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August 29, 2014 / 3 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘YCT’

Open-Ended Orthodoxy

Monday, November 4th, 2013

A guest post by Y. Bloch

I’m not sure how to feel about Open Orthodoxy. As of 6 months ago, I had never heard the term. Now, it’s all the rage, with the pages of Times of Israel, Tablet Magazine and Haaretz.com filled with attacks, defenses and rebuttals (the latest being “Orthodox and here to stay” by Rabbi Asher Lopatin).

I’m still not certain what Open Orthodoxy means. Is it the new term for what used to be called, way back in 5773, LWMO, left-wing Modern Orthodox? (Personally, I’m LMFAO and I know it.) Is it the new term for Modern Orthodoxy as a whole, now that “modern” has become a term not be used in polite company, like “colored,” “scientific fact” and “liberal”? Is it exclusive to Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, its faculty, students, graduates and supporters? It’s hard to know. Being an English major, I naturally turn to the dictionary (Random House, in this case). “Open Orthodoxy” isn’t in there, and “open” has 88 definitions. However, “open-ended” seems to be more promising:

1. not having fixed limits; unrestricted, broad: an open-ended discussion.
2. allowing for future changes, revisions or additions: open-ended agreements.
3. having no fixed answer: an open-ended question.

Hm, discussions, revisions, additions and questions–that seems like prime OO territory. Let’s work our way backwards. I find “having no fixed answer” extremely appealing. There are, after all, many ways to conclude the sentence “The Holocaust is justified by…” and every single one of them makes the speaker a horrible person. So if OO means a Judaism that doesn’t try to attribute bus crashes to faulty mezuzot and hurricanes to gayness, I’m all for that.

What about “allowing for future changes, revisions or additions”? I think that anyone who is honest and knowledgeable about Judaism would have to admit that the Torah has undergone this process in the past, and if it couldn’t continue to do so, what would be the point of publishing new Jewish literature daily? True, we may not have the legislative or interpretive powers of the Talmudic sages, but Judaism continues to evolve along with the world. I know: it’s hard to imagine a great nation guided by an ancient founding document that can no longer be amended in practice, forcing us to argue endlessly over the text and the intent of its writers. I refer, of course, to Gondor. (Really, only the heir of Isildur can call himself king?)

This brings us to definition numero uno: “not having fixed limits, unrestricted, broad.” It’s here that I arrive at my problem with Open Orthodoxy. What are its boundaries, if indeed it has any? This was brought into stark relief by “Experiencing Faith,” a recent post by Rabbi David Almog (ordained by YCT and pursuing a doctorate at JTS) at TheTorah.com. To the question “…if revelation at Sinai is a myth, why should I be observant? In what can I still have faith?” he responds:

My own answer to these questions is that I esteem my intuitive religious experiences over doctrine. Whether or not the specific event of Sinai happened does not undermine my own experiences of the sweetness and goodness of Torah, or my sense of their prophetic nature. Moreover, just as I have a particular love for my own family and the community in which I live, I have an affinity for my Jewish family and its approach to serving God.

This brings us to the crux of the issue. The question that I always have for those who are not invested in the revelation at Sinai is the following: then why keep these 613 mitzvot? Experience, community, affinity–that’s all fine, but what if you’re not feeling motivated to separate meat and milk, to avoid threading heddles on the Sabbath or to abstain from physical contact with your spouse for two weeks every month?

More importantly, how can the OO criticize people like Rabbis Avi Shafran and Gil Student for experiencing Judaism by condemning them? Do the OO think that those rabbis are insincere? They really believe that they are defending God’s word, for what it’s worth, out of their love for their own community and faith. Why is that less legitimate than the OO experience?
I have yet to see what the compelling evidence is for the Open Orthodox who believe that (and there may be OO who do not believe this) the Exodus and the Revelation at Sinai could not have happened. Are they holding back? Do you only start to learn this stuff after getting your Master’s in Bible? Textual analysis only gets you so far.

Now, Open Orthodoxy espouses a belief that God exists and that He speaks through prophets. However, what He speaks is couched in… lies? Half-truths? Untruths? I’m not exactly sure. When God made up a new mitzva and told the prophet to pretend it had been revealed at Sinai centuries earlier, how did he convince the people? Did God perform miracles and wonders to verify this fabrication? And if prophets had the courage to speak truth to power on pain of imprisonment and death, why couldn’t they tell the truth about Sinai, namely that nothing of significance happened there?

