The “shul” I won’t attend

Have you ever attended a movie or other form of entertainment and realized, within moments, that — uh-oh — you are in for a long wasted evening?  And did you then regret not first having read the reviews or at least having asked a friend whether the performance would merit the time invested?

So let’s talk shuls. 

No point in repeating the worn-out joke about the isolated Jew on the deserted island who builds the two shuls (one to pray in and one he can refuse to set foot in…).  Instead, let’s “cut to the chase”:

When you see the mark of the “Orthodox Union” on food, you can be certain that it is kosher.  It is the mark of excellence, the most respected and trusted symbol in the world when it comes to the kosher assuredness of food.  However — WARNING! — when a synagogue in the United States happens to bear the mark of the “OU” be aware that it very possibly may not fit a proper kosher standard.  That’s right: The Orthodox Union name — when it comes to synagogues — is no guarantee that you are walking into a shul that fits the Orthodox standards that you would take for granted.

This information is surprising but, even more, it is perplexing and upsetting, especially for huge demographic communities of “Modern Orthodox” and “Centrist Orthodox” Jews in the United States.  Imagine: Orthodox Union congregations that are not Orthodox.

Several outlier Orthodox Union congregations — really, the word “shul” does not fit these congregations despite their “OU” moniker and affiliation, so it is better to call them “congregations” — publicly defy the halakhic positions published by the Rabbinical Council of America, the National Council of Young Israel, and even the Orthodox Union itself (!). As one example, those outliers have women rabbis.  In doing so, they easily and quickly signal to the larger community their defiance of the stated position of the Poskim (the halakhic authorities) who have weighed in on the subject, and they similarly thereby signal their rejection of classic Orthodox Mesorah (the essential aspect of Orthodox Judaism that centralizes the importance of adhering to established rabbinic authority). 

Obviously, women have much to offer the Orthodox world.  For goodness sakes, women comprise more than half the Orthodox world.  And Orthodox Judaism, unlike Reform, gives women the single greatest power in all of Judaism: the power to confer the Judaic religion on a person.  Whereas Reform has seized the woman’s power, allowing the Jewish father to marry a non-Jewish woman and still to have the Reform rabbi call their children “Jewish,” and “bar mitzvah” them, Orthodox Judaism — and all those male rabbis of Orthodox Judaism — stands firmly behind the halakhic roots of Torah, Mishnah, and Gemara that define a person’s religion by the mother.  If the mother is Jewish, so is the child.  That is an example of the woman’s authority and power in Torah Judaism. Period.  End of story.

But we all have roles in Judaism.  I am the rabbi of my shul, but I cannot bless my congregation with the holy blessing that the Torah tells us was spoken by G-d.  Only the Kohen (patrilineal descendants of Aaron the Kohen) have that authority.  Judaism assigns certain mitzvot (commandments) to men, others to women.   Meanwhile, the Kohen is forbidden from marrying a divorcee.  So, a Kohen who suddenly finds himself single in his 40s or 50s or 60s — whether because of divorce or having been widowed or never having married — finds himself severely limited in finding a potential life partner.  That is Judaism, where certain roles are assigned, sometimes by dint of birth.

A small sect called “Open Orthodoxy” now exists in America, stemming from the teachings of a small group of radical left theologians.  Their theology is found in their own separatist rabbinic body, the IRF (International Rabbinic Fellowship), a body that now includes women rabbis.  They ordain their male rabbis at YCT (“Chovevei Torah”), and they ordain their female rabbis at “Yeshiva Maharat.”  Their theology extends beyond the public defiance of Orthodox community norms and standards of halakhic practice.  It extends even beyond theology to politics.

There are “Open Orthodox” rabbis who publish on the internet that Israel is the “occupier” and the Arabs are the “occupied.” When President Obama had his United Nations ambassador abstain in the Security Council rather than veto that horrible resolution at the end of his second term in December 2016, the resolution attacking not only Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria but even denying the special place of Jerusalem in Jewish history and identity, the “Open Orthodox” did not join the truly Orthodox organizations of America in condemning the Obama Administration.  Instead, they remained silent or waffled because they refused to speak out against Obama. 

Obama invited one of them to lead a Hannukah program at the White House, and that “Open Orthodox” rabbi used the opportunity to lead the Obamas in singing a church ditty.  (See the link at 8:52)  Another “Open Orthodox” rabbi made a point of bringing his foster child to Santa Claus, and he posted a picture of himself sitting on Santa Claus’s lap, smiling as broadly as any child ever has done when getting to sit on Santa’s lap.  Many of us now call this “Open Orthodox” rabbi “Der Sentaklauser Rebbe.”

“Open Orthodox” rabbis have published attacks on mainstream Orthodox institutions and values in the New York Times, in the Washington PostWall Street Journal, in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), and in Newsweek.  Among them, some have publicly attacked in non-Jewish media the shechita system in the United States, giving anti-Semites ammunition.  Another published a tortuous opinion that denies the requirement for an eruv that permits Jews to carry outdoors on Shabbat — a perfect ruling for anti-Semitic townships and villages who oppose permitting construction of such necessities for the Orthodox community.

One of the “Open Orthodox” rabbis at an Orthodox Union congregation walked his congregation to a “gay bar” immediately as the holiday of Shavuot ended.  There had been a tragic attack in Florida at a homosexuals’ bar, a vicious homophobic hate crime resulting in many horrible deaths, so his response was to bring the congregation to go and visit inside a gay bar.  And, yes, his Orthodox Union congregation also has a full-time woman rabbi on staff.

