Thursday, May 15, 2008

Attention Please! New challenger to the established Chareidi/MO geirus business

Recipients and Publicity wrote the following:

Open Orthodoxy's challenge to Haredi Judaism on every front.

Something VERY important in this post may have slipped below the radar because they are new developments, and Orthodox world, particularly in America as well as in Israel, needs to sit up and take note of it because it is already impacting the way Modern Orthdoxy is gearing itself up to fight and ignore rulings like those in Israel that came from Rav Sherman negating Rav Druckman, see the Canadian Jewish News article below.

If one looks at the signatories of the declaration of support for Rav Druckman by Rabbis Marc Angel, Avi Weiss, Saul Berman and Shlomo Riskin, who are, by the way, the elite of the elite of YU's most charismatic alumni and they are also established long-time leaders of the left wing of Modern Orthodoxy, one must note that two of the names officially sign as:

Rabbi Avraham Weiss and Rabbi Marc D. Angel, Co-Chairmen, International Rabbinic Fellowship

Rabbi Saul Berman, Chairman, International Rabbinic Fellowship Geirut Committee

And one must therefore ask WHAT is the International Rabbinic Fellowship? and WHAT is the International Rabbinic Fellowship GEIRUT Committee?

The organization is new and is tied in with Rabbi Weiss's new ultra-Modern Orthodox "YCT" Yeshiva Chovevei Torah http://www.yctorah.org/ (against which the Aguda-leaning mouth-piece YATED NE'EMAN in America has published lngthy open and scornful articles, (see http://openorthodoxy.blogspot.com/2007/02/yated-exposes-yct-as-threat-to-halachic.html Monday, February 26, 2007: "Yated exposes YCT as a 'Threat to Halachic Judaism'" and http://www.canonist.com/?p=1003 Yated Ne’eman Attacks Chovevei) warning Agudist Torah Jews to reject and stay away from YCT and its graduates [some YCT graduates are already grabbing rabbinical jobs in places Aguda type yeshivas had hoped to place there alumni].)

Anyhow, there is a website at [REMOVED WRONG LINK] for this new Modern Orthodox conglomerate of yeshiva/rabbinic organization/beit din, that, while it is made up of YU's elite alumni and members in good standing of the RCA, yet, with huge financial backing, like from Howard Jonas of IDT Corporation (http://www.idt.net/) and others, they have managed to set a new denomination of Orthodoxy that they call "Open Orthodoxy" whatever that may mean (and they do have their own interpretations and agendas).

Based on the press release on this post, it is important to note that Rabbi Shlomo Riskin also adds his name to it, and that while Rabbi Riskin is not formally affiliated with YCT because he has his own network of yeshivas and institutions in Israel, he is nevertheless part of the original "triumvirate" of Rabbi Avi Weiss and Rabbi Saul Berman (who headed the now defunct EDAH organization http://www.edah.org/ that had as its mission statement "The courage to be modern and Orthodox").

The statement is undersigned by:

Rabbi Marc D. Angel, Founder and Director
Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals
8 West 70th Street
New York, NY 10023
212 362 4764

So one must ask WHAT is the "Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals"?

Rabbi Marc Angel had worked independently until now (as the head of Congregation Shearith Israel, The Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in the City of New York http://www.sephardicstudies.org/csi.html ) and since 2007 he heads the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals

http://www.jewishideas.org/about

From its own website: "The Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals offers a vision of Orthodox Judaism that is intellectually sound, spiritually compelling, and emotionally satisfying... The Institute works for an intellectually vibrant, compassionate and inclusive Orthodoxy."

Now Rabbi Angel joins with the de facto ruling ultra-modern Orthodox rabbinical triumvirate (a Bais Din?) of Riskin, Berman and Weiss who all have known highly brilliant and innovative minds, are all highly outspoken and actvists since their student days, and were considered the most popular and best rebbeim at YU and Stern College during their lengthy teaching careers at YU and its related schools and it can be said beyond a doubt that they have tens of thousands of students, disciples and followers who were influenced by them and drawn to their liberal, activist and even LIBERATIONIST outlook of Orthodox Judaism.

They have all broken with the YU and RCA establishments and set up their own rival schools and institution to the left of the YU and RCA establishments whom they regard and kow-towing and caving in to right wing pressures from the Charedi world.

Rabbi Riskin has a very powerful following among the Modern Orthodox mainstream, so his name on this declaration is significant. He was even recently considered as a possible successor to Rabbi Norman Lamm as Dean and Rosh Yeshiva of YU in America, but he does not need it because he has his own empire in Israel and an ongoing following on the Upper West Side having been the founding rabbi and is the ongoing sage-emeritus of the flagship Modern Orthodox Lincoln Square Synagogue http://www.lss.org/ from where the wealthy still give him lots of help, and where, it MUST be noted, Rabbi EPHRAIM BUCHWALD is still the OUTREACH RABBI and heads the NJOP: National Jewish Outreach Program http://www.njop.org/ that does CONTROVERSIAL outreach TOGETHER with REFORM and CONSERVATIVE synagogues and it is know that gentiles exist in great numbers in these type of places and attend all NJOP programs that would lead to conversion issues, no doubt about it, and for which it was condemned by the Agudas Harabbonim in The Jewish Press, March 7, 2003:

"Kiruv and Halacha: In answer to many inquiries whethwr the Agudas Harabonim approves of the 'Shabbat Across America/Canada' calls...one is not allowed to pray in Reform and Conservative Temple...Therefore [it] cannot approve of a call to attend a Reform or Conservative Temple on a Friday night..." , see also in this regard: http://truejews.org/Igud_Historic_Declaration.htm

"A HISTORIC DECLARATION: The Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada (Agudath Harabonim) hereby declares: Reform and Conservative are not Judaism at all. Their adherents are Jews, according to the Jewish Law, but their religion is not Judaism.