I would love to hear from some of my OO friends (who may cease to be my friends upon reading this) what the answer is to this basic question: why fulfill these mitzvot? Why fulfill any mitzvot? From not mixing wool and linen to recalling the Exodus to putting leather boxes on our heads and arms, why? To fulfill the will of a God Who has been fooling us all along?

If I didn’t believe in the revelation at Sinai, I would have to go with the atheists. They’re far more convincing. But for further discussion and questions, OO, I’m open.

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Shafranian Evolution

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

A guest post by Y. Bloch 

Where have you been, Rabbi Avi Shafran? I guess life gets boring at Cross-Currents, where comments are verboten, so he moved on to blasting YCT on Times of Israel, going from talking about its “True and Tragic Colors: Yeshivat Chovevei Torah is simply not what it claims” to asking the question: “Open ‘Orthodoxy’?” Now, it seems, he’s arrived at a decision, at Haaretz.com, no less: “Be honest: Open Orthodoxy is not Orthodoxy.” I particularly enjoyed this paragraph:

But all those parts, for all their differences in orientation and practice, are unified by a belief system that embraces the Thirteen Principles of Maimonides (based on the broader three of Rav Yosef Albo, derived from the Talmud and other links in the chain of the Oral Tradition – our mesorah). An adherent of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, a Satmar hasid, a “Litvish” yeshiva graduate and a student of Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchonon Theological Seminary are all are unified by the essence of what the world has called Orthodoxy for generations. But “Open Orthodoxy,” despite its name, has adulterated that essence, and sought to change both Jewish belief and Jewish praxis (as in ordaining women or suggesting that problematic Jewish marriages can simply be retroactively annulled).

See what you’ve done, YCT? You’ve made R. Shafran legitimize RIETS (Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary – Yeshiva University)! But it’s certainly a relief to know that Maimonides and Albo were really saying the same thing, which is just a distillation of “the Talmud and other links in the chain,” and Lubavitch, Satmar, Yeshivish and Yeshiva Universityish “are all are [sic] unified by the essence of what the world has called Orthodoxy for generations.” Thank you so much, The World, for telling us what Orthodoxy is. Otherwise we might have to study this stuff, but R. Shafran assures me that it’s all boilerplate. Just read Ani Maamin, it’ll suffice.

What this does answer for us is whether R. Shafran believes in evolution. Just over the course of October, he’s evolved from challenger to defamer to excommunicator. That may be Lamarckian, but it’s still evolution. I can’t wait for November’s screed, which I’m guessing will be on the NYT op-ed page. Anyone know how to get past the pay-wall?

Search for more information about excommunication at 4torah.com

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YCT, Heterodoxy, and Agudah

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Agudath Israel has come out with a new statement about Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (YCT). They are ‘deeply troubled’ that YCT is hosting a group of 4 non-Orthodox rabbis at the installation of their new president, Rabbi Asher Lopatin. They will be involved in a roundtable discussion entitled “Training New Rabbis for a New Generation”.

I have mixed emotions about this. But I am in fact pleased that Agudah has responded to it – even if in a negative way. This shows that they must recognize YCT as an Orthodox institution. Which it is, in my view. I don’t for example believe they would be criticizing the Conservative Movement if they invited Reform rabbis to a roundtable of their own.

My feelings about this issue are mixed for the following reasons.

On the one hand – there is the rather well known decision by the Gedolei HaDor of the previous generation to forbid any interaction with non Orthodox movements. The fear was that by doing so, it would tacitly imply recognizing their legitimacy. Orthodoxy rejects heterodox movements and considers them illegitimate.

It is also rather well known that Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik made a distinction between interacting with them on any theological matters – which he also forbade; and interacting with them on non theological matters that impacted on the welfare of all of Jewry – which he permitted.

I agree with Rav Soloveitchik’s perspective. The question is whether this round table falls into the category of theological discussion or not. I’m not sure – but if I had to peg it, I would lean toward putting such a roundtable on the theological side of the argument and thus forbid it.

That said, I wonder if that would be true if matters of actual theology were expressly left out of the discussion. And the round table was limited to a discussion of practical non-theological rabbinics. Like psychological counseling or how to go about giving advice to congregants. The truth is that heterodox rabbis probably have a lot to offer in the realm of practical non theological rabbinics. As would say a mental health professional or even a priest or minister for that matter.

On the other hand, since this is a Yeshiva hosting heterodox rabbis I would be hard pressed to say that there would be no theological aspect to it. It is a virtual impossibility to completely leave out theology in such a discussion. Which is why I would be opposed to it.