Several of the “Open Orthodox” rabbis are married to women who publicly have told interviewers for published stories that they either are atheists who do not believe in G-d altogether or are ordained as cantors or as rabbis in the non-Orthodox Reform, Conservative, or Reconstructionist “denominations.”  And there are “Open Orthodox” congregations which celebrate “Gay Marriages,” whether with published announcements of “Mazal Tov” or with announcements at kiddush collations after services.  In one particularly egregious case, an “Open Orthodox” rabbi even published in a major American Jewish weekly his endorsement of intermarriages with non-Jews, citing irresponsbily to the Torah’s statement at the time that G-d created Eve as a spouse for Adam that “it is not good for a man to live alone.”  And the only person whom “Open Orthodoxy” ever ordained to be a Dayan (a rabbinic judge) has published often that he does not believe that Abraham ever existed and questions the truth of wide swaths of Torah narrative.

Another “Open Orthodox” rabbi heading an Orthodox Union congregation published his position that Israel should be willing to negotiate to divide Jerusalem as part of a peace agreement.  The same rabbi, truly a sweet guy as a person, published a widely condemned article demanding that parts of the Siddur (Jewish prayer book) be edited and that terminology stemming from the sages of the Talmud be excised from daily morning prayer because he finds it sexist.  His article was so vitriolic in tone, and disrepesectful to the Sages of the Talmud, that he ultimately found himself forced to take down his own article. 

Yet another “Open Orthodox” rabbi achieved national news coverage when he announced that he had composed a prayer for reciting every Shabbat, praying for President Trump to fail.  The story was picked up not only by general newspapers in America, but was featured in Nazi publications as proof that Jews are not loyal to the country.  A fitting sidebar to his articles attacking the cruelty of Jewish slaughter as practiced in many kosher slaughterhouses in America.

For these and related reasons, a great many mainstream normative Orthodox rabbis and congregations in the United States, myself included, here in America now reject many, if not most, conversions done by “Open Orthodox” rabbis.  When we meet individuals who present themselves as having been “converted” by any of a large number of them, we do not call such people to the Torah, do not invite them to open the ark, and we may not drink wine from an open bottle that such “converts” have touched unless the wine is labeled “mevushal” (a processing that permits drinking wine with non-Jews).  Thus, prospective converts should be warned, too: If the “conversion” is done by an “Open Orthodox” rabbi, be prepared to find that a great many mainstream, normative Centrist Orthodox and Modern Orthodox rabbis will not accept the conversion, will not conduct a marriage later for such a person if he or she wants to marry a Jew, and will not regard the child of a woman” converted” by one of them as Jewish.

Even as the “Open Orthodox” attack the Israel Chief Rabbinate — writing their attacks in the New York Times and elsewhere in America, demanding that Reform “conversions” be treated woith parity to halakhically proper conversions — we actually cannot accept most “Open Orthodox” conversions as kosher.  We treat them with the parity that they deserve alongside Reform “conversions.”  It is not about politics but about Judaism and Torah theology.  We deeply suspect “Open Orthodox” standards because, sadly, we know too many of them whose standards we absolutely reject — inasmuch as they have rejected the standards of Torah and mesorah.  And the fact that such a rabbi practices alongside a woman rabbi at an Orthodox Union congregation changes none of that.

So, when you buy Heinz baked beans and see that “OU” sign of kosher, trust it completely.  But, alas, do not assume that an “Orthodox Union” congregation is a shul you can trust or that its rabbi meets the Orthodox standard you would exepect.  Most are of the highest standard, but too many are full of beans.

This article first appeared in Israel National News / Arutz-7.

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86 Responses

  1. micha berger says:

    This article makes some strong points. A willingness to minimize the prohibitions of intermarriage or homosexuality, ordain women as rabbis, willing to engage in Christian customs like Santa’s lap… these are all definitionally non-Orthodox.

    Unfortunately, they are watered down by objections that don’t rise to the level of turning the institution into a non-shul.

    But there is no religious obligation to believing that Palestinians are not living under occupation. Especially since the same article makes it clear that the land isn’t occupied, so Jewish ties to Eretz Yisrael are not being denied. (And many Chassidim deny that we should be expressing those ties in the current era. Are they also non-Orthodox?) Is holding on to “East Jerusalem” (sic) one of the 13 articles of our faith? Or supporting President Trump? And saying there is more than one definition of qabbalas ol mitzvos and qabbalas ol malkhus shamayim (accepting the yoke of mitzvos and or the reign of [the One in] heaven) as required as a prerequisite for conversion isn’t supporting Reform Conversion.

    Publishing these positions in non-Jewish or non-Orthodox venues is more odious than having these positions, but that too is not sufficient grounds for throwing someone out of the Orthodox tent.

    Could we please keep the discussion to the actual lack of fealty to Torah uMitzvos expressed or exemplified by some more visible members of the “Open Orthodox” camp, and not make the mistake of only accepting Jews who agree with our politics?

  2. Aaron Emet says:

    There seems to be a flurry of these OU/Open Orthodoxy articles over the last few weeks. One gets the impression that the OU has decided not to act and many rebbeim are hoping to publically shame them into action.

    • Robert says:

      The question is why the OU has not yet acted. Perhaps trying the let the shuls save face by leaving on their own or not renewing their shul affiliation with the OU (which I assume is an annual membership or affiliation).