Rabbi Riskin also has the full backing of Morry J. Weiss, chairman of the board of American Greetings Corporation http://corporate.americangreetings.com/, and who also happens to be the Chairman of Board of Trustees of YU, (see Morry Weiss Assumes Leadership of Yeshiva Trustees http://media.www.yucommentator.com/media/storage/paper652/news/2004/09/20/News/Morry.Weiss.Assumes.Leadership.Of.Yeshiva.Trustees-715248.shtml ) and son in law and succesor to Irving Stone (of Stone Chumash fame). Rabbi Riskin's Ohr Torah-Stone Institutions http://www.ohrtorahstone.org.il/ are important bastions of Modern Orthodoxy and Religious Zionism in Israel headed solely by Rabbi Riskin and therefore his support of the statement against Rav Sherman, as signed on this press release, is very important that will no doubt have strong ramifications as all these rabbis will speak out and be very vocal and militant against the rulings issued by Rav Sherman.

Following are three recent articles that make it very clear that we will be hearing a lot more from this group as the controversy over conversions/rabbis/bateidin
/Religious Zionism unfold, and it will not be a pretty sight to experience, behold or stomach:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Canadian Jewish News

http://www.cjnews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=14674&Itemid=86

Wednesday 14th of May 2008 9 Iyyar 5768

Modern Orthodoxy decides to fight back

Opinion
By RABBI MARTIN LOCKSHIN
Thursday, 15 May 2008

In 2006, The Canadian Jewish News ran a series of articles on modern Orthodox Judaism. Many readers saw those articles as evidence of the decline of modern Orthodoxy and its gradual replacement by more haredi types of Orthodox Judaism.

Those so inclined might find even more evidence now that modern Orthodoxy is in trouble. A number of issues have arisen recently, but none is of more concern than conflicts concerning conversion.

Here in Israel, where I am spending my sabbatical from York University, rabbinic courts have state sanction and rabbis are often appointed to them as political favours. As haredi political parties have grown in size and the National Religious Party has shrunk, state rabbinic courts are increasingly run by rabbis who are inimical to the values of modernity and unconcerned about the issues of Israeli society at large.
[...]


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The New York Jewish Week

http://www.thejewishweek.com/viewArticle/c37_a8941/News/National.html

04/30/2008

Taking On The RCA?
New rabbinical group launched to counter rightward shift in Modern Orthodoxy.

by Gary Rosenblatt
Editor and Publisher

In a move certain to be seen as an effort to compete with the Rabbinical Council of America — the largest group of Orthodox rabbis — two vocal critics this week launched a clerical group called the International Rabbinic Fellowship.
[...]


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Jewish daily FORWARD

http://www.forward.com/articles/12864/

Rabbis Form New Orthodox Organization

By Anthony Weiss
Thu. Mar 06, 2008

After years of tension between more liberal and conservative elements of the American Orthodox Jewish establishment, several liberal Orthodox rabbis have banded together to create a new rabbinic organization that offers an alternative to traditional Orthodox authorities.
[...]


10 comments :

  1. Recipients and PublicityMay 15, 2008 at 1:08 PM

    Luke Ford predicts Haredim will win the conversion wars and Jewcy shows up Leib Tropper's and EJF's own errors.

    Came across an interesting set of views from Luke Ford, the controversial writer and "convert" to Judaism, who quite openly states that the Haredim have already won the so-called "conversion wars" and are now basically just involved in a power play and mopping up operation. See

    http://lukeford.net/blog/?p=2957

    May 14, 2008
    Judaism’s Conversion Controversy

    A lot of people ask me for my opinion — as a convert to Judaism — on this controversy.

    I don’t have one.

    I accept reality.

    I’m not trying to change it (in this instance).

    Some Orthodox shuls count me in a minyan and some don’t.

    Big deal.

    When I’m feeling down, I feel at the mercy of outside forces such as rabbis and bosses and women and I wail and gnash my teeth.

    My meds are at the right level now so I don’t care much.

    Judaism is exclusivist.

    The deeper you go into Judaism, the more exclusivist it is.

    I don’t care that Orthodox Judaism makes it difficult to convert to Judaism.

    I don’t care if chareidi rabbis invalidate the conversions of Modern Orthodox rabbis.

    That’s the nature of the religion.

    In Jewish history, the religious extremists have always won out and they always will.

    I don’t care that people are upset. I don’t care that there are hurt feelings. There are values more important than feelings and Chareidi Jewish values will inevitably triumph over Modern Orthodox ones just as the RCC has triumphed over all other Beit Dins in Los Angeles.

    I don’t care that there is enormous turmoil among many families that thought they were Jewish according to Jewish law. Many of these same families would not have accepted a convert to Conservative Judaism as a Jew. Now they’re dismayed to find out that they’re Modern Orthodox conversion is not kosher.

    That’s the nature of the Jewish beast.

    I take no sides.

    I got an amusing email this morning from a loyal reader outraged that I would publish a point of view sympathetic to the chareidim on this issue.

    A community leader emails me: "I loved your take on the conversion controversy. Very refreshing. You take nothing personally. You just look at the beast and you marvel."

    From Jewcy.com http://www.jewcy.com/post/haredi_conversion :

    On May 6, the RCA reacted with outrage http://www.rabbis.org/news/article.cfm?id=105297 to the High Rabbinic Court’s revocation of thousands of Modern Orthodox conversions:

    “T]he RCA finds it necessary to state for the record that in our view the ruling itself, as well as the language and tone thereof, are entirely beyond the pale of acceptable halachic practice, violate numerous Torah laws regarding converts and their families, create a massive desecration of God’s name, insult outstanding rabbinic leaders and halachic scholars in Israel, and are a reprehensible cause of widespread conflict and animosity within the Jewish people in Israel and beyond. The RCA is appalled that such a ruling has been issued…

    The RCA also claimed it had been “assured” by Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the haredi president of the rabbinic court system, that the High Rabbinic Court ruling “directly countermanded his instructions and policies” and had “no legal standing at this time.” Reports in the Israeli media noted that Rabbi Amar was “trying” to annul the ruling.

    On May 11, the Jerusalem Post http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1209627060687&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull reported that many of Israel’s marriage registrars—all Orthodox—are refusing to register marriages of converts until Amar clarifies the status of Sherman’s ruling. In a country without civil marriage and with no other recognized Jewish options, this leaves converts in a limbo that could continue indefinitely. Amar says he wants to have the Chief Rabbinate’s governing council discuss the issue, but the council is not seated. Therefore, Amar plans to wait for elections to the council to be held. His spokesman claims to be unsure how long this might take.