There is, however, another thing to consider. What is extant today was not extant when the Gedolei HaDor forbade such interactions. Times have changed in ways which make me wonder if we should re-examine our positions. Let me hasten to add that I do not advocate the policies of Open Orthodoxy that YCT represents. They have rejected the prohibition of interacting with non-Orthodox rabbis and now freely advocate full engagement with them at all levels – including theological ones.

But I think it is fair to evaluate the reasons they have done it. Times have indeed changed. When the prohibition was made, it was a time that Reform and Conservative movements were on the ascendancy. They were a real threat to Orthodox Judaism. Orthodoxy in America was in relative infancy then. To wit – Rav Aharon Kotler who was the driving force behind the prohibition headed a Yeshiva of about 300 students when he died. Today there are over 6000 students there and they are growing exponentially. There are also now many smaller Yeshivos like Lakewood that are now thriving. They did not exist at that time.

There is no question that the small group of Orthodox Jews at the time were seen by most non Orthodox observers as a dying relic of an ancient past. While Heterodox movements were flourishing and growing by leaps and bounds. It is very understandable that the Gedolei HaDor did not want to give any semblance of recognition to them. Their ‘David’ was fighting a very large Goliath.

But today – the tables have turned. We are the ones growing. They are either shrinking (Conservative) or redefining Jewishness to include non Halachic Jews (Reform).

It is therefore a fact that heterodoxy is no longer the threat to Orthodoxy it once was – if at all. It is now apathy and indifference that is the enemy. Jews are leaving Judaism in droves. They do not see any denomination as relevant to their lives. They see themselves as secular human beings in the brotherhood of man – without the slightest connection to Judaism. One might even say that Conservative and even Reform Judaism today is at least trying to get them to retain their Jewish identity if nothing else.

In the light of all this, perhaps this is a Hora’as Shah – time to act and change the paradigm. Maybe YCT is not so terribly wrong headed in partnering up with these movements. I do not see legitimizing them as a danger anymore. The danger is in the growing numbers of unaffiliated Jews who have no problem with intermarriage and tend to buy into the ‘Apartheid’ narrative about Israel found in the secular liberal/leftist environment in which they live.

This is not to say that I agree with YCT. I don’t. I am not qualified to make judgments about Hora’as Shah. I am just thinking out loud. For example one might argue that giving them legitimacy in any setting, no less a Yeshiva, is forbidden in principal – having nothing to do with whether doing so is some sort of existential danger to Orthodoxy. I can just as easily see this argument as I can YCT’s argument.

Perhaps the fact that there is another aspect to this now that did not exist before is why Agudah has not thrown YCT out of Orthodoxy – as publications like the Yated have advocated. They must realize that they are Orthodox in that they follow Halacha… and that their intentions with respect to heterodoxy are good – even if badly mistaken for the reasons stated. And for that, I applaud them.

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Can a ‘Lefty’ Rabbi Save Yeshivat Chovevei Torah?

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

He calls himself a “Lefty”. Rabbi Asher Lopatin is most definitely on the left side of the Orthodox spectrum.

I have at times been critical of some of the things the left has done and their Hashkafos. One of those criticisms involved the establishment of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah – a Yeshiva where some of its goals counter my own Centrist Hashkafos. Most of which are based on the Hashkafos of my Rebbe, Rav Ahron Soloveichik and his illustrious brother, the Rav.

My criticisms do not include violations of Halacha. Which they follow. But they do include criticisms in their approach to various issues of the day. YCT founder Rabbi Avi Weiss candidly admitted that he has parted ways with his Rebbe on the approach to these issues. And he has incorporated it into the philosophy of his Yeshiva. For example there is is this item which is part of YCT’s mission statement:

(YCT promotes) actively pursuing the positive and respectful interaction of all Jewish movements.

This was expressly forbidden by the Rav as it would have the appearance of granting legitimacy to them. Interaction was only permitted as it affected the entirety of the Jewish people. There is also their emphasis on incorporating as much of the feminist agenda as possible into Orthodoxy. Then there is the issue of hiring Reform and Conservative rabbis as part of their faculty to teach “practical rabbinics”. All of this has caused the RCA to not automatically accept YCT ordained rabbis for membership. It has also caused many on the right to consider YCT to be outside the bounds of Orthodoxy.