      • dr. bill says:

        or perhaps they fear many other shuls leaving in protest and perhaps even forming a post-modern association of shuls. few chareidi shuls are members despite the employment of an overwhelmingly charedi staff by the kashrut division.

        that satmar and the OU meet on kashrut issues despite current affiliations might help distinguish living in the real world from the one some might want to see evolve.

      • Robert says:

        The Reform and Conservative movements themselves have demonstrated that the “big tent” approach doesn’t work to strengthen Judaism, just the opposite. . The OU has drawn its line in the sand, and it risks its reputation and future by not enforcing it. If they don’t kick out shuls risking some others leaving in protest, then shuls on the right might eventually leave the OU for more uniform hashkafic pastures. The barn door has been opened; it only remains to be seen which horses leave.

      • Reb Yid says:

        Ours might eventually leave although we are not one of ‘4’.

        The other elephant in the room is that many shuls have no need or use for the OU. Ours certainly does not—used to ask at board meetings what we got for our membership dues and the answer is nothing.

  3. lacosta says:

    1— in the LA case, maybe the fault lays with the nearby MO synagogues , who do not choose to ostracize the temple led by the disciple of avi weiss. this means their leaders see no danger there, and are willingly blurring the lines..
    2—- maybe it will take a boycott of products with an OU , or the mostly haredi employees of said kashrus division, to force the weak and unprincipled leadership of the other divisions to declare if they truly believe in mesorah , or pay it just lip service….

    • micha berger says:

      I don’t think OU Kashrus is mostly chareidi.

      But in any case, you’d be punishing the manufacturer first. It’s only after they feel a pinch on their bottom lines that any of them would change their relationship with the OU. And then you’d have to hit enough manufacturers that the OU would be forced to acknowledge a pattern. This is so far removed from punishing the people who actually have the problem, it’s pointless.

      • lacosta says:

        it may be true what you say, but it seems that the YCT four somehow have a mystical hold over the OU –stronger than any daas tora [which MO doesn’t believe in anyway]. maybe publicity of a boycott could mobilize support. more likely , if the MO street even knows about this, they probably don’t care.
        now if Harvard or Penn would announce no O students accepted, that would get their blood running…

      • micha says:

        How exactly does this article justify an anti-Mod-O screed?

        For that matter, how does moderation policy?

        The whole reason why Open Orthodoxy exists is because today’s Modern Orthodoxy is closer to chareidism than ever before, leaving a hole where the old left wing used to affiliate. So stop with this “they care more about ivy league than Torah” nonsense. It’s rude, untrue, and undermines your point with partisanship.

      • lacosta says:

        1— this haredi oriented site absolutely allows pointing out the faults of MO

        2— the question is less why avi weiss began the YCT-OO voyage, and more why there is no border that his movement considers unacceptable- which rabbis fisher and gordimer repeatedly point out here

        3— i don’t think well documented praxy and doxy characteristics of much of MO can be dismissed as ‘nonsense’ . where in the extensive Pew data does one see this to be untrue?

        4— the haredi community has long discounted MO as either watered down judaism , untethered with no leadership [something akin to their ‘daas tora’ ], and caring more about the Modern than the Orthodoxy . can anyone doubt that that describes a large left wedge of MO ?

        5—i understand r micha, that you would rather keep the LW parents in institutions nominally O. but doesn’t data show that their children are already trending C , if not worse ? at least in the LA example , there is probably overlap between the LW Bnai David, and the C Beth Am that they partner with . I will grant you that if the former closes down , a portion of that institution will just drive over to Beth Am 15 blocks away. it also features some women clergy….

      • Robert says:

        Strictly speaking, it’s not about YCT, but rather all of “liberal” orthodoxy in general, including YCT, Yeshivat Maharat, left-wing of RCA/OU, and fellow travelers in Israel. NCYI has already laid down the law and enforces it; the OU has nominally drawn a line in the sand, but continues to allowing transgressions of that line and refuses to prosecute past transgressors. Something’s gotta give eventually.

      • lacosta says:

        i don’t know if there is data on who the employees of kashrus division are . the only kashrus personnel i know personally are hassidic hareidi. one could say OU hechsher is non haredi ONLY in the sense that they certify non-halav yisrael products , but then again some more overtly haredi hechshers [like OK and chof K ] do also….

    • Robert says:

      Ostracizing a temple, shul, or congregation doesn’t exactly help achdut and ahavat yisrael. I suspect many or most individual congregants are ambivalent about the left-wing push by the elite: the noisy machers, board members, and their spouses at their own synagogues. Boards of directors of incorporated congregations nominate or hire rabbis who fit their hashkafas. It’s not the rabbis who are the source of the problem. It’s the grassroots people of OO/JOFA and (not-so) frum types who don’t value Torah over secular priorities. I don’t think Rabbi Avi Weiss and his disciples lead people astray as much as their followers are already disaffected or inclined that way and seek a rabbi who justifies and validates their “feelings” instead of ruling based on Torah, Halacha, and Mesorah.

