Why Orthodoxy needs both — OU congregations and Young Israel shuls

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18 Responses

  1. ralph suiskind says:

    Every congregation needs to set its own standards provided it falls within the halachic rubric.. Today, there exists no difference between YI and OU synagogues . All depends on the rabbi and his board. Under dynamic leadership , a synagogue can reach undreamed spiritual heights never attained in the past Under poor leadership , at best remain religiously dormant and at worst experience a slow death.

    More than anything else , the affiliation to either national organization as well as others defines its identity and its mission…

  2. Bob Miller says:

    Often shuls or schools are called breakaways. That’s OK if it means less bickering in the family. The OU seems to try now and then to limit the negative impact of its Open affiliates, but hasn’t really laid down the law. We’ve belonged to YI shuls and OU shuls, including some with connections to both organizations. YI and OU shuls often have some yeshivishly inclined members (among others) or rabbis. This politically conservative organization is mostly made up of people from our OU shul: http://jaaci.org/

  3. Reb Yid says:

    Does national Young Israel still forbid females from being the president of a synagogue? Converts?

    Just as the author of this post has clearly expressed his discomfort with certain aspects of certain OU congregations, it is quite easy to see how other Orthodox Jews might be uncomfortable with certain positions such as these taken by Young Israel.

    • Bob Miller says:

      I know of one convert who became president of a YI shul. He became a ger tzedek while we were members, and president later on.

  4. Steve Brizel says:

    Most YIs , if not all in major Orthodox communities, belong to the OU for the reasons stated so well by R Fischer. In many smaller communities, the YI has been the more observant shul with all officers being Shomer Shabbos and no issues re a mechitza or an open parking lot on Shabbos. Our prior discussion re TITH identified not just differences with the NCYI but also the desire of the YITH to serve the YCT/HIR agenda in Atlanta, a city where R E Feldman and E I Feldman have built a Makom Torah with their shul and a full scale Torah education available

  5. dr. bill says:

    three points:

    1) tofastah merubeh lo tafastoh: is there a subtle point that went over my head with the stand-alone paragraph: “Young Israel shuls that have parking lots are uniformly prohibited from leaving them open on Shabbat.” Do OU shuls have open parking lots? I do know of one shul, that i think belongs to the OU where a vehicle transports congregants on Shabbat relying on a psak of RHS.

    2) YCT clearly serves a(nother) useful purpose. It provides a rationale for an old horse that has long outlived its mission (and repositioned itself to boot) not retiring to pasture.

    3) over a half-century ago, the most prominent traditional synagogue (mixed seating) in the midwest stayed in the OU and a few years later produced one of history’s most effective NCSY branches. Tolerance does not always equate to a lack of principles.

  6. lacosta says:

    1. i wonder what the rules are ‘out of town’ . where the orthopraxics are often outnumbered in the pews.
    i believe in santa barbara for example , the shul disaffiliated from YI , admitting there wasn’t really any shomer shabbos members…

    2. When at the end of the three years the OU will of course walk away meekly with tail between legs from their requests of the OO member temples [ remember all the O rabbis who went to minister to a mehitza/mike temple ‘just for a couple years’ and stayed their entire careers… ] , it will be up to us in the center to leave the OU and consider boycotting their other divisions….

  7. Steve Brizel says:

    Many YIs are now OU shuls for the reasons stated by R Fischer. YITC represents an instance of a shul that used its unhappiness with positions taken by NCYI as a pretext for its morphing into a shul that plays by the YCT JOFA playbook.

  8. Nachum says:

    I remember this discussion taking place back in 1994, and it’s still as silly now as it was then. We all know that many Young Israels are what might be called “vestigal Orthodox,” whose standards of tefillah are very, very low compared to many OU shuls. And that’s cool, that’s cool- but let’s not pretend for a second that Young Israels, just because their leadership and, in many cases, rabbinate, went charedi years ago, have some sort of monopoly on being “frummer”. Maybe each has its pluses and minuses, but can we at least not talk in cliches?