The most damning statement came from Agudah after YCT head, Rabbi Weiss conferred the first “rabbinic” ordination upon a woman, calling her Rabba. Although he did this outside of the confines of his Yeshiva, one cannot separate what he does from what his Yeshiva stands for.

Making matters worse for YCT is that many of its graduates have taken taken YCT’s mission statements to extremes that have even crossed Halachic lines. I recall an inter-faith prayer service in one case. In an another a YCT Graduate joined a Reform “Kollel”. And in still another case there is what has to be the grand-daddy of all ‘line crossings’. From a 2008 article in Chosen Magazine:

[The girl] was immersed in the mikvah at [Reform] Congregation Beth Israel in a traditional conversion ceremony. A beit din of three rabbis, Robin Damsky of Congregation Or Chadash of the Northeast Valley, where the [family] are members; Mark Bisman, of Har Zion Congregation and Darren Kleinberg of KiDMa-The Southwest Community, officiated.

Although Rabbi Kleinberg was actaully criticized by YCT for doing this – agreeing that he crossed a line, it nevertheless is indicative of where the slippery slope of inter-denominational participation can lead.

That said there is a positive side to YCT. First I must give them credit for placing a high value on teaching professionalism in the rabbinate. Secondly – and perhaps more importantly – they serve a community of Jews who would be left without any Orthodox leadership. These are sincere people whose influences are incompatible with the Hashkafos of even right wing Modern Orthodoxy. While they are willing to give Orthodoxy a chance, the draw of a zeitgeist sensitive religious movement like Conservative Judaism can easily sway them away from what they see as an all too rigid approach to Judaism.

Without the left and its flagship Yeshiva, many of these sincere Jews would gravitate to those movements.

Some might argue, “Let them go!” It is better not to water down Orthodoxy. To that I answer, nonesense! I am not willing to concede a single Jew to heterodox movements where Halacha is considered optional (Reform); or where in many cases it is grossly misinterpreted and in any case not followed by the vast majority of its members (Conservative).

So as problematic as YCT is for me, as long as they follow Halacha – there is a place for them in Orthodoxy.

WHICH BRINGS me back to a Rabbi Lopatin. He is a Talmid of Rav Ahron Soloveichik. He received Semicha right here in Chicago’s Yeshivas Brisk, from Rav Ahron (as well as from YU). He is also a brilliant scholar who does not deviate from Halacha one iota.

He claims Rav Ahron as his Rebbe and rightfully so. As a rabbi of Anshei Shalom Bnai Israel, a very left wing Modern Orthodox Shul in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood he has many “interesting” and difficult Shailos come his way. Some of them dealing with serious issues like abortion. (Yes, MO Jews do ask Shailos.) When Rav Ahron was alive he used to consult Rav Ahron about all of them and followed his Psak meticulously.

He is beloved in his Shul. He is a charismatic fellow and attracts many non observant Jews to his Shul, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel. How wonderful it is for non observant Jews to have an Orthodox rabbi as their leader – someone they look up to! So charismatic is he that one of my good friends (and fellow Daf Yomi Shiur participant) who lives miles away from Rabbi Lopatin’s Shul often walks there on a Shabbos just so he can experience him and his Shul.

A couple of week’s ago Rabbi Lopatin announced that he was retiring from his Shul. And today I read the following news item in today’s Forward:

Rabbi Asher Lopatin of Chicago is set to succeed Rabbi Avi Weiss next year at the helm of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, the liberal Orthodox rabbinical school founded by Weiss.

I wish to offer my sincerest congratulations to Rabbi Lopatin. My belief is that Rabbi Lopatin will continue to follow the ways of our Rebbe, Rav Ahron Soloveichik. Although his Hashkafos are decidedly left wing by his own admission, I know that he can guide this institution on a path that will keep it from sliding too far to the left and cross the line of Orthodoxy. Because if YCT crosses that line, it will be tragic.

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Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

Bracelet Found

A multi-strand pearl bracelet was found on Sunday, May 28, on Central Avenue in the Five Towns. If anyone has any information regarding the owner of this lost item, please call (718) 544-4860.

R. and L. Lesser
(Via E-Mail)
 
 
Saluting Our Soldiers

This past weekend our great country once again honored our fallen soldiers, those who made the ultimate sacrifice on the field of battle.

Sometimes Memorial Day represents nothing but a day off from work and a chance to spend time with the family. But sometimes I find myself wondering what life would have looked like had I volunteered for the Marines fresh out of high school, instead of going to Israel to study in yeshiva.

