Open Orthodoxy Update, Parshas Tetzaveh

A Note from the Editors:

Rabbi Ysoscher Katz, Chair of the Department of Talmud at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (YCT), has declared that “the war is over!” Is it necessary, then, to continue to highlight the deviations of Open Orthodoxy from observant Judaism?

Unfortunately, yes. Over the past 18 years, Open Orthodox institutions have ordained over 100 clergy, men and women. Their influence is felt across the globe in many Jewish communities, and they passionately claim to represent authentic Orthodoxy.

Furthermore, their leaders have made similar declarations in the past. In 1998, while discussing a “communal” leadership role for women, Rabbi Avi Weiss underscored that women cannot be rabbis (regardless of their title), saying that ordaining women has “Halachic problems.” Barely 10 years later, he founded an institution to ordain women.

So it would be naïve in the extreme to imagine that they would genuinely stop here. When Rabbi Gordimer stopped writing updates of this nature, it was after the Agudah termed Open Orthodoxy “not a form of Torah Judaism,” the Conference of European Rabbis had called out its “deviations from our religious foundations” and proclaimed YCT graduates not to be rabbis, and the Rabbinic Council of America rejected the idea of women rabbis (as Rabbi Weiss himself did in 1998). Rabbi Gordimer hoped that organizations like the Orthodox Union would similarly condemn OO excesses, and indeed they did — but Open Orthodox leaders continued unabated.

There is quite enough criticism of other Jews, both fair and unfair, in our community. But it is our responsibility to stand up for Judaism, something which Open Orthodoxy is not. You can take an unpopular idea and give it so much attention that people become inured to it and come to accept it — unless there is a countervailing force to offset it. We do not routinely publish articles about the latest deviations of the Reform and Conservative movements, because none in our community confuse them with Halachic Judaism.

As Open Orthodoxy continues to attempt to influence Orthodoxy and Judaism as a whole, it is beneficial to periodically update the community regarding the latest actions of this movement. Our real hope is that their adherents and even their leaders will recognize that they have not, in Katz’s words, “stretched [Halacha] to its outer progressive limits,” but transgressed well over the line, and return to the path of true Jewish continuity and “progress” through history, the path of Torah.

It is for this reason that Rabbi David Rosenthal is joining us to provide these necessary if regrettable updates. The author of “Why Open Orthodoxy is Not Orthodox,” he has great familiarity with the goings on within that new movement, and is able to underscore for us where the problems are most visible. We are grateful to him for his service to the community.

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38 Responses

  1. Bob Miller says:

    I don’t expect groups this dedicated to mischief to take the delayed-action OU threats seriously.

    • Benjamin says:

      To be fair, literally the only thing the OU got mad at them for was basically using the title “rabbi” for their female clergy. For all of the jobs and tasks the women actually perform – learning and teaching Torah, being a communal leader, having a title, getting paid as a communal leader, having a meaningful role in davening – the OU statement actually explicitly supported all of those (see pp. 8-9). So to the extent the OU is “threatening” them for doing something so out of bounds, they actually were quite clear that they were totally cool with the actual substance of what these learned women are doing…they just don’t want them to be technically known as clergy. Do everything clergy does – just fine, though.

      So…having these women working at the shul makes them “dedicated to mischief”? Only if the OU is also apparently dedicated to mischief, I think.

  2. Noam Stadlan says:

    Sad to see this site lose it’s last shred of credibility. While I disagreed frequently with many of the authors here, there frequently were points of agreement or at least shared basis for discussion. Now it is all dogma and attacks. I wish you all health and happiness, but not hatzlacha because you are trying to tear apart the Orthodox community and one should not wish hatzlacha to those who are hell bent on doing that.

    • I for one will be sorry to see you go. We disagreed far more often than we ever agreed, but I always respected (and will continue to do so!) your integrity and the consistency of your thinking – which, again, I must reject. I don’t find the word “dogma” to be problematic for traditional Judaism. I wish you well!