    HAREDIM SEE ULTRA-ORTHODOXY as the only true Judaism. They don’t view non-Orthodox Judaism as a theological threat, because in their minds Reform, Conservative, and post-denominational Jews are only a few years from irrelevance. In the US, for every 1.36 children a Reform Jewish couple have, haredim have 6.72 http://www.simpletoremember.com/vitals/WillYourGrandchildrenBeJews.htm , and Modern Orthodox have 3.39.

    Although they still have Modern Orthodoxy to contend with, the reality is that haredim now control Israel’s Chief Rabbinate and rabbinic courts. They provide teachers for Modern Orthodox day schools, dominate http://aish.com/ Jewish http://www.chabad.org/ outreach http://ohr.edu/ , and serve as rabbis in Modern Orthodox synagogues.

    Through control of the conversion process, haredim can determine who is a Jew, who is an Orthodox rabbi, and therefore what traditional Judaism is. The pawns in this haredi power play are the thousands of Orthodox Jewish converts who, just like Sarah, woke up one day to find they are no longer Jewish, their marriages are null and void, and their children are forbidden to marry Jews.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~

    And the story from the Jewcy website cited by Luke Ford is also pretty revealing of how the world is looking at the Haredi push to control conversions in Israel, and it is based on a story of how Rabbi Leib Tropper and his EJF reversed himself on a conversion they did in a case called "Sarah" and the kind of mess you get into when you choose to become the American "converter-in-chief" even if you claim to be the most Haredi of rabbis. See and read on...:

    http://www.jewcy.com/post/haredi_conversion

    Ultra-Orthodox Rabbis Are Reversing Conversions By the Fistful

    Go out wearing pants, and you might find your Judaism (and your marriage) revoked

    by Shmarya Rosenberg, David Kelsey, May 14, 2008

    IN JUNE 2006, ultra-Orthodox Rabbi Leib Tropper nullified a conversion over a year after supervising it himself. He decided that the convert, whom we will call “Sarah,” had become a Jew under “false Pretext [sic].” Rabbi Tropper informed Sarah’s husband, “Avraham,” that his wife’s conversion had been overturned by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, and that the child produced by their marriage would not be regarded as Jewish, either. Finally, Rabbi Tropper declared that it was “forbidden” for Avraham to be married to Sarah. “Even if she decides to become observant,” Rabbi Tropper wrote via email, “she will need a new conversion,” and the couple would require a “new halachic marriage.”

    What happens if despite a rabbi’s best due diligence, a convert to Orthodox Judaism doesn't keep Jewish law for the long haul? If that convert begins eating cheeseburgers and driving on Shabbat? Does the conversion remain valid? Is a convert 100% Jewish no matter what? Historically, a lapsed convert was still considered a Jew unless those lapses were immediate to the conversion, public, and intentional. The convert had to know what he was about to do was wrong, and then had to do it anyway. (Before the 19th century and the advent of ultra-Orthodoxy, according to Zvi Zohar, an Israeli scholar who studies this issue, there is no evidence a rabbi ever revoked a conversion for any reason.)

    Times have changed. That’s because haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews like Leib Tropper, founder and director of Eternal Jewish Family—an organization dedicated to converting non-Jewish spouses of intermarried Jews—represent the most rapidly growing demographic in Judaism. Tropper also founded and runs a yeshiva in Monsey, New York, and travels regularly to Israel, where he frequents the halls of haredi power and hobnobs with its leaders. People like him are the Jewish future. They’re at the center of a seemingly irrevocable schism between Orthodoxy and every other denomination of Judaism. They're determined to restrict and to monitor all Orthodox conversions as part of their spiritual war against non-haredi Judaism, and they want nothing less than ultimately to define who is a Jew.

    Tropper did not revoke Sarah’s conversion because she bowed down to idols, accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior, or identified with the atheist philosophies of Christopher Hitchens. She didn’t renounce any universally accepted tenet of Judaism. Sarah’s conversion was ruled invalid because she did what many Modern Orthodox women do every day: get dressed and go out of the house. Sarah’s conversion was reversed because Tropper heard that she had worn pants, and occasionally—only when shopping outside the Jewish neighborhood—she had left her hair uncovered.

    Sarah and Avraham live hundreds of miles from Tropper, who is based in the ultra-Orthodox enclave of Monsey, New York. How did Tropper find out about Sarah’s clothing? Easy: Her husband told him.

    A “baal teshuva,” Avraham was as new to ultra-Orthodoxy as Sarah was to Judaism. Like many people who become Orthodox as adults, he had questions. Orthodox Jewish law mandates how to put on and tie one’s shoes; when, how, and even if to have sex; what and when to eat, and hundreds of other daily minutiae. Was it a major transgression for Sarah occasionally not to cover her hair? What about wearing pants?

    Avraham didn’t know, so he asked Tropper, who said that her behavior showed a flagrant disregard for Judaism, and that she was taking rabbinic strictures lightly. He questioned Sarah’s original intent in converting, and contacted her for an explanation. Shocked that her husband had gone behind her back, Sarah refused to talk, and Tropper revoked her conversion.

    In an email to Avraham, Tropper wrote, “We must keep our word. [Sarah] ACCEPTED on herself to OBSERVE ALL of the torah & rabbinical commanments [sic]. She never did. You know that & you told me that.”

    These: could get your conversion revoked IN LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY, Tropper wreaked havoc on another family of seekers. Leah Bourne's maternal grandmother was Jewish, so according to Jewish law she was as well, but she hadn’t been raised that way. Her husband Peter wasn’t Jewish at all. After marrying and having children, the Bournes became involved with a Reform synagogue, but they wanted more. Along with their 16-year-old son Jonathan, they attended an EJF information seminar in their town.

    Raised in the Bible Belt, the Bourne’s were attracted to Tropper’s Jewish fundamentalism. They invested in the expensive process of koshering their home, kept the Sabbath, and studied Torah. They were a model family—so much so that EJF featured them in its promotional video. Tropper even convinced Jonathan, then a junior in high school, to forsake his senior year and enroll at Kol Yaakov, Topper’s Monsey-based yeshiva for Baal Teshuva students.