  4. Nissan Antine says:

    There is so much to say about this article but I just want to make one important correction for the Cross Currents readership. Rabbi Fischer says that the “outlier” shuls are acting in “defiance” of the OU and its poskim. I can only speak for my shul (I am a rabbi of a shul that employs a female spiritual leader) but I suspect that this might be true for other shuls as well. We did nothing in “defiance” of the OU’s psak. The hiring took place before the psak. Now that the psak has been published, I believe that hiring female spiritual leadership is 100% within the confines of the psak. The OU psak takes great strides to try to carve out appropriate opportunities for female spiritual leadership in the context of shuls. This in addition to the OU’s new Depart of Women’s Initiatives will provide wonderful advancement for women’s leadership within the context of Orthodoxy. We are all on the same team here.
    Thank you for giving me the opportunity to correct the false narrative that is sometimes accepted by both sides with the only argument being whether or not to support the OU Psak. The reality is that women’s spiritual leadership is 100% in line with the OU psak.

    • Dov Fischer says:

      If you cannot grasp how having a “female spiritual leader” (your words) at your congregation frontally violates and forthrightly defies the published Psak of the Orthodox Union’s panel of leading Torah authorities, I am bemused enough to respond only that you must have been ordained at Chovevei Torah.

      Surely you have read this news item about your congregation:

      So let’s understand this: “Just Don’t Call Her Rabbi.” Really? That is the game? “Just don’t call her ‘rabbi’” — rather, call her “female spiritual leader” — and then no one else will be able to figure out what is going on? Really? For shame!

      I hope that, as a matter of full and honest disclosure and ethical justice, you advise prospective converts being converted by Open Orthodox rabbis, with or without their IRF “female spiritual leaders” participating, that large segments of the American Centrist Orthodox and Modern Orthodox communities do not regard them as Jewish, will not marry them to Jews, and will not regard children of such female converts as Jews. And that includes conversions being done by several rabbis in your Beltway Vaad.

      • Nissan Antine says:

        Rabbi Fischer,
        Thank you for linking the article for the Cross Currents Readership. I hope everyone reads the actual quotes in the article. I assume that you understand that the article was written by a journalist who chose the headline without my knowledge. If you read my actual quotes you will very much see that our female spiritual leader has many overlapping but also different roles than a rabbi. She does not lead davening, lein, sit on a bet din or do anything that women are not allowed to do according to halacha. But there are also things that I, as a male, cannot do like guide women in Taharas Hamishpacha and give a grieving female congregants a hug and emotional/spiritual guidance.
        While I (following poskim that I rely on) do not necessarily agree with every aspect of the OU psak, I do believe that overall it is an important document that will enhance women’s spiritual leadership roles in Orthodoxy in a halachically acceptable way. I do believe that our shul is acting in compliance with the psak.
        As far as conversion goes, I do advise any potential convert that I work with of the lay of the land in terms of where there might be challenges of acceptance. The converts then make their own decision.

      • Ben says:

        ‘like guide women in Taharas Hamishpacha and give a grieving female congregants a hug and emotional/spiritual guidance’
        Ah, you mean a rebbetzen? I think that role is already old and well established.

      • Ben Waxman says:

        “Ah, you mean a rebbetzen? I think that role is already old and well established.”

        If the role already exists what is the problem if a woman (who isn’t necessarily a rebbetzin (or even if she is)) takes a two year course and backs up this role with real book knowledge?

      • Robert says:

        I’m curious why you say you can’t guide a woman in TH? It might not be as easy for you as for your rebbetzin, but don’t you still have some kind responsibility to guide a woman if she comes to you? Or do you shy away from such responsibility? It may well indeed be awkward, difficult, and uncomfortable for both the rabbi and the woman who seeks such guidance, but it is no less permissible and kind of you to provide such guidance, correct? Am Yisrael survived thousands of years and bore millions of children before female rabbis, clergy, and “spiritual leadership”, and in fact, those communities without such female leadership are growing faster than OO and Modern Orthodoxy in general. The OO crowd may have created a solution in search of a problem. It might be assuaging mainly those already alienated form Torah because they value the secular over the holy.

      • Ben Waxman says:

        Robert would you tell a woman that she should go to a male gynecologist? Forget the exam, just to consult about her menstrual issues, a priori she should go to a male doctor?

        This is a semi-rhetorical question because many, many poskim tell women (and men) to use a doctor of their own gender in these types of issues. But do you feel differently and think that a woman is obligated to use a male doctor?

      • lacosta says:

        at least give him credit for being brave [brazen? ] enough to respond here.

        when people look back at jewish history in 100 years and wonder what it must have been like as a new branch of non-orthodox judaism was created , we would be able to tell them . at least some were brave enough to stand and say ‘ i protest’ , futile as it may be…

    • Bob Miller says:

      This ought to prompt more investigation into about the “OU psak” and all its underlying considerations. If OU indeed gave a green light to the wrong sort of innovations, that’s a problem in itself.

      • dr. bill says:

        it clearly did. but why you consider a halakhic pesak a problem is a more fundamental issue. pesak evolves – bas mitzvah parties, yoatzot halakha, a women toenet in an Israeli BD, etc. were all not traditionally sanctioned. in recent years they have become acceptable and according to some poskim even strongly encouraged.