    • Raymond says:

      Before you (Noam Stadlan) go, please consider the following. I myself, if I were fully religious, would probably gravitate toward living according to the most lenient halachic opinions within Orthodox Judaism. I figure life itself is challenging enough, without making it even more difficult. However, even somebody with the mindset which I just described, has to draw the line somewhere, and when I read that book called Why Open Orthodoxy is not Orthodox, I was so shocked and appalled by what I read, that I had to henceforth consider that movement to be completely illegitimate, not within the bounds of Torah law at all. Perhaps you yourself have a line past which you would not go either. Please consider that that is all that we are doing here in rejecting Open Orthodoxy. We wish to protect our many thousands of years of Jewish traditions. Perhaps instead of looking at all this as if you are an outsider, you might consider trying to see things from within permissible lines, that is, within traditional Judaism. If you did that, you might have a change of heart.

      • dr. bill says:

        if the moderators allowed my point by point counter to only four of the items listed, perhaps your mind would be changed. written with the intent to imply things yet worse while maintaining plausible deniability is not how we should strive to express ourselves.

      • Raymond says:

        I have no idea what you just said. Can you restate things in simpler language so that simple-minded people like me can have at least a chance at understanding what you are trying to say here?

    • Bob Miller says:

      In these modern times, we often find that the movements rejecting tradition, ours and others’, stealthily or not, strike an ultra-sanctimonious pose. It may feel good but it’s not good.

    • David F says:


      You forgot to add a few words to this sentence: “Sad to see this site lose it’s last shred of credibility.” You should have added for “for me,” because you, unfortunately are among the few who feel that this undermines the credibility of Cross-Currents. I, and the majority of readers here, feel that this strengthens their claim to represent Torah Judaism regardless of how unpleasant it sometimes is to take this position.
      The OO claim that those who oppose them are “tearing apart the Orthodox community” rings hollow to anyone who has followed their movements and agenda.
      The only ones threatening to tear apart Orthodoxy are those who insist on introducing radical reforms.
      Thankfully, we’ve been down this road before and we know how the final chapter reads. OO and it’s adherents will struggle to keep the next generation interested, then they’ll decide that it’s really okay to allow intermarriage, and then they’ll fade away. This sad song and its lyrics can be written by almost anyone even mildly familiar with Jewish history.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      The willingness to debate and passionately disagree speaks far more as to the importance of such discussions as opposed to self defined safe spaces where ones views are merely supported in the format of an echo chamber and where any challenge to a strongly held POV is viewed as illegitimate.

    • rkz says:

      “all dogma and attacks”?
      I did not see an announcement that CC is going to dedicate the whole site to OO problem.
      Also, it must be noted that those who are “trying to tear apart the Orthodox community” are those who unfortunately chose to depart from the halakha and emuna and follow the allure of the far left culture.

    • Yossi says:

      What are you basing this on? Can you lay out for us why you see these “dogma” and “attacks” as wrong?

      Are you defending the positions take by YCT, and can you please articulate how and why?

      If not, you become like every other politically correct voice in today’s dialogue that says that we don’t have to address certain opinions because they are attacks, thereby protecting yourself from honest debate.

    • lacosta says:

      after reading this profile, , which i am sure you are proud of, it is obvious one can not go against ones spouse , even when they behave in an amasoretic way. but then the next genration starts with partner minyanim, the one after that in temples, and chas veshalom what comes after that…

      • bo says:

        Now I understand. The few voices defending OO were usually its rabbis and contained some semblance of addressing the issues, at least by their standards. Now Dr. S. defends OO with the same passion as them but without touching the issues. A new genre of comments? Yes, from *relatives* of OO professionals you receive this type of comment.

      • dave says:

        At least the generation before was honest enough to be known as a “Conservative Rabbi”. I don’t think Dr. Stadlan was so “open” about his personal connection to this controversy.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      Dogma should not be viewed as inappropriate . Many halachos are rooted in the acceptability of a witness or an act necause the would be witness y being a Shomer Shabbos believes in Maaseh Breishis and Yetzias Mitzrayim.