    Though at first his parents didn't agree with their son missing his senior year of high school, Tropper assured them that Jonathan would be able to learn Torah and get his GED at the same time. As they delved deeper into ultra-Orthodoxy, the Bournes were intrigued by the idea of their son becoming a learned Jew, and perhaps even a rabbi.

    Jonathan moved to Monsey, where he spent his days studying. Peter, meanwhile, worked toward converting by learning Torah over the phone with a Monsey rabbi. Peter’s teacher happened to work at Tropper’s yeshiva, and kept the proud father informed about Jonathan’s progress. The reports were very good: Jonathan was a diligent, budding scholar.

    Tropper promised the Bourne family that he’d send a rabbi to open a synagogue and build a mikvah in Lexington. Having an Orthodox synagogue and mikvah in their town was essential because EJF will not authorize conversions for people who live in areas without an acceptable Orthodox infrastructure. Unable to relocate, the Bournes depended on Tropper’s guarantees.

    Eventually, Leah and Peter traveled to Monsey for an EJF seminar. Leah, who has an architecture degree, was shocked by what she found. In her words, Kol Yaakov was “unfit for human habitation.” It was dirty, unkempt, and unsafe. She saw students living in overcrowded basement rooms without egress windows or other safe exits.

    According to Leah, “What pathetic stuff they had down in that basement to serve as a kitchen and dining room were disgustingly filthy, neglected, and inadequate for the number of boys living there.…They were not provided with breakfast (except maybe some day-old or stale pastries from a local bakery) or lunch, and for dinner they were divided up and sent around to other people’s homes every night—not just for Shabbat.”

    Leah was amazed that in light of all this, Tropper had helped find Jonathan a black hat and suit. “Clearly, the clothes were far more important to Tropper than making sure they had food.”

    Just as Sarah’s clothes were more important to Tropper than the radical life change she’d made in embracing Orthodox Judaism, and just as her uncovered hair was more important to Tropper than her relationship with her husband, Jonathan Bourne’s black hat was prioritized over his health, his personal safety—and his education. There was no GED program available at Kol Yaakov, and when Jonathan began to ask questions, Tropper’s response was to chastise him for not finding an outside a program to enroll in.

    As Peter was completing the requirements for his conversion, Tropper presented the family with a major setback: There would be no synagogue or mikvah in Lexington. Peter was instructed to abandon his job and future pension, and move his family to Monsey. When Tropper’s nebulous offers to help Peter find a job there weren’t enough to quell the Bournes’ anger and disappointment, Tropper—who refused to comment for this story—expelled Jonathan from Kol Yaakov without notice, dumping him on the street.

    IN ISRAEL, THE ONLY government recognized conversions are Orthodox. Last year, Israeli Rabbi Avraham Atia—a government-empowered haredi rabbinic judge based in Ashdod—retroactively annulled a woman’s conversion to Judaism that had been performed by Conversion Authority head Rabbi Haim Druckman fifteen years before. The nine-page legal decision by Atia could be understood to invalidate thousands of conversions performed by Druckman, a Religious Zionist rabbi, and the rabbis with whom he’s worked over the years.

    This reading of Rabbi Atia’s ruling was adopted by the Chief Rabbinate’s High Rabbinic Court, which heard the Atia case on appeal. In a fifty-five page ruling released in early May of this year, the lead rabbinic judge—another haredi rabbi, Avraham Sherman—ruled every conversion performed by Rabbi Druckman from 1999 onward invalid. Thousands of converts and their children are now deemed “goyyim,” their marriages void, their relationships with their spouses now “illicit.”

    While Israel’s Modern Orthodox and National Religious rabbis invested their energy, time, and money into settling the West Bank and creating an ever-greater Israel, haredim used their resources to become the dominant Orthodox political force in the country—even as they remain ambivalent about the validity of a Jewish state. They took control of the country’s Chief Rabbinate and its entire bureaucracy, whose authority they now wield as a weapon to attack and delegitimize more moderate Orthodox rabbis in Israel and abroad.

    America’s largest rabbinic group, the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) which represents “Centrist” and Modern Orthodox rabbis, was negotiating with Israel’s Chief Rabbinate over the conversion issue when we spoke with its executive vice president, Rabbi Basil Herring, in January. The Chief Rabbinate wanted the RCA to set up formal “conversion courts” with American judges approved by the Chief Rabbinate, who would first travel to Israel to be “trained” by the Chief Rabbinate to “properly” supervise conversions. Herring described the RCA’s relationship with Israel’s Chief Rabbinate as “very warm and positive.” “And that includes [the subject of] conversion,” Rabbi Herring emphasized.

    He was unwilling to comment on specific cases that might disturb that idyll—such as Rabbi Atia’s conversion revocation—because, he claimed, he was not privy to the specific details of the case.

    But privy he would soon be. This spring, the RCA reached an agreement (labeled “capitulation” by critics, including at least one former RCA president) with Israel’s Chief Rabbinate ensuring that American conversions will be much stricter from now on, and will be done only through formal, pre-approved “conversion courts." On May 6, the RCA reacted with outrage to the High Rabbinic Court’s revocation of thousands of Modern Orthodox conversions:

    “T]he RCA finds it necessary to state for the record that in our view the ruling itself, as well as the language and tone thereof, are entirely beyond the pale of acceptable halachic practice, violate numerous Torah laws regarding converts and their families, create a massive desecration of God's name, insult outstanding rabbinic leaders and halachic scholars in Israel, and are a reprehensible cause of widespread conflict and animosity within the Jewish people in Israel and beyond. The RCA is appalled that such a ruling has been issued…

    The RCA also claimed it had been “assured” by Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the haredi president of the rabbinic court system, that the High Rabbinic Court ruling “directly countermanded his instructions and policies” and had “no legal standing at this time.” Reports in the Israeli media noted that Rabbi Amar was “trying” to annul the ruling.

    On May 11, the Jerusalem Post reported that many of Israel’s marriage registrars—all Orthodox—are refusing to register marriages of converts until Amar clarifies the status of Sherman’s ruling. In a country without civil marriage and with no other recognized Jewish options, this leaves converts in a limbo that could continue indefinitely. Amar says he wants to have the Chief Rabbinate's governing council discuss the issue, but the council is not seated. Therefore, Amar plans to wait for elections to the council to be held. His spokesman claims to be unsure how long this might take.