What would 9/11 have been like if, instead of being placed under a lockdown in my isolated yeshiva in Israel, I would have been part of a mobilized unit sent to protect key installations? What would it have been like if instead of studying for finals, I would have been preparing for combat overseas?

I wonder what it would be like to wake up to the sounds of bomb blasts and machine-gun fire as opposed to the screams of “Shacharis time to get up!” It surely would have been different if instead of coming home to graduate college, I was only coming home to see my family for two weeks before heading back to Iraq.

I don’t always give the proper due to the brave men and women who serve our country with such pride and valor. Sometimes I don’t thank them at all. So here is a word of thanks from a grateful American Jew.

Thank you and God bless you.

Avrami Groll
Monsey, NY
 
 
 
Orthodox Bigotry
 
Kudos to Rabbis Harry Maryles and Mordechai Weiss for their May 19 op-ed articles dealing with the very real and very ugly problem of Orthodox bigotry toward non-Jews.
And kudos to The Jewish Press for providing a forum for the articles – I can think of no other Orthodox paper that would have had the courage to publish such brutally honest assessments.
 
As I wrote to Rabbi Maryles after reading his article, I was visiting a shul recently on Shabbos and the rabbi there seemed to be intelligent, sensitive, spiritual, etc. – until he got to the part of his speech when he began to rant about how “we [Jews] are not like goyim, chas v’chalila!” And you could almost see the shudder run through his body as he said the word “goyim.”
 
I wanted to stand up and shout, “I know a lot of non-Jews whom I’d trust with my money, my family’s well-being, etc., a lot quicker than all too many of the frumma Yidden here in Brooklyn whose only thoughts seem to be how they can rip someone off or steal government funds.”
 
Unfortunately, this rabbi’s smug superiority is far from an aberration, as Rabbis Maryles and Weiss so cogently point out. May we live to see a more tolerant and spiritually generous Orthodoxy than the one that seems to have captured our synagogues and institutions.
 
Zechariah Lerner
(Via E-Mail)
 
 
The Rav On
  
I wonder whether your editorial criticizing the Rabbinical Council of America’s plan to certify graduates of Rabbi Avi Weiss’s Yeshiva Chovevei Torah prompted the RCA Convention resolution that reaffirmed adherence to the teachings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveichik on interfaith dialogue.
 
Since a great many eyebrows were raised when Rabbi Weiss invited seven Catholic cardinals to the YCT bet midrash to study Talmud with YCT students, the RCA was either signaling a retreat on recognizing YCT or a coming revisionism to pave the way for such recognition.
 
In my view, the RCA rabbis would have done themselves some good had they considered what the Rav had to say about rabbis being non-judgmental and “bending” halacha in order to accommodate changing times. According to what I’ve read on its own website, YCT advocates both.
 
Harold Bernstein
New York, NY
 
 
Ceasefire?
 
Could it be? Has the Agudah has finally declared an end to the great Get Wars? It was not widely publicized, but New York State Assembly Sheldon Speaker was a prominently featured guest at the Agudah’s dinner last week and was warmly introduced and received by the audience. To my knowledge, New York’s Get Law – sponsored by Silver – has not been repealed. Agudah ranted in the early 90′s that repeal was necessary to avoid the proliferation of invalid gittin and mamzeirus and declared war against Silver (and The Jewish Press, which supported the law) to try to force repeal.
 
Wonders truly never cease.
 
Shmuel Duberman
(Via E-Mail)
 
 
French Attitudes
 
France’s Consul General Francois Delattre protests too much (Letters, May 26). Does he really think we are oblivious to the invariable and visceral anti-Israel reaction of the French government to almost all developments in the Middle East? Is he suggesting that France does not regularly kowtow to its growing Muslim population? Did not the French police drag their feet in acknowledging the most recent egregious attack against a French Jew who was kidnapped and tortured by a Muslim gang?
 
Also, what exactly did he mean when he said “82 percent of the French like the Jews, with France ranking second among countries expressing a positive opinion (after the Netherlands)”?
 
Which “French?” The real French, as opposed to Jewish French citizens? Are we supposed to be happy with his reference to “the Jews?” The French like the Jews? I thought that people like – or dislike, for that matter – people they know based upon individual traits.
 
Spare us Mr. Consul. We are not stupid.
 