    To take another example of the above: When you have a rule that the president has to be shomer shabbat, or that the parking lot has to be closed on Shabbat, that’s because davka many members are *not* shomer shabbat. If they weren’t, you wouldn’t need the rule. Maybe there are many Young Israels where this isn’t an issue. Certainly there are many OU shuls where it isn’t.

    Oh, and a thousand members of the Igud HaRabbanim? Come on. The Agudat HaRabbanim has claimed the same. We all know both organizations have an overlapping membership of a few dozen at the most.

  9. DF says:

    I found the article difficult to read to perhaps someone can summarize for me succinctly: what, precisely, is the fundamental difference between the two organizations as a whole that make merger so impossible?

  10. DF says:

    I still have not seen a single coherent answer to the question, “why cant YI and the OU merge?” To say they have differences is not an answer – ALL organizations that ever merged in history had differences. When you’re too close to something you think every difference is of massive importance, just like when you stand next to a boulder you think its enormous. Moving a few feet back shows the obstacle wasn’t as big as you think it was.

    That’s how a potential merger has to be considered – not by comparing the two proposed candidates for merger, but by comparing them both together against a third. The Agudah is the natural comparator here. The Agudah believes in Daas Torah, Gedolim, Kollel, etc., and is kind of pareve on Israel and Aliyah. (I am not judging nor am I capable of judging and in any event I think all organizations are great; I’m just setting up the basics) YI and OU, by contrast, do not institutionally believe in any of those concepts, and are very strong on Israel. These are fundamentals – אידך פירושא. If they cannot merger, then nothing can ever merge, and we know that isn’t true. There is no fundamental reason why these organizations cannot join together for the greater good, ours and theirs.

    • Nachum says:

      At the leadership level, the NCYI has tilted charedi for a long time. The same is true of the rabbis of many of the shuls.

      I remember being at a family bar mitzvah in a Young Israel in…well, let’s just say it was on neither coast, and in a city not known for any sort of Orthodox presence. The membership was heavily of the “vestigal” Orthodox type, with some Modern Orthodox. The rabbi was the product of the charedi yeshiva system. At one of the meals, he got up and announced that the meat was not glatt, for those concerned. The membership had no idea what he was talking about. “Is he saying the meat isn’t kosher?” someone asked me. I waved it off.

      In the mid-90’s there was a joint convention of all the Modern Orthodox organizations- close to twenty- in the United States. The NCYI chose to officially join the Agudah convention instead. Some of that may have been politics- they were worried about being swallowed up by the OU- but some was clearly a sign of where they were going religiously. I can bring a number of other examples.

      I do note that my earlier comment defending Israel was not posted.

    • Bob Miller says:

      If the two organizations truly needed to merge, they would do so. I can’t think of an economy of scale offhand and they do cooperate when they want to.

    • lacosta says:

      would have to agree with Nachum that in MANY parts of the USA YI is actually young agudas israel , in the tenor of the rabbi and much of the membership. there almost needs to be a partition of YI into YI and YAI …

  11. David Ohsie says:

    Wow, only those who support right-wing political positions are welcome in Young Israel? Thank you for revealing the embarrassing truth underlying your dispute: “the same rabbi conducted a public crusade attacking the National Council of Young Israel itself, for its continued policy, unlike OU congregations, of strongly supporting politically conservative positions in America and right-wing political positions in Israel that have benefited both Israel and American Jewry. …. The left-oriented Toco Hills congregation wrongly had associated with National Council of Young Israel.”

    • Bob Miller says:

      Does it embarrass you? It doesn’t embarrass them.

      • Reb Yid says:

        On a practical level, it wouldn’t work.

        Our community has both a YI and an OU synagogue. While we are able to have some joint activities, it can only go so far. A lot of the distinctions have to do with the rabbis and where they are trained, but also in terms of gender role expectations.

  12. dr. bill says:

    I am curious if anyone knows of a Young Israel that outlawed mixed dancing at its annual dinner prior to Torah Vodaath? If we do not understand what the American scene was like 70-120 years ago, many incorrect conclusions, particularly on how great rabbis paskened and behaved, will be reached. nisma’atu ha’dorot may not be HLMmS.

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