    • nt says:

      Religion aside, any group has the right to set parameters for membership and expel those who don’t meet them. It is up to the group members to decide when the infractions of a minority require expulsion, and when they don’t. As the editors note, both Agudath Israel and the Conference of European Rabbis reject OO as a form of Orthodoxy. This is by far the prevalent opinion among Orthodox Rabbis and their followers; thus it is the OO who are the schismatics.
      The fact that the terms of membership in Orthodoxy is fealty to our received Torah means we have little if any leeway compared to other groups. The Torah is not ours to compromise with.

  3. Steve Brizel says:

    R Rosenthal deserves a great Yasher Koach for marshalling the evidence of departures from normative boundaries of halacha and hashkafa by OO. One should also note that OO is engaged in facilitating Gerus Las Vegas style whose “gerim” will be entering the R and C worlds because OO realizes that their kabalas ol mitzvos would never pass muster of the Orthodox world today. They are facilitating marriages netween kohanim and divorcees and converts and will sooner rather than later preside or participate RL in same gender ceremonies.

    • Zalup Povich says:

      What is gerus “las Vegas style”?

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Minimal if any requirements for kabalas ol mitzvos and is the equivalent of vegas marriage or divorce.

      • mycroft says:

        Sadly what often counts is not whether or not there is a real acceptance of kabalas mitzvos but who was on the Bes Din.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        That is irrelvant to the issue of facilitating marriages between kohanim divorcees and converts .

    • dr. bill says:

      you already claimed on 2/4 at 11:38 in Rabbi Gordimer’s post that they did in Israel. you were challenged to provide an instance; of course, you did not. how surprising! perhaps words like “celebrate” in this post confused you. it is not hard to confuse those inclined that way already.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Take a look at the linls. The picture of R B Lau and his comments are proof.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        You should look at rhe links before commenting . I stand by all of my comments re same gender ceremonies . It is logical for an OO clergyman to wish a same gender couple mazel tov participare in or preside over such a ceremony based on the overy simple rationale that R Lau inspired presided a pseudo halachic basis to participate in such a ceremony

  4. Tal Benschar says:

    There is an apt story about the Chasam Sofer.
    He was once asked to give an approbation for a sefer written by someone whom he felt had deviant beliefs. In refusing, he told the following moshol.
    There once was a rabbi in a small town. One of the families had a young daughter who was extremely pious. She contracted a very serious disease, and her distraught parents did not know what to do. They hired a doctor, who diagnosed her with a rare disease, and the cure: she had to eat pork for several days.
    The pious girl refused. “I would rather die than eat treif.” Her parents pleaded with her, but to no avail. They got the rabbi involved. He explained to her the laws of pikuach nefesh, and how in her case the Torah required her to eat the pork. After much discussion she finally agreed.
    Relieved, the parents went out to buy the pork. “But wait,” she said. “I understand I have to eat pork. But at least shecht it properly. Why should I violate two commandments?”
    So the local shochet was brought in to perform this very unusual shechita.
    They brought her the pork, and she said, “wait, did you check the lungs? Maybe it is a treifa?”
    So they checked the lungs, and sure enough, there was an issue there. They brought to the rabbi and asked him this “shayloh.”
    He checked the lungs, and was about to give his psak. But he could not get the words out. “Uhhhh. . .,” he said. “Uhhhhh,” he said. No matter how much he tried, he could not get the words out.
    “Rabbi, what is the matter?,” asked the parents.
    “I will tell you,” said the rabbi. “If these were the lungs of a cow, I would pasken that the cow is kosher. But I just cannot bring myself to say the word ‘kosher” over a pig, no matter what the lungs look like!”
    So too, said the Chasam Sofer, I cannot pronounce kosher on a heretic, no matter the contents of the sefer.