Naftalie Fried
Brooklyn, NY

 
Palestinian States
 
In his fine letter to the editor “Ahmadinejad Was Right” (May 19), Dr. Steve Carol stated that in March 1921 the British partitioned the Mandate of Palestine, creating an Arab state of Trans-Jordan, later renamed Jordan. This is factually incorrect. Trans-Jordan remained a province of Palestine until 1946, when it separated and became an independent kingdom.
Abdullah, an emir (prince) of the Hedjaz, was governor, reporting to the British High Commissioner in Jerusalem and aided by a British Resident. If Trans-Jordan had been separated in 1921, Israel would now control 100 percent of Palestine. Instead, it controls just 22 percent.
 
Dr. Carol also erred in stating that the Arabs want a second “Palestinian” state. They are insisting on a second Palestinian Arab state. Two Palestinian states already exist – the Palestinian Arab state of Jordan and the Palestinian state of Israel. The so-called Two State Solution is really a Three State Solution.
 
Edward M. Siegel 
New York, NY
 
 
Iranian Diplomacy
 
The diplomatic posturing between Iran and the world is reminiscent of that between Japan and the U.S. in the autumn of 1941. As Japan was preparing for its covert attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, it was lulling America into a false sense of security, insisting its intentions were peaceable. Is this the same tactic now being used by Iran?
 
We are stuck between a rock and a hard place. How does one defeat a nation ready to die in a nuclear Holocaust as it brings down the rest of humanity with it? We must learn from history to jointly and effectively oppose theocratic rulers who wish to decimate our planet for their religious beliefs.
 
Harry Grunstein 
Montreal, Canada

 
Hating Germans

Re Y.E. Bell’s “Still Doing a Goose-Step In Their Hearts” (Traditional Corner column, May 12):

As an observant Jew who happens to be a German convert living in Gush Etzion, I was stunned to read that Mr. Bell will always hate Germans and especially Austrians. It is a Torah concept that sons cannot be blamed for the deeds of their fathers, especially when the historical lessons were learned.

To generalize and to hate all contemporary Germans and Austrians regardless of their acknowledging the despicable crimes of the Nazis is morally wrong, does not fit with the open-minded Orthodoxy espoused by The Jewish Press, and offends the many Germans who support Israel. I have never encountered this kind of generalizing statement – not even from Auschwitz survivors – here in Israel.

Nethanel von Boxberg
Neve Daniel, Israel
 
 
 
What About Living Jews?
 
Rabbi Menachem Porush writes in his May 26 column about the tragedy of the Jewish cemetery in Vilna being destroyed, stating that it’s our duty to do something to stop it and warning that we are not allowed to remain silent.
 
While Rabbi Porush would have us advocate for the dead Jews of old Vilna, his own party, United Torah Judaism, is negotiating to enter Olmert’s government, thereby supporting Olmert’s plans to disinter tens of thousands of living Jews from their home in the Holy Land, Eretz HaKodesh, Israel.
 
Are Jews only worth advocating for once they’re dead? Shall we wait until the Jews of Judea and Samaria are homeless to begin collecting tzedakah? Shall we wait until the rockets hit Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to advocate for security?
 
Rabbi Porush, your priorities make no sense! Who will stand up for the living, for the land?
 
Akiva Marks
(Via E-Mail)

 

Replacement

“Understanding Christian Zionism” (front-page essay, May 26) didn’t help much to bring understanding. Early in his interview, Mr. Brog discusses the zeal of Christians to convert Jews and everyone else. Later he mentions how the church has rejected replacement theology. This is pretty amazing because conversion is replacement theology – the rejection of Judaism for the acceptance of an alien religion. How is it possible that Christians don’t understand this?

 Any church or religion that converts Jews is a church or religion that fully and whole-heartedly embraces replacement theology.
 
Miriam Levinson
Philadelphia, PA

 

Nation Of Head Cases
 
 
Thank you for publishing Dr. Kenneth Levin’s outstanding article “Hamas’s Inevitable Israeli Apologists” (op-ed, May 12).
 
Dr. Levin is both a historian and a psychiatrist, and is the author of the recently published The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege. I hope Prime Minister Olmert and his advisers will read the book so that the Israeli government might stop the insane suicidal process of giving our land away to terrorists and expelling Jews from their homes. Can’t Olmert see that his plan will be catastrophic for Israel and the Jewish people?
 
Please publish more of Dr. Levin in The Jewish Press. We urgently need a national psychiatrist to guide us to a mental refua shlema, with God’s help.
 