    • Robert says:

      Depends on how you define “women’s spiritual leadership”. It IS a matter of semantics, as Rabbi Fischer hints below. I suspect it’s a bit different at each of the shuls in question. Which goes to the point of the OU psak: some degree of uniformity for the OU “brand”. Where does the slippery slope start and end? If “women’s spiritual leadership” is OK, however defined, what about the “partnership minyans” desired by the same crowd pushing for female leadership? The moving of boundaries will never stop, as history teaches in matters of religion, politics, economics, ethics, etc. The lessons of the Reform and Conservative movements have not been learned by some, it seems. The “big tent” approach simply doesn’t work in the long term. What are the career options for the women when they top out at the equivalent of permanent assistant rabbis? Will their personal hashkafas change and drive them to non-OU shuls, minyans, chavuras? There is hashkafa, and there is policy. You don’t have to be OU to claim to be “orthodox”. I’m reminded that Groucho Marx once joked, “I’d never join any club that would have me as a member”. Why would a shul comprising members who plainly seek to defy the OU or delude themselves into an unintended interpretation of the psak want to remain in the OU? It’s not the OU that is creating the problem, but rather only responding to it.

  5. Gershon Josephs says:

    “Many of us now call this “Open Orthodox” rabbi “Der Sentaklauser Rebbe.”

    So let me get this straight. ‘Many’ Orthodox Rabbis mock other Rabbis who they consider to be less (or not) Orthodox by coining silly nicknames and this is supposed to impress us? For shame. I don’t think I would want to attend your shul if you consider that appropriate behavior for a Rabbi.

    • Dov Fischer says:

      I come from a hashkafah that one mocks avodah zarah and the like, going back to the days of Eliyahu at Har Carmel mocking the priests of baal. I have no problem being denigrated for mocking a rabbi who gleefully sits on Santa’s lap.

      • Aryeh Wiener says:

        So your role model is the navi whose uncompromising overzealousness led to Hashem to force him into early retirement?

  6. Bob Miller says:

    Be an educated consumer of religious goods and services. The task is made easier by the publicity hounds among the not-so-Orthodox.

  7. Akiva Weisinger says:

    Re: Dividing Jerusalem as part of a peace agreement

    I wasn’t aware Rav Soloveitchik and R. Ovadia Yosef were Open Orthodox

  8. Well said. Sad and frustrating but needs to be said over and over again.

  9. Shades of Gray says:

    R. Tzvi Hersh  Weinreb was recently interviewed in Ami Magazine(1/3/18), and he said that the OU was trying to work out an agreement with the 4 shuls so that the OU would not be forced to expel them. Around the same time, the Jewish Heritage Center had a panel discussion where R. Moshe Bane of the OU  eschewed painting with a broad brush all members of a group as “Open Orthodox” , and also drew an analogy between an OTD child who sits at a Shabbos table respectfully, as opposed to a child who  courts  others to be mechalel Shabbos(“JHC Lights Chinese Auction”, 1:02:00).

    In that vein, in a recent Torah in Motion program(“State of the Community: Rabbinic Reflections on Modern Orthodoxy” 10/28/17, 1:12:00), R. Daniel Korobkin compared the issue to shuls with microphones which were grandfathered in by the OU, and where the OU gently and subtly worked with them(the recent Nishma Research survey on Modern Orthodoxy and Bible Criticism is also discussed there  at 27:00).  

    On the other hand, in a Jewish Press article last week, R. Yerachmiel Seplowitz , distinguished between non-mechitzah shuls which the OU grandfathered in  and the Maharat issue,  in that the rabbis in the OU congregations who tolerated mixed services did so because they felt they didn’t have the power to enforce the halacha, rather than believing that mixed seating was a desideratum.

    • Bob Miller says:

      “…R. Moshe Bane of the OU eschewed painting with a broad brush all members of a group as ‘Open Orthodox’.”

      As I understand from my own experience, both individuals and synagogues can be OU members. Once a synagogue is bounced from the OU for just cause or openly put on probation, aren’t the individual memberships of their congregants left as-is?

      As for the problem synagogues, does their retention in the OU depend on what they are, what they are likely to become, or on who in the power structure protects them? If we classified their non-halachic or anti-halachic activities as “abuse”, we might look at the matter differently. Organizations have become much less willing to ignore other types of abuse by the well-connected.

      • Shades of Gray says:

        R. Bane was responding to a general question of relating to Open Orthodox rabbis, rather than to the question of shuls with Maharats remaining in the OU. See  58:45 in link below to the symposium from the  Jewish Heritage Center:

        The Torah in Motion symposium  I referenced  is  also available online(free download after you register).

        R. Yair Hoffman discussed the OU’s dilemma last month in the Five Towns Jewish Times:

        “There are two schools of thought as to how the OU should handle the matter. Some believe that Open Orthodoxy has proven itself to be a schismatic movement in that they have time and time again rejected Torah perspectives for the politically correct social trends such as women Rabbis, same gender marriages, rejection of the traditional understanding of Mashiach and many other points. They believe that the OU should quite simply cut off ties.

        Others believe that cutting off ties will create a fifth movement within Judaism, and will inadvertently cause greater growth to this movement. There is also the issue that if the OU breaks off ties with the shuls that regularly release statements that are antithetical to Torah thought, the associated kiruv programs such as NCSY will no longer be able to reach its natural constituents.”

        Perhaps  the PORAT(“People for Orthodox Renaissance and Torah”) inaugural conference in May, 2016 in KJ was an attempt to show the grass roots appeal  of Open Orthodoxy.

      • Bob Miller says:

        When you don’t want to do something, you can always find reasons. Sometimes it’s better to have serious divisions be external rather than internal. As for NCSY, if it can only engage kids belonging to OU shuls, it should broaden its approach.