    HAREDIM SEE ULTRA-ORTHODOXY as the only true Judaism. They don’t view non-Orthodox Judaism as a theological threat, because in their minds Reform, Conservative, and post-denominational Jews are only a few years from irrelevance. In the US, for every 1.36 children a Reform Jewish couple have, haredim have 6.72, and Modern Orthodox have 3.39.

    Although they still have Modern Orthodoxy to contend with, the reality is that haredim now control Israel’s Chief Rabbinate and rabbinic courts. They provide teachers for Modern Orthodox day schools, dominate Jewish outreach, and serve as rabbis in Modern Orthodox synagogues.

    Through control of the conversion process, haredim can determine who is a Jew, who is an Orthodox rabbi, and therefore what traditional Judaism is. The pawns in this haredi power play are the thousands of Orthodox Jewish converts who, just like Sarah, woke up one day to find they are no longer Jewish, their marriages are null and void, and their children are forbidden to marry Jews.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Rabbi Eidensohn, you should find this interesting and perhaps something you should post. An entire world of Torah, in wall-to-wall agreement, condemns Rav Sherman's psak.

    http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-3543678,00.html

    Including Rabbis: Yaakov Ariel, Tzephania Drori, Aharon Lichtenstein, Aharon Tzukerman, Daniel Sperber, Yoel bin-Nun, Avi Gisser, Re'em Hakohen, Yaakov Meidan... and the list goes on and on and on. ALL of the greatest Torah scholars in a huge, vibrant world that includes hundreds the best yeshivot, schools, and other such institutions in the world.

    Rav Lichtenstein writes (my translation): "How much hatred, grudge and demonization there is in this awful and terrible psak... The Conversion Authority has God-fearing and scholarly judges who have devoted their energy and their lives to the Torah. They cannot be pushed away and thrown into the street. We must be strong on this point: There is no giving into this kind of language and attitude... Where did we ever hear or see that someone who relies on a minority opinion against the commonly held one is considered a willing apikorus? Woe to the ears that hear such a thing and woe to the biased court that has expressed itself in such a way!"

    Now that's real Daas Torah for all of us.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The RCA's 1000 member Rabbis adopted the GPS protocols for Geirus which effectively put the RCA and its members under the supervision of the Office of the Chief Rabbi for Giyyur.

    Rabbis Avi Weiss and Marc Angel stood alone in voicing protest against an overwhelmingly positively regarded decision. That is .2% of RCA's member Rabbis who voiced dissent among the predominately Modern Orthodox RCA.

    Rabbi Martin Lockshin is a wonderful Rabbi from Toronto. His wife, Ruth was a La Leche Leader when I was nursing my first baby and my husband was on an assignment in Toronto, twenty years ago!!

    I learned SO much from both Rabbi and Mrs. Lockshin and I will never forget their kindness and warmth.

    Rabbi Lockshin's father in law a"h, Dr. Robert Mendelson was the BEST pediatrician EVER!! He wrote several books back in the 80s that I still recommend to new mothers. (I AM plugging the books, BTW).

    Rabbi Lockshin is a tremendous scholar, a gifted historian, a great writer and fascinating speaker.

    Here is Rabbi Lockshin's CV in which you will note that nowhere is listed are the titles of "Rav", "Posek", "Dayyan" or "Gadol HaDor".

    Gadolei HaTorah are the halachic decisors in Judaism.

    Professors of Humanities and Judaic studies study these opinions in order to understand them but they are not qualified to pass judgment on the rulings of Gadolei Hador.

    An analogy to American law would be the Judgment of the Supreme Court. When the Supreme Court issues an opinion, all of the attorneys, law students, professors of ethics and business law teachers in the country will read and try to analyze the decision in order to understand the ruling.

    They will ANALYZE the ruling, none will sincerely believe that their analysis will supersede the judgments of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.



    Martin Lockshin
    Professor
    PhD Brandeis: 1984


    Professor Lockshin teaches in Humanities and the Department of Languages, Literature and Linguistics. He recently completed a term as Director of York's Centre for Jewish Studies. His major scholarly interest is the history of Jewish Bible interpretation, but he also does work in the fields of medieval Jewish history, Jewish-Christian polemics, and Jewish intellectual history in general. The history and thought of pre-modern Jews has always been the centre of Professor Lockshin's studying and teaching.



    Professor Lockshin recently completed a four-volume annotated translation of Samuel ben Meir's commentary on the Torah.


    Professor Lockshin will be on sabbatical in 2006-2007. He will be doing research and writing in Jerusalem's National Library, working on his next research project on the Bible commentaries of Joseph Bekhor Shor.


    Selected Publications:


    Rabbi Samuel ben Meir's Commentary on Genesis: An Annotated Translation. Edwin Mellen Press, 1989.


    Rashbam's Commentary on Exodus: An Annotated Translation. Society of Biblical Literature, 1997.


    Rashbam’s Commentary on Leviticus and Number: An Annotated Translation. Society of Biblical Literature, 2001.


    Rashbam’s Commentary on Deuteronomy: An Annotated Translation. Society of Biblical Literature, 2004


    "Translation as Polemic: The Case of Toledot Yeshu. In Minhah le-Nahum (The Nahum Sarna Festschrift). Edited by M. Brettler and M. Fishbane. Sheffield Press, 1993, pp. 226-292.


    "Truth or Peshat: Issues in Law and Exegesis." In Law Politics and Society in The Ancient Mediterranean World. Edited by B. Halpern and D. Hobson. Sheffield Press, 1993, pp. 271-279.


    "Tradition or Context: Two Exegetes Struggle with Peshat." In From Ancient Judaism to Modern Israel. Edited by J. Neusner and E. Frierichs. Volume 3 (Atlanta, 1989), pp. 173-186.


    "Judaism: The Rabbinic Era." In Civilizations: A Cultural Atlas. Edited by A. Haberman. Toronto: Gage Publishing,1994, pp. 42-47.


    "The Connection Between Rabbi Samuel ben Meir's Torah Commentary and Midrash Sekhel Tov" [Heb.]. In Proceedings of the Eleventh World Congress of Jewish Studies (Jerusalem, 1994) Division A, Hebrew Section, pp. 135-142.
    "Zeev Falk's Attitude to Halakhah." The Reconstructionist vol. 54, no. 3 (1988): 25-28.