  5. Shmuel says:

    Yasher Koach David for taking on this unpleasant but necessary task. I note of course that Noam Stadlan’s comment doesnt actually dispute anything of substance that you linked to.

  6. Yehudah says:

    I read an article recently on extinguishing fire on shabbos by a torat chaim “rabbi” which displayed an astonishing ignorance in the sugya of milocha shaino tzricha ligufo. One would be hard pressed to find an avraich in bmg or the mir who could make such an egregious error. It takes an astonishing level of hubris or lack of self awareness to write a tshuva before spending the requisite years devouring gemarrah rashi toisfus and poskim. There aren’t two sides to this and there’s no debate. It’s not comparable to all the many halachic debates that have raged over the centuries. The mesorah snd halacha are been challenged by hit peices that are neither tshuvos nor journalism. We have just individuals with a liberal agenda to gut halacha were it runs afoul of the latest contemporary ever plummeting values. Kudos to Rabbi Rosenthal
    Chaylcha loraysa!

    • Steve Brizel says:

      I have read similar pieces about the purported lack of need for an eruv anywhere in the US using lights on YT and the need for hashgacha on vegan restaurants as well. They share the common denominator of poor scholarship and unwarranted halachic conclusions.

  7. lacosta says:

    the central defining principal of Orthodox judaism is havdala—- the need to declare something difinitively out of bounds. It should be no surprise that the proponents of the branch of judaism known as OO [yct,maharat,etc ] do not like to be considered outside the boundary-but this is no different than the claims of C,R,Reconstruct, etc who don’t agree to Orthodoxy’s terms and demands.

    there was a time in jewish history where it was imperative to separate out heretical followers, with various other theologies, from the synagogue. the addition of ‘v’lamalshinim’ accomplished what needed to be done.
    in this era of total confusion of boundaries, someone has to be handing out the Red Card —lest those on the LW end of MO bleed praxically and/or theologically into the amesoretic practices and ideas that the OO-Maharat-YCT nexus adheres to.

    and now we know what it must have been like 150 yrs ago , when what become known as C judaism was formed…

    • dr. bill says:

      tell Hillel; he must have been misinformed about what is the “central defining principle.” do you know who ve’lamalshinim was directed towards? i will give you a hint – not the tziddukim.

    • Bob Miller says:

      If heretics had any integrity, they would separate on their own and provide an accurate statement of principles. But they want to lure in members of their original group. Such false advertising goes back at least 2000 years.

    • Richard Kahn says:

      It is very sad if the central defining principal of Orthodox Judaism is declaring some things not Orthodox. I would think the central defining principal of Orthodox Judaism would be living a life of halakha and Torah.

  8. Sholom says:

    I don’t understand what the issue is here. If you don’t like what they say, don’t listen to them. Don’t like how they daven, don’t go to their shuls . Is the word Orthodoxy copyrighted or something?

    • Raymond says:

      So you don’t accept the notion of truth in advertising? All I know is that when I enter a shul that I have never been to, or pick up what looks like a Torah book by an author I had never heard of, I would like to know where they are coming from, whether they are legitimately Orthodox or not.

  9. Steve Brizel says:

    It is a hop skip and a jump from “celebrating ” at a same gender ceremony to being part of the ceremony and presiding over such a halachic travesty

    • Bob Miller says:

      Time after time, we see the incremental approach. Each indiscretion or violation is the opening wedge for more to come. That’s not accidental. The Yetzer HaRa has much the same strategy. Aveirah goreres aveirah.

  10. Ari Lichtman says:

    Open Orthodox should call itself Right Wing Conservative and then there would be no issue. At issue is that they want to find their way into Orthodoxy and trick adherents using things like “tshuvas”, and “drush” and “psaks”. In other words, Avi Weiss taught 100 men and women how to phrase their trickery in an effort to pull away the outer fringe of Orthodoxy. Foolish of them to think this would not be met with resistance. And worse, think all these women are looking for a stronger connection to God? This should be snuffed out harshly. The OU went easy on them.

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