      • Robert says:

        Cutting off the OO leaning crowd May indeed initially cause a another movement to have rapid growth. But mainly from those already leaning that way. Rapid initial growth of the Conservative movement hasn’t prevented it from becoming irrelevant as a distinct hashkafa. Holding the line on Torah, mitzvos, and mesorah which emphasize large families is the only way to assure growth in halachicalky Jewish population.

      • Reb Yid says:

        The big difference between the C movement growth and the current one is that it’s not just the rabbis who are Shomer Shabbat. It is by and large an observant educated and active laity.

    • dr. bill says:

      many/most non-mechitza shuls relied on the bravest and most controversial heter given by Rav Dovid Regensberg ztl. in retrospect, almost all shuls that relied on the heter turned orthodox or closed. A former president of the RCA, Rabbi Matansky is the rabbi in the NOW mechitzah shul in WRP called KINS. Many, despite (some) mixed sitting – some had his/hers/family – housed successful NCSY programs, including bnai david in Southfield rumored to have the largest NCSY under rabbi Dolan ztl. it would take more chutzpah than even whoever to try to expel that shul from the OU.

      but now the pendulum has swung right. however, i have an emunah not entirely peshutah, that a strong counter-weight is slowly emerging – not yet in the US, but by Beit Hillel, Tzohar, yeshivat har gilboa, har etzion/migdal oz, some fabulous young rabbonim in vibrant (largely israeli) parts of jerusalem, etc. in Israel. academic talmud, halakha and tanach are thriving, producing a cadre of gedolim. ki mitzion taytze torah is happening.

      in the US, YCT is hogging much too much oxygen that would better go to other efforts.

      • lacosta says:

        i am not sure that long term those models in israel will succeed in breaking the large dropoff –the Datlashism that the army engenders. one can say that much of the DL community youth/young couples are going further left [ as the kisuyei rosh for both genders continue to shrink] . are you sure this left lean won’t just create the non-O model that Israel has lacked?

      • dr. bill says:

        like the OTD statistics about students in secular colleges in the US, your supposed impact of the IDF is just an urban myth. the israeli groups i mentioned, in addition to the rightward shift of the israeli conservative/mesorati movement, will create strong alternatives to the current chareidi approach. though happening bottom-up, not lead by its gedolim, askanim, politicoes, etc. the chareidi tzibbur show multiple signs of embracing elements of modernity. i think the future for Israel is very bright.

      • lacosta says:

        urban myth maybe your opinion . the percent of OTD , datlash, and DL-extra lite is not deniable. here is a project for current data on the US wastage of MO youth —

        i will let the readers imagine what the percentages of ‘tearing toilet paper’ or smartphone shabbo use ‘ is in other derided branches of judaism….

      • tzippi says:

        Dr. bill, you wrote, “Many, despite (some) mixed sitting – some had his/hers/family – housed successful NCSY programs, including bnai david in Southfield rumored to have the largest NCSY under rabbi Dolan ztl. it would take more chutzpah than even whoever to try to expel that shul from the OU.”

        Bnai David is history. It’s now a Shriner’s hall, and it was not mainstream since at least the mid 80s.

      • lacosta says:

        isn’t it ironic then that the LA congregation in question is also Bnai David….

      • dr. bill says:

        halevi their youth programs are as successful. the list of kids who became frum as a result of bnai david’s ncsy is a testament to its effectiveness.

      • RKZ says:

        As an Israeli, I have to correct that statement. Indeed, there is a strong protest against the mistake and dangerous excesses of Beit Hillel etc., both by the gedolim of the RZ community and by younger Rabbis. All the groups that you mentioned have not produced any gedolim, and I do not see any change coming.

      • dr. bill says:

        really? in beit hillel one who is often considered RAL ztl’s greatest talmid and the MO world’s acknowledged expert on Kodshim/Taharot (among other areas) is not a gadol? one of the women listed is a baki in all 4 chalakim of SA and Shut; I can go on. you should attend a gemara class by prof. brody. on the masorati side, prof. weiss-halivni lives in yerushalayim; i do not think there many comparable to him in any jewish group.

      • rkz says:

        A. The acknowledged experts on Kodshim/Taharot that I Know do not belong to beit hillel. However, WADR to RAL ztl, AFAIK none of his talmidim is considered to be a gadol by the torani RZ community (not very surprising considering the relevant ages. Perhaps in the future, but not those representing the LW gush-side)
        B. A woman can not be a gadol, even if she has great bekiut (and I know the discussion about Devorah HaNeviah, but leHalacha it is irrelevant)
        C. Prof. Brody is certainly an important academic, but that has nothing to do with being a gadol (If any one in the academic world is relevant to the discussion it is Rabbi Prof. David Henshke, and even he is not a gadol, as he is not a posek)
        D. Weiss-halivni is a rather lightweight figure (as far as I heard from my teachers. I have a phd in Talmud)

      • Steve Brizel says:

        The woman who you so described wasnt her book reviewed a number of years ago by R Bechofer and found to emphasizing gender and feminism and short on halachic analysis?

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Look who isnt associated-RY T Rimon.

      • dr. bill says:

        frankly, we have different opinions. find out who helped design TLV to avoid tumat meis issues. prof. brody’s gemara shiur may be the highest level gemara shiur in yerushalayim. calling prof. weiss-halivni a lightweight, is helpful in evaluating your viewpoint/biases.

        i appreciate that in the current torah world, age has become a prerequisite to be called a gadol. by that criterion the Remah or the magen avrahaham had no chance, having died too early. In a very well known case, RSZA ztl sent a young person to a much younger posek who could better identify with her. kach hi darka shel torah. The Rav ztl was under 30, when RADKS, the rov of kovne, wrote in his semicha, halakha komosoh bechol davar.

