclusivity is a watchword (even though technically it’s not a word at all) for the politically correct secular liberal culture.

    Given a choice between Jewish law and secular ethical preferences, folks who think that inclusivity is a real word will always opt for the latter.

    On the other hand, given the halachic dilemma – what’s worse, a non-religious Jewish couple that is constantly transgressing the laws of Taharas Mishpacha or an intermarried couple that isn’t – perhaps they are simply trying to steer the uncommitted towards a lower level of sin.

    • mycroft says:

      “This term summarizes why these OO’s cannot bring themselves to draw a line even on intermarriage” Unfair,    discuss position of Rabbis rather than OO

      “There is a lot of conversation at this time about intermarriage, including a number of recent news reports and articles. Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School states two important points on this matter.

      Besides intermarriage being strictly prohibited halakhically, it poses grave danger to Jewish continuity. Needless to say, we strictly forbid any of our rabbis to perform intermarriages. We do, however, advocate working very hard to convert anyone who sincerely wants to join the Jewish people.
      We as a community have to give deep and careful thought as to how to balance drawing close those in our communities who are intermarried with the risk of sending a harmful message of condoning intermarriage rather than doing everything we can to prevent it”

  4. Steve Brizel says:

    I am sure that many of us if not all have a relative or a social acquaintance who is intermarried. One cannot wish mazel tov to such a couple or pretend that such a marriage constitutes a Bayis Neeman BY Israel let alone give your approval by attending. If you happen to be at family gathering you can say hello and engage in social.chitchat but I think that the quoted views are obviously beyond any halachically accepted POV

  5. Chava Rubin says:

    Rabbi  Mlotek  made a statement  that  he’s  not  sure  if  halacha  works for  every  yid. This statement  alone clearly  sounds like apikorsus.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      R Mlotek’s statement reads as if he does not believe that Halacha is binding on every Jew. That’s far worse than not being sure if t “works for every Yid.”

      • dr. bill says:

        not binding – no; not relevant – yes.

      • Sarah Elias says:

        How can halacha not be relevant to every Jew?  How is it possible to believe that and not be close to an apikorus if not actually one?

      • dr. bill says:

        to a non-observant jew, you and i might believe they ought be bound by halakha; the halakha recognizes atinok she’nishbah, who though bound is not culpable.  from the view of that individual, halakha is not relevant.  that is not apikorsus but simple fact.

      • Sarah Elias says:

        dr. bill: not arguing that.  I’m asking how an ostensibly Orthodox rabbi can say that halacha might not be relevant to any Jew.  It is relevant, whether or not that Jew accepts it, and no rabbi has the right to say that it isn’t, even if said Jew doesn’t find it relevant and even if saying so makes that Jew feel better about his anti-halachic choices.

      • dr. bill says:

        it obviously depends on “should be relevant” versus “is relevant.”  no one is saying it should not be relevant; that is different than saying it IS relevant.  if you approach people and are attempting to influence them, it is wise to begin with their perspective.

      • mycroft says:

        “it obviously depends on “should be relevant” versus “is relevant.”  no one is saying it should not be relevant”

        Dr Bill:

        as you know better than I what “ought” is not necessarily “is”

  6. Steve Brizel says:

    Most sociological studies have concluded that most intermarried couples do not and are not interested in having any affinity to any religious community let alone the Orthodox community and are not attra red to the support of Israel.

    • dr. bill says:

      Precisely the point.  Should that and if so how should that be addressed?  I suspect there are multiple approaches driven by numerous relevant factors.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Based upon the results of the studies why should there be multiple approaches other than increasing the numbers of the heterodox movements?

      • Mycroft says:

        if one accepts the viewpoint that we would prefer a Jew to remain Jewish even if affiliated with a Heterodox movement rather than leave Judaism completely is one reason for other approaches.Certainly even in Orthodox it would have been better if we had multiple approaches, some prefer emotional appeal, some more rational.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Orthodoxy in its day to day mitzvah to mitzvah and celebration of life cycle events and educational milestones has both rational and emotional components which are inherently and absolutely necessary.

  7. Sruli says:


  8. Weaver says:

    I’ve become much less interested in the question of whether one should date or marry Jewish. By focusing on the act of intermarriage, we ignore the far more significant questions: what role does Judaism play in your life, and what do you want your Judaism to look like in a romantic relationship?

    This would be a great attitude – pre-matan Torah.




  9. tzippi says:

    “open and Orthodox, whatever that means.”I dunno, what does that mean? 

  10. Bob Miller says:

    What exactly is Open Orthodoxy permanently closed to?

  11. david z says:

    That kosher thing is even worse to me. There is literally nothing that to lose by serving kosher. It is only being inclusive (as an example I was able to learn about reform Judaism in college because the pizza and pluralism was kosher). It is only being sensitive.

    With intermarriage at least you can see why it’s a sensitive topic and you might have different ways to counsel people. The kosher thing just shows all the more it’s halakha he hates, not just hurting people.

    • Charlie Hall says:

      One loses money by insisting on kosher food. It is part of the cost of being Jewish.

      But does not keeping kosher make you non-orthodox? During the entire time I was a faculty member at Yeshiva University’s medical school — over 14 years — it regularly spent money for non-kosher food at official events? I cannot count the times I was told to bring my own food to a lunch event. After a while I gave up complaining and just packed my lunch.

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