Deborah Green
Philadelphia, PA
 
 
No Redress For Abuse Victim

While you say in your May 26 editorial “Allegations Against a Rabbi” that your position “should in no way imply support for the accused,” you seem to strongly disagree with the bringing of the lawsuit and having the plaintiff “publicly accuse another,” preferring instead to “have our rabbinic leaders come up with a process that can appropriately deal with these very serious challenges to our community” – with “a course of action compatible with Torah standards.”
 
If you read the article that you refer to in New York magazine carefully, you will note that the victim sought relief from the community some twenty years ago but that the accused rabbi’s employer, “a pillar of the community, took extraordinary measures to derail a rabbinical court action, or beit din.”
 
It seems it was decided that the appropriate way to deal with the rabbi was to let him continue having his fun with young boys.
 
At least the Catholic Church transfers offenders to another area.
 
Gerald Deutsch
Glen Head, NY

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, April 26th, 2006

Rush To Judgment?

I was disappointed by Dov Hikind’s op-ed article on the Boro Park disturbance (“Boro Park’s Night of Shame and Disgrace,” April 14). The assemblyman seems to assume the worst about our community and the best about the police. He wasn’t there during the incident, so how can he possibly know that the police were blameless and the Jews of Boro Park guilty?

As you pointed out in your excellent editorial the same week, the reports of excessive force by some police officers and overreaction by some community members both cried out for further inquiry. They did not warrant Hikind’s summary conclusions condemning an entire neighborhood.

Leib Garfinkle
(Via E-Mail)
 
 
Balanced View

The Jewish Press is to be commended for never missing an opportunity to remind the Jewish community of the circumstances of the tragic – and I believe unnecessary – death of Gidone Busch at the hands of police officers. You were also right to draw attention in your editorial to the problems with the obvious “us versus them” culture so prevalent in the NYPD even as you acknowledged that there probably is no finer police organization in the world. We need more such balanced reasoning in our community.

Alan Stone
New York, NY
 
 
Mum’s The Word

I noticed several weeks ago that The Jewish Press came in for some sharp criticism on the Internet after you reported that the Chief Rabbinate of Israel was rejecting some conversions certified by Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz, the av bet din of the Rabbinical Council of America and the Chicago Rabbinical Council.

I have been following this matter closely and find it instructive that I have yet to see a denial or clarification on the RCA website from Rabbi Schwartz, the RCA or the CRC. I would have thought that on such a serious matter they would all have made haste to set the record straight. Their collective silence speaks volumes.

Chaim Swerdlow
(Via E-Mail)

 
Voting Down Torah

Rabbi Barry Leff’s description of a committee that votes on which Torah laws to overturn is a sad commentary on Conservative Judaism (Letters, April 21). How do they interpret the Torah’s declaration that anyone who claims that even one law of the Torah has been abrogated or a new one added is a false prophet – a declaration that makes it very clear that every law in the Torah is timeless and immutable? Or have they already overturned this one?

What I find amazing is the delusional arrogance of his comparison between this committee and the great sages Hillel and Shammai, who debated in the interest of defining and expounding Torah laws, not overturning them. I wonder if this ridiculous committee has already voted on the commandment “I am your God.” If they overturn that one, it would pretty much do away with the need for any more of their insane proceedings.

Josh Greenberger
Brooklyn, NY
 

Work Of Our Enemies

I read with disgust Rabbi Barry Leff’s letter to the editor about the Conservative movement’s committee that meets to vote down Torah laws. In the time of the Holocaust, the Spanish Inquisition, the Roman persecutions – throughout history, in fact – Jews sacrificed their lives because they refused to give up Torah laws. Here, Rabbi Leff has a committee to try to do what some of our worst enemies could not – relieve us of the yoke of Hashem’s commandments. And he writes with such smugness.

If he wants to compare his committee with prominent historical personalities, I suggest that instead of Hillel and Shammai he try Korach.

Bernie Duetch
Brooklyn, NY
 
 
Amalek In Our Time

At the moment, I am struggling with the concept of Amalek. Amalekites are people who deprecated the Jews and our God at the time of the Exodus. I extend the concept of Amalek to include all people who deprecate us and our God, even though they may not be actual descendents of Amalek. Hamas clearly fits this concept of being Amalekites.

Two of the 613 commandments refer specifically to the Amalekites. One is to remember the Amalekites. The other is to destroy them. It is clear that to consider negotiations with the latter-day Amalekites, or to dream about “peace negotiations” with them, is to go against the commandments given to the Jews. What is required at this point is to give a strong warning to Hamas that any violence will be responded to with massive retaliation.