      • Robert says:

        R. Weiss Halivni is a great intellect, without doubt. But wither his Union for Traditional Judaism? There is a difference between knowledge and influence.

      • dr. bill says:

        steve brizel, the only other people involved in beit hillel are the SIL and daughter of the two founding RY ztl. the RY, other ramim, and rav rimon are not involved as far as i know.

      • dr. bill says:

        Robert, you are correct. prof. halivni’s UTJ is an utter failure, at least in the US. However, the masorati movement in Israel is moving right and growing; i do not know his personal level of involvement. Interestingly, all but one of prof. Lieberman’s famous student settled in Israel. some blended into a DL lifestyle; one edited seforim found in almost every charedi BM. I assume the conservative movement in the US became increasingly intolerable.

      • Reb Yid says:

        In terms of UTJ. The reason that it failed was because it was a rabbinic driven organization. There was next to nothing at the congregational or lay level.

      • rkz says:

        Dr. Bill. What is the source that the (so-called) Masorti movement is moving right and growing in Israel?

      • dr. bill says:

        rkz, my source of their move to the right are the responsa of their leaders, who have negated some of the absurd responsa of the American conservative movement. some individual rabbis in the movement have abandoned their US home and are vocal critiques of conservative policy. and finally, individuals who would not be caught dead in an American conservative movement, are proud members of the israeli masorati movement.

        recent polling has shown significant gains among israelis.

      • rkz says:

        I thank you for the detailed response. AFAIK, the polling data is not very conclusive, as more in-depth research has shown that much of the “gains” are a secular Israelis who have not joined the Masorti movement (as they call themselves here), but chose to describe themselves as “Masorti”, as an anti-orthodox “statement”.
        As far as a rightward move, are you referring to Dr. Golinkin?

    • Lawrence M. Reisman says:

      About 30 years ago, I spoke to a senior OU official about mixed seating congregations and the OU. He told me that the OU was no longer accepting mixed seating congregations as members, and was subtly trying to get those with mixed seating to separate. One interesting compromise, which I’m told is quite prevalent in both Chicago and Denver, is to have “basement” minyanim in mixed seating congregations which are separate seating. A friend familiar with Chicago told me that most of the mixed and “traditional: congregations had such minyanim, and that nearly all the younger members davened in such minyanim. In Denver, the rabbi of one “traditional” congregation starting davening in the basement minyan as soon as he retired.

      Hopefully, the problem will resolve itself with the passage of time.

      • dr. bill says:

        as i noted, the slope was not slippery and without real OU influence most shuls turned orthodox or closed. i am uninformed and uninterested by the few straggelers that remained

  10. Michael Felsenthal says:

    Re R. Kanefsky’s article on “dividing” Jerusalem, I would suggest the author actually read his article beyond the headline

  11. Raymond says:

    I have long felt that non-Orthodox Jewish movements have ever right to believe as they do. My only real objection to them, is that they still call their movements Jewish. To me, this is a gross misrepresentation worthy of a lawsuit. Reform Judaism, for example, should just be honest and rename themselves something like Radical Leftists.

    Far far worse, though, are the Open Orthodox, as they have the utter nerve to call themselves Orthodox. And if that were not bad enough, some of them even call themselves Modern Orthodox. I have long identified with Modern Orthodox Judaism, which is a completely legitimate form of Judaism, with some people even saying that the great Rav Joseph Soloveitchik was its leader. Whether that is accurate or not (I happen to think that he was really Chareidi), the point is, to put him in the same group as the Open Orthodox, is just so wrong on so many levels. From the sound of what the Open Orthodox believe, perhaps a more honest name to call themselves is something like New Age Radicals.

    • Bob Miller says:

      Wait a minute! At Sinai, did we hear, “These are My recommendations but think and do whatever moves you”?
      Did some of us avoid being under that “mountain” overhead? A Jew who professes some alternative religion like socialism or libertarianism remains a Jew.

      • Raymond says:

        Well, of course anybody born Jewish remains Jewish forever. But that is quite different than a given religious institution calling themselves Jewish. For a shul to be truly Jewish, it needs to follow the guidelines of the Code of Jewish Law. Any deviation from that, is that many steps away from Judaism.

        I recently came across a quote attributed to David ben-Gurion, in which he supposedly said that anybody who feels Jewish, is Jewish. I had not realized that David ben-Gurion was a posek, but he sure was not a very good one, as that statement completely violates actual Jewish law.

      • Bob Miller says:

        It follows that Jews of all sorts (we, too!) should be encouraged to improve Jewishly, and not deliberately left as-is.

        Institutions dedicated to the wrong things deserve no such concern, unless their change for the better is a real possibility and not a convenient, comforting illusion. Even in that case, we need to call them what they now are.

      • Robert says:

        There is a difference between the state of being a Jew according to Torah and practicing Judaism according to Torah

    • lacosta says:

      please look at this data and decide what percent of MO youth of today would be defined as such in 10-20 years…..

      • Steve Brizel says:

        In the long run expulsion is an irrelevant procedural and tactical issue. The real elephant in the room are the above survey results which require serious discussion especially by those in MO who minimize apologize or refuse to offer critiques of OO and engage in either Charedi bashing or Charedi hunting within theMO world.