    "Be'inyan ha'ataqat tokhnah lelo reshut ha-meyatserim." Or Hamizrac vol. 35, no.1 (1986).


    "Orthodox Intolerance: A Blessing?" Sh'ma volume 17 (November 1986).
    "Hasidism and Orthodox Feminism." Viewpoints volume 13, no. 6 (summer, 1985).

    ReplyDelete
  4. Dear Rabbi Eidensohn,

    In the most recent post on your blog, there is a link to what the
    writer claims is a new "Open Orthodox" institution under the leadership
    of Rabbis Weiss and Angel: http://www.rabbinicalseminaryint.org

    But a quick visit to that site will reveal that it is nothing of the
    kind, and indeed very far from any sort of Orthodoxy at all. I
    therefore respectfully suggest that the link be deleted.

    Thank You for your kind attention,

    ReplyDelete
  5. That link promotes ill-informed debate. Whatever the "Rabbinical Fellowship International" is, it's NOT the International Rabbinic Fellowship.

    I understand why R' Avi Weiss would choose such a "feel good" name for the new organization, but maybe it was a mistake if people confuse the IRF for this RFI.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Also, who is "Recipients and Publicity" that you took the first part of your post from?

    ReplyDelete
  7. DB said...

    Dear Rabbi Eidensohn,

    In the most recent post on your blog, there is a link to what the
    writer claims is a new "Open Orthodox" institution under the leadership
    of Rabbis Weiss and Angel: http://www.rabbinicalseminaryint.org

    But a quick visit to that site will reveal that it is nothing of the
    kind, and indeed very far from any sort of Orthodoxy at all. I
    therefore respectfully suggest that the link be deleted.
    ==========================
    You are right and I have removed the link. I could not find their website at all.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

    Also, who is "Recipients and Publicity" that you took the first part of your post from?
    ==========================
    I have no idea. He is an anonymous poster who has made many comments on this blog. I assume the link was an honest mistake on his part.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Recipients and PublicityMay 16, 2008 at 5:54 AM

    Clarification: To Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) and Rabbi Eidensohn:

    It was after I read your post of Thursday, May 8, 2008: "Rabbi Marc Angel defends Rabbi Druckman and elucidates his agenda" at http://daattorah.blogspot.com/2008/05/rabbi-marc-angel-defends-rabbi-druckman.html where you reposted a press release in the names of Rabbis Angel, Weiss, Berman and Riskin that is first undersigned as "Rabbi Avraham Weiss and Rabbi Marc D. Angel, Co-Chairmen, International Rabbinic Fellowship" and that not having heard about the "International Rabbinic Fellowship" and wanting to learn more about it, I then Googled for "International Rabbinic Fellowship" in order to do some research about this new organization, that the first item that Google came up with for "International Rabbinic Fellowship" was http://www.rabbinicalseminaryint.org/ which now turns out to be not the weblink to International Rabbinic Fellowship, about which at least the news reoprts I found were correct, see another article below about the International Rabbinic Fellowship from The Baltimore Jewish Times that very much turns upon the ongoing conversion convulsions.

    Sorry for the error and Daas Torah was correct to assume the link was an honest mistake on my part.

    ~~~~~~~~~~

    Baltimore Jewish Times

    http://www.jewishtimes.com/index.php/jewishtimes/news/jt/international_news/liberal_orthodox_rabbis_start_new_fellowship/

    March 2, 2008


    Liberal Orthodox Rabbis Start New “Fellowship”

    New York
    Ben Harris
    JTA Wire Service

    To its architects, the agreement reached between the Rabbinical Council of America and the Israeli Chief Rabbinate offers a way out of a long-running dispute over the recognition of conversions performed by American Orthodox rabbis.

    But a small group of liberal Orthodox rabbis are unhappy with the deal, which was formally announced. They say it represents a broader pattern of what they describe as surrender on the part of the RCA, the primary association of Orthodox rabbis in the United States, to the dictates of a religious establishment in Israel increasingly under the right-wing sway of fervently Orthodox, or haredi, authorities.

    Under the terms of the agreement, the Chief Rabbinate approved a list of about 15 RCA rabbinic courts and approximately 40 rabbinic judges whose conversions would be recognized by state authorities in Israel. Courts wishing to be added to the list would need the final approval of Rabbis Hershel Schachter and Mordechai Willig, two leading rabbis at Yeshiva University who some liberal Orthodox figures blame for the school’s alleged rightward drift.

    “Conversion is just symptomatic of the increasing haredization of the establishment of the Orthodox community,” said Marc Angel, the rabbi emeritus of New York’s Congregation Shearith Israel, the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue. “It’s like building higher and higher walls between the Orthodox world and the rest of the world.”

    It is that belief which, in part, has led Angel and another New York rabbi, Avi Weiss, to move toward the creation of an alternative network of rabbinic courts that would operate on “non-haredi standards.” The courts would be associated with a new rabbinic organization that Angel and Weiss are establishing to be known as the Rabbinic Fellowship.

    Rabbi Basil Herring, the executive vice president of the RCA, said his organization has not taken a formal position on the fellowship. However, he characterized as “false and misleading” Angel’s characterization of the Orthodox rabbinate.

    “The standards that have been adopted overwhelmingly by the rank and file and the leadership of the RCA are certainly very mainstream,” Herring said. “They reflect standards that have existed not only over the last decades but indeed for centuries. The RCA, if anything, has been very moderate in terms of its expectations of converts.”

    Motivated by similar concerns about the rightward drift of American Orthodoxy, others have tried—and failed—over the past decade to create more liberal Orthodox institutions, including attempts to establish alternate rabbinic courts. But the Angel-Weiss effort is the first to unite a grass-roots association of rabbis with an alternative network of courts and a kind of think tank, the Jewish Institute for Ideas and Ideals.

    In October, the fellowship hosted an initial gathering of 33 rabbis—among them Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, a former New York rabbi and now the spiritual leader of the West Bank town of Efrat, and at least two members of the RCA’s executive committee. An inaugural conference is slated for April in West Palm Beach, Fla., that Angel hopes will attract 100 rabbis.

