Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Rabbi Riskin - Advocate of interfaith dialogue

Originally posted on January 19, 2010

The following is clearly at variance with not only the views of Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igors Moshe Y.D. III 43) but also R' Riskin's rebbe - Rav Yosef Ber Solveitchik


It's no secret that during the past two years I have become seriously involved in Jewish-Christian dialogue. In fact, here at Ohr Torah Stone in Efrat we've established the Susan and Roger Hertog Center for Jewish Christian Understanding and Cooperation, and many hundreds of Christians regularly attend classes and seminars to gain a better understanding of the Jewish roots from which Christianity sprouted.[....]

Columbia Spectator 1964
Proposed Ecumenical Schema Rejected by Orthodox Rabbi

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, a leading Orthodox Jewish theologian, told a meeting of the Barnard and Columbia Yavneh Society Monday night that the Jews should emphatically reject the proposed Schema of the Ecumnical Council dealing with the Jewish people. Dr. Soloveitchik analyzed the Schema, attempting to demonstrate that its intent was to define the Jewish faith as but a historical stage in the eventual triumph of Christianity all over the world. He implied that its aim was to facilitate Catholic proselytization among Jews. Claiming that the attitude of the Catholic Church's relationship to the Jews is that of a stance "over and against" rather than "alongside," Dr. Soloveitchik argued that each religion is and should be immutably unique and that the Jews, "doubly confronted" by human and uniquely Jewish problems, must preserve their individuality. The Schema, he said, denies the existence of Jewry as a legitimate body and treats them as a "theological interim." Rabbi Soloveitchik emphasized that while there could be no theological discussion between the faiths because each faith employs its own "mysterious language," Jews should work closely with Catholics "as two subjects working together on an object, the challenge of secularism." Lauding the efforts of the Church in the field of education, the orthodox rabbi said that many of the gains made by American Orthodox Jewry in recent years were made possible by the "trailblazing" of the Catholic Church.

Joseph B. Soloveitchik


  1. It all depends on how you define 'interfaith dialogue'.

    Maintaining cordial and respectful relations with the non Jewish community is both admirable and necessary. Jonathan Sacks has done a tremendous job in that regard as have the Chief Rabbinate of most of Europe.

    That said, Riskin's relations appear to go beyond cordial and respectful relations. He seems to be engaging religious practitioners of other faiths in some kind of theological dialogue.

    Notwithstanding the predictable outrage to come, it bears remembering that theological exchanges have long been a part of academic realities. That is where they belong, outside, but alongside the kehilla (consider that Rabbi Twesky, the son in law of JB Soloveitchik and other lamdanim taught there and were all certainly at home in an academic environment.Aharon Lichtenstein is considered an authority on Heidegger).

    Rabbi Riskin is forging a new trail, bringing those kinds of 'dialogues' within the daled amos of our communities from the Academic communities. All in all, that probably isn't a good idea. If Rabbis Sacks, Twersky, et al, thought the 'alongside but outside' model was a good idea, chances are it is.

  2. From a Torah perspective there is nothing exciting or even unusual in this devar Torah. Obviously these sentiments are not common (and perhaps not welcome) in today's charedi world; but what is acceptable in today's charedi world has no connection to what is actually acceptable (or not) in the Torah and to the Ribbono Shel Olam.

    As to the opinion of Rav Soloveitchik zt"l on this, it is nuanced and complex. As a talmid of his I am less convinced than Rabbi Eidensohn that Rav Riskin is "at variance" here with the views of his rebbe and mine. But what is far more important is that the Rav zt"l rarely if ever imposed his views or his will on his talmidim, and certainly not in matters like this. He made sure that his talmidim would think for themselves and respected them for doing so. There is no doubt that he would be extremely proud of everything his talmid Rav Riskin has done over the decades, whether he personally agreed with every decision or not.

    In expecting his talmidim to think for themselves and not imposing a "Daas Torah" authority upon them, the Rav was simply acting in accordance with the way the world of Torah was until modern times. It is only in our day that someone reads a devar Torah, and instead of dealing with the issues at hand he tries to delegitimize the author with the claim: "But he's not following his rebbe!"

  3. I am not an expert on interfaith dialog in halacha but I can say that there have been baal teshuva students of Rav Soloveitchik at YU who do completely outrageous things in the name of their rebbe. Most anyone can see that what they are doing is a farce. Their behavior and shitos can even contradict explicit Gemara which Rav Soloveitchik would certainly never do.

  4. Even rabbi Rackman wrote an aritcel agianst Jewish -Christian relations, saying it is a waste of resources, when we could be doing kiruv to other Jews.
    Nevertheless, the same people who opposed relations with other religions, always asked for help in times of persecution.
    However, The Torah itself sasy that all nations must bring Korbanot in the Beit HaMikdash. So who will be letting them know about this? I suggest we have to talk not only to Christians, but to Muslims, Hindus, and every other denomination.

  5. Not that I am a defender of Rabbi Riskin, nor do I care much about his views on xtianity or this whole story.... BUT - His views don't have to agree with his rebbe's. So how is that relevant?

  6. what rabbi riskin is doing (teaching christians) and what the rav prohibited (in Confrontation) are two different things entirely. how can you even make the comparison?

  7. Riskin has effectively rendered himself beyond the pale of normative Judaism.
    Rabbi J

  8. How come you haven't looked into Rabbi Riskin's bais din for geirus? How come you didn't attack his protege Zalman zatzal who used his money to buy rabbis (EJF style) many years ago when he launched Avi Chai with millions.... And when R. Riskin performed a third marriage for Zalman when he was still legally married to his previous wife, and was not settling support for her and his kids!
    Rabbi R has a long record.....

  9. About 6 months ago a video, circulated by the International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem (ICEJ), shows R. Riskin speaking of the “grafting” of evangelical Christianity onto Israel and “resurrecting” G-d.

    On the video R. Riskin says “We are meant to pray together. In Isaiah Chapter 56, the prophet speaks of the Holy Temple… Isaiah says, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.’ And this is the dream, vision and end-goal.” At this point, he is cut off, and his talk then continues with this: “G-d is asking from the Jewish People to fulfill our covenant… an eternal, irrevocable contract. The party of the first part, as it were, is G-d Himself. The party of the second part is the Jewish People, but not only the Jewish People. Because as Romans states quite clearly, certainly the evangelical Christian community has grafted itself upon the covenant.”

    R. Riskin is then seen saying, “It’s critical that we join hands.” At that point, on the backdrop of two hands coming together, one holding a Jewish star and the other holding a cross, the rabbi states, “and it’s critical that we resurrect G-d in this generation.”


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