      • Raymond says:

        I am not entirely clear what your point is. If your point is that the Open Orthodox are ideologically compatible with Modern Orthodox, I have to completely disagree with you. Modern Orthodox Judaism is one of the forms of authentic Torah Judaism, while Open Orthodoxy is clearly an illegitimate movement away from Judaism. But if your point is more subtle than that, namely that even Modern Orthodox Judaism in and of itself, that is, the old fashioned kind as championed by Rav Soloveitchik, is a less effective form of Judaism across the generations than is Chareidi Judaism, then for me that becomes a far more complicated issue, as there are legitimate reasons for choosing Modern Orthodox Judaism as one’s expression of being Jewish. I am thinking here specifically of one’s survival. If one totally immerses oneself into the Torah world, completely ignoring the secular world, then one can hardly make a living or survive at all in the outside world. It would seem to me that before we worry about what effects our lifestyles have on generations to come, that we first have to figure out a way for ourselves to survive in this world.

      • Robert says:

        There is a lot of baggage associated with the phrase “Modern Orthodoxy”. Many use it as excuse to not attend minyanim daily, to eat dairy at non-kosher restaurants, to not cover their hair, to dress provocatively, all because “I grew up ‘Modern Orthodox’ and that’s what my parents did”. A hashkafa is not reflected in which shul you pay membership fees to. It’s in what you do (or not).

      • Steve Brizel says:

        There is much.anecdotal evidence available which you can observe at simchos in shuls and attitudes conveyed in homes and objective results in surveys that wouldtend to support this observation. The real issue is the future vitality of MO

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Far too many who define themselves as.MO rarely if ever open a sefer but are all too quick to engae in Charedi bashing and Charedi hunting especially within the MO world.

      • lacosta says:

        the statistics would tend to indicate that a wide swath of MO youth will be practicing something either less or different [ C,R, ? ] than what their parents did….

      • Steve Brizel says:

        IMO hashkafic self definitions ae increasingly bordering on the irrelevant. For anyone not immersed totally in the Torah world iMO the only option that isa lchatchilah way is that of the learner-earner.

  12. Glatt some questions says:

    I’m curious … which halachic issues are OK for the OU to allow individual member synagogues to decide for themselves about, and which ones aren’t OK? Where are the red lines? Is it OK for an OU shuls to have a more liberal kashrut standard in terms of what food is acceptable to be brought into the shul? Is it OK for an OU shul to decide on its own to have a women’s tefila group? Is it OK for an OU shul to allow women to dance with the Torah on Simchat Torah? If so, why is the hiring of a female clergy member different?

    • Raymond says:

      i am pretty sure that the final decider of Jewish law is our Code of Jewish Law.

    • Robert says:

      We all have free will, and every rabbi can pasken for his own (not “her” own) shul. That doesn’t make their psak halachically valid for the majority, yet some of the OO crowd think they have the gadlut to pasken for all of Am Yisrael instead of for their small crowd of groupies who hold secular values like feminism and LBGTQism above Torah

      • Glatt some questions says:

        I don’t think OO shul rabbis are interested in paskening for all of Am Yisrael, nor do they want to pasken for the majority. And their female clergy members are not paskening anything…they simply are serving clerical dues such as pastoral visits and teaching classses. The Open Orthodox shuls simply want to make a decision for what they think is best for their individual shul–and still be considered within the tent of Orthodoxy and not have to worry about the OU throwing them out of its organization. And I pointed out that there are already many Orthodox shuls that have a variety of practices that relate to halacha on other issues, yet the OU is not throwing them out.

      • Robert says:

        Some of them have paskened and opined in public forums for all on matters of conversion, gender roles, and other areas declaring unilaterally that certain things are muttar and even arguing publicly with non-OO Rabbis on such matters. In other forums and media, some have explicitly expressed their desire to change Halacha and Orthodoxy in general, not just pasken for their own shuls. This is not done by all OO or YCT rabbis, but the YCT and OO leadership have either endorsed such views and rulings by the rabbis in question or condoned the views and rulings by not joining the arguments against such views.

  13. Chava Rubin says:

    If you take a careful look at the Maharat website, you will see that many of the students and alumni there are not religiously observant. Look at their biographical sketches and you will often read about women studying and working in educational institutions which are not kosher hashkafically. So how can the majority of these women serve as teachers in an Orthodox shul when their beliefs and personal levels of observance clearly conflict with religious jewish values and are often spewing what is clearly apikorsus and provocative views ?
    As Rabbi Shmuel Landesman wrote in an excellent article about 2 years ago on CC Yeshiva Maharat doesn’t produce frum women.

    • lacosta says:

      maybe ultimately the question will be whether either Maharat or YCT will be able to create an entity that is NOT identical with classical C judaism—-but maybe their clientele is going that way anyway, and maybe theologically so are these OO clergy….

  14. I wonder which group is doing more to promote awareness of Open Orthodoxy – the YCT crowd or the authors at Cross Currents?

  15. Steve Brizel says:

    One can seriously ask whether caving into the demands of feminists will lead to the next generation of MO becoming less or more observant.

  16. Steve Brizel says:

    Someone commented here orvon another thread re NCSY and its programs . NCSY doesnot limit irs programs solely to teens from. Orthodox shuls. Look at its websitefor its wide variety of programs.

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