    Participants in the October meeting cite a number of motivating factors behind the fellowship. Among them are the desire to resist what Angel calls the “authoritarianism” of the Orthodox rabbinate; to create a “safe space” where rabbis can speak their minds freely; to empower local rabbis to make independent halachic decisions; and to provide some organizational umbrella for graduates of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, Weiss’ liberal Orthodox seminary.

    Chovevei graduates have not been granted membership in the RCA, and Weiss said the seminary withdrew its membership request over a year ago, citing the “arduous” process.

    But it is the establishment of the new courts that is likely to generate the most controversy.

    Though Weiss and Angel stress that the fellowship is not meant to replace or compete with the RCA—a body in which both continue to retain membership—creating new courts most directly infringes on an area where the RCA has long held sway.

    “On the issue of the alternative batei din, that does seem to me like more of a direct conflict than fellowship alone,” said Rabbi Daniel Cohen of Congregation Agudath Sholom in Stamford, Conn., and a participant in the October meeting. “That’s something that’s evolving to be honest. It’s unclear where that’s going to go.”

    For its part, the RCA stresses that for innovative legal changes to have any credibility, they must be endorsed by a recognized living halachic luminary, a position Angel derides as a “classic statement of the authoritarianism in Orthodoxy.”

    Herring also warned that establishing alternate courts can have a negative impact on the very people they are seeking to help—particularly if, in the case of so-called “chained women” whose husbands refuse them a religious bill of divorce, the woman in question goes on to remarry and bear children.

    “What happens if a beit din is not a recognized beit din, without wide acceptance in the Orthodox rabbinic community?” Herring asked. “Has the new beit din helped these women or not helped these women? There is absolutely no question that they have grievously harmed these women.”

    Weiss and Angel are not the first rabbis to recoil against the perceived rightward drift of Orthodoxy.

    In 1997, a group of Orthodox rabbis and laypeople founded Edah, an organization to advance a liberal Orthodox view under the slogan “The Courage to be Modern and Orthodox.” The organization folded in 2006 and its director, Rabbi Saul Berman, took a position at Chovevei Torah.

    Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future, established in 2005 at the initiative of President Richard Joel, also was seen by some as an attempt to balance the perceived shif of Orthodoxy and the university to the right.

    More recently, a group of religious Zionist rabbis in Israel, Tzohar, faced off against the Chief Rabbinate over the use of a religious loophole allowing farmers to work their land during the sabbatical year.

    “We’re not starting at the end of the process. We’re starting with a grass-roots movement,” Angel said. “And we’re going to do it slowly, methodically, and on very solid halachic grounds.

    “We’re not interested in making headlines. We’re interested in doing that which is correct for the Jewish people.”

    ReplyDelete
  10. Recipients and PublicityMarch 13, 2009 at 5:27 AM

    (New post)

    Rabbi Avi Weiss and the left wing of Modern Orthodoxy versus the RCA on geirus reveals schism among American Modern Orthodox rabbis.

    It's not just about Rabbi Bomzer.

    This must result in two official American Modern Orthodox rabbinates which already exhists de facto, with Rabbis Avi Weiss, Saul Berman, (of Yeshiva Chovevei Torah), Marc Angel and Shlomo Riskin heading the left wing versus the Centrists headed by Rabbi Hershel Shechter and the YU and RCA establishment that has ties to the Israeli Chief Rabbinate.


    From The New York Jewish Week:

    "RCA Backtracks On Conversion Policy

    by Rabbi Avi Weiss
    03/11/2009

    Special To The Jewish Week

    A year ago, in a Jewish Week dialogue of Opinion pieces, I criticized the Rabbinical Council of America’s (RCA) new conversion standards [see "Agreement elevates the elite, weakens rabbis in the trenches" article below] as it “scrutinizes” conversions performed before their new system was put into place.

    Writing in defense of the RCA, the chairman of its Geirus (Conversion), Policies and Standards (GPS) committee, strenuously objected to my position, stating that “it is important to emphasize that nothing in this system is designed to change anyone’s previous status as a convert” (The Chief Rabbinate - RCA Deal: Two Views,” March 7, 2008).

    I know now firsthand that I was, unfortunately, correct, as the RCA has refused to affirm a conversion that I, together with two other rabbis, performed. To make matters worse, the RCA made its ruling without notifying or consulting me or any other member of the converting Beit Din (Rabbinic Tribunal).

    The case involved a young woman who attended my synagogue’s supplementary Jewish Youth Encounter Program (JYEP). This is not an unusual case as, over the years, the JYEP has had a profound impact on the religious lives of hundreds of young men and women. Subsequent to the conversion, this woman fell in love with a man whose rabbi turned to the RCA to validate her conversion. The RCA refused to do so, insisting that for its validation, the young women needs to convert once again. This refusal to validate without reconversion is being interpreted by the community, in the current climate (created by the GPS), as an invalidation of this convert’s Jewish status.

    The RCA based its ruling on the fact that one of the converting rabbis was a convert himself. This concern is unjustified. A convert may serve on a Beit Din when the judgment is regarding another convert (Talmud Yebamot 102a, Yoreh Deah 269:11 and Hoshen Mishpat 7:1). Additionally, a convert may be a judge on a non-coercive Beit Din, i.e. one to which the person appearing before the court has willfully submitted him or herself (Shakh CM 7:1; Sema CM 7:4 and Shakh YD 269:15). A convert serving on a Beit Din of conversion should thus be valid for both of these reasons.

    It is harsh enough for the RCA to declare that henceforth, from the time of the new RCA standards, that a rabbi who has converted cannot be on the Beit Din. It is, however, unacceptable for the RCA to refuse to validate previous conversions that were performed before its new system was set into place as there are solid and bonafide opinions that accept these conversions.

    To make matters worse, I cannot understand the RCA’s inconsistency when applying these “standards.” While the RCA has now refused to uphold all conversions in which this rabbi-convert co-officiated, there are many other conversions done by another rabbi-convert that have been reviewed and upheld.

    This particular case, like many others, involved a complicated family situation. Halacha is, of course, a system of law. But it is a system that takes into account fragile and sensitive conditions, ones that can be known only by a local rabbi who has served the family and has had a relationship with them. How could a central body like the RCA come to its conclusions from afar without learning more about the case from the rabbis who had religiously mentored this young woman and knew the family best?

    What pains me most is the personal hurt that the invalidated conversion has caused the convert’s family. In a letter to me, the mother of this young woman wrote, “It distresses me that this has happened, in light of your assurances [that my daughter will always be considered Jewish]. Why did this happen, and will she be dogged for the rest of her life, as she meets new rabbis?”

    In addition, and perhaps even more frighteningly, not only has the RCA delegitimized past conversions in these limited cases (where the rabbi is a convert), but they have even begun to re-evaluate conversions on a much larger scale.

    Thus, the RCA’s position from last year that the new system would not jeopardize any previous conversions is simply false.

    After the RCA instituted its new standards, parents of children whom I converted many years ago came to me, fearful that unless the conversion was ratified by the RCA, it would not be universally accepted. Additionally, adult converts in my community came forward with the same concern.

    Rather than assuring such people that it stands by the conversions performed by its own members, the RCA required testimony confirming the convert’s religious commitments after the conversion. This sent the message that the convert’s Jewish status was in jeopardy, and dependent on his or her ongoing and current level of observance.

    Beyond the personal pain that this has caused, this position is unacceptable halachically, for, according to Jewish law, once one converts, his or her Jewishness is final, regardless of future observance (Yebamot 47b).

    The idea that an RCA tribunal can unilaterally undo a conversion by another RCA member in good standing is intolerable. It not only creates an untenable environment for the rabbi, as it de-legitimizes his professional integrity, but, more egregiously, it creates an atmosphere of fear for the convert that the Jewish life he/she has been living for years will be seen, someday, by some official rabbinic body, as a lie.

    Rabbi Avraham (Avi) Weiss is the senior rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale and a longtime member of the RCA. He is also co-founder of the International Rabbinic Fellowship."

    ~~~~~

    Past 2008 article from Jweekly.com:

    "Agreement elevates the elite, weakens rabbis in the trenches

    Friday, March 7, 2008 | by rabbi marc angel & rabbi avraham weiss | opinions

    The Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Rabbinical Council of America have concluded an agreement related to conversion that will allow the two groups to work together. This solves a problem that reached its peak when Israel's Sephardic chief rabbi, Shlomo Amar, announced in April 2006 that he would no longer automatically recognize conversions performed by rabbis belonging to the RCA, the main union of Orthodox rabbis in America.

    According to the terms of the agreement, the Chief Rabbinate approved a list of about 15 RCA rabbinic courts and approximately 40 rabbinic judges whose conversions will be accepted. From this point on, only conversions done by these rabbis or tribunals will be recognized. Any rabbi who wishes to be added to that list needs the approval of two leading Yeshiva University rabbis representing the RCA and one from the Chief Rabbinate. The RCA and the Chief Rabbinate also agreed that all conversions previously performed by rabbis, other than the 40, are subject to re-evaluation by the head of the RCA's Beth Din of America.

    This agreement is deeply disturbing on many levels. What is most troubling is that conversions done years ago with the informal backing of the RCA are now being scrutinized. This strikes at the very ethical fabric of halachah. Over the years, thousands of people have been halachically converted and now they and their children, and for that matter, their marriages, will all be questioned. The pain that this will cause the convert will be unbearable.

    Indeed, the RCA's capitulation to the demand of the Chief Rabbinate to scrutinize past conversions done by its members raises the strong possibility that down the line the bar may be raised even higher. Years from now a new, more extreme Chief Rabbinate may pressure the RCA to question "sanctioned" conversions being done now.

    Not only is the convert's status questioned here, but the respected positions of local rabbis are also at stake. The policy sends a clear message that rabbis who have Orthodox ordination and are not among the chosen 40 do not have sufficient knowledge, judgment and wisdom to perform conversions — and they never have.

    There is an irony here: Congregational rabbis have a greater understanding of the issues surrounding conversion than those who are primarily situated in the beit midrash. These synagogue rabbis who are in the trenches with potential converts have a unique understanding of the situations and conditions that affect their respective constituents. As is displayed on their ordination documents, these rabbis are sent to spread Torah to their communities and have been invested with the trust, power and weight of our Torah to help shape the Jewish world. This decision undermines their mission.

    There are other ways to develop a mechanism of oversight. One proposal could have been that junior rabbis in their first three years do conversions under the guidance of senior rabbis. Additionally, the RCA could have questioned individual rabbis whom they suspected were doing conversions improperly.

    We are not the first to raise concerns about the Israeli Chief Rabbinate. Over the last few years, there have been legitimate and important Orthodox voices in Israel that have expressed opposition to its rightward trend and its hard-line position concerning conversions in Israel. Now the Chief Rabbinate is dictating its specific conversion standards to those living thousands of miles away in the United States.

    Rather than extend the Chief Rabbinate's reach to the diaspora, the RCA should display confidence in its loyal members by declaring that their conversions are valid and acceptable in the eyes of God and halachah. This should be our posture as we move forward together with like-minded voices in Israel.

    This was a moment of truth. The criteria on conversion as drafted by the RCA and Chief Rabbinate are the most stringent and do not reflect the range of legitimate halachic opinions. The approach insists, for example, that parents converting an adopted child commit to 12 years of yeshiva education. But suppose parents are only prepared to make an eight-year commitment; suppose they are committed to sending their child to a community day school; suppose, as is a growing trend in our Jewish world, they simply cannot afford tuition; and suppose their child has a learning disability and must be sent to a secular school?

    We have received reports that such potential converts have already been turned away. What is next? Will past conversions, such as these, now be nullified retroactively?

    If these standards become the criteria for who is a Jew, it means there will be only one voice — enforced by just two rabbis — speaking for Modern Orthodox Jews in America.

    What makes this chapter especially sad is that the new arrangement not only undermines the power of local rabbis as teachers and spiritual guides, but puts fear into the hearts and minds of many converts who are upstanding Torah-observant and God-fearing Jewish souls.

    Rabbi Marc Angel is the rabbi emeritus of Congregation Shearith Israel in New York and past president of the Rabbinical Council of America.

    Rabbi Avraham Weiss is the senior rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale and a longtime member of the RCA. This piece appears courtesy of JTA.
    "

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