The Israeli public must be prepared and united for an eventual brutal war, with many casualties. It will occur, and better sooner than later. To think otherwise is to perpetuate a foolish dream. Putting up defensive fences – the walls of Jerusalem, the Maginot line, the Siegfried line, the Bar-Lev line, etc. – never prevented an enemy from eventually penetrating and overcoming the supposed barrier.

In a few years George Bush, a supporter of Israel, will be gone. And what if the next American president is less well disposed toward Israel? There is a call out to the Jews of Israel for unity and consistency in actions. Unfortunately, although the decibel rating is high, our ears are not tuned to the celestial frequencies that are sending out this message.

A. Milgram
San Jose, CA
 
 

White House Boy Wonder

I suppose I should join in the gushing reaction to the news that 22-year-old Jay Zeidman has been appointed the White House’s Jewish liaison (news story, April 14). It is certainly a feather in his cap and he is obviously very bright with a great future ahead of him. I find it difficult to believe, however, that he will have any significant say given his age and inexperience. The White House is a place that chews up and spits out even grizzled veterans. And, as they say, Washington is one tough town.

Arthur Krassner
Baltimore, MD
 
 
Guess Who Came To Shiur?
More Reaction To Cardinals
Learning Torah At YCT

 
Disturbing Trend

Two weeks ago, The Jewish Press (“Warm and Fuzzy Halacha,” editorial, April 14) criticized the recent visit by Catholic cardinals to Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (YCT). This incident did not occur in a vacuum:

* “The guests of the yeshiva [YCT] included Rabbi David Ellinson, the President of Hebrew Union College, Rabbi Joseph Brody, the Vice President for Student Affairs at the Jewish Theological Seminary, and Rabbi Saul Berman of Edah. All three danced together with students, faculty and other guests…” (Page 8, YCT Newsletter 2004, detailing YCT semicha graduation.)

* “During my first year at Hillel, I devoted some time to Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender programming on campus. We created a meaningful Haggadah for the GLBT community, which spoke to their understanding of what it means to be liberated…” (Page 7, YCT Newsletter 2005, by YCT graduate serving as campus Hillel rabbi.)

* ‘Should we be bending the halakhah to conform to our modern notions of egalitarianism?’ is a reasonable question to ask and a hard one to answer.” (Rabbi Dov Linzer, YCT rosh yeshiva, in conclusion of article about Noahide laws, page 36 of Milin Havivin/YCT Torah Journal.)

A perusal of YCT’s activities and program indicates that the school is not just espousing a more liberal form of Modern Orthodoxy. In fact, it is pursuing an agenda of extreme pluralism that compromises any association with Orthodoxy.

Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer
New York, NY
 
 

What Would The Rav Do?

The Rabbinical Council of America touts itself as following the teachings of the Rav, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveichik. It is well known that Rabbi Soloveichik ruled it impermissible for Orthodox Jews to discuss religious topics with non-Orthodox Jews and non-Jews.

How is it then possible that the RCA is now considering accrediting Rabbi Avi Weiss’s Yeshiva Chovevei Torah? As The Jewish Press and others have reported, seven Cardinals of the Catholic Church, in full ecclesiastical uniform, recently learned Talmud with YCT students – by invitation of the yeshiva – in the YCT beis medrash. Would Rav Soloveichik have approved?

Shlomo Herman
Jerusalem

By What Halachic Authority?

As someone who was around in the 1930′s I remember that the survival of Orthodox Judaism was very much in doubt at the time. It was truly miraculous that those who urged a loosening or abandonment here in America of the traditional standards that held sway in Europe did not succeed in displacing Orthodoxy with the compromised and watered-down breakaway denominations we call Conservative and Reform.

I was therefore shocked by the news that Rabbi Avi Weiss, who is quite well known to me as a Jewish activist, heads a yeshiva that recently hosted Catholic cardinals at a Torah learning session with its senior students in its beis medrash. Such an occurrence should be unthinkable within Orthodoxy and I cannot help but wonder by what halachic authority Rabbi Weiss decided upon this dramatic departure from established Orthodox practice. I fear that there was no such reliance and am concerned about Rabbi Weiss’s next departures from Orthodox norms and where they will end.

Pearl Kleinman
(Via E-Mail)
 

Yeshiva For Boys Needing ‘A Little More Attention’

Rabbi Joseph Salamon is correct in reiterating the enormous debt that the Jewish community, the day school movement in particular, owes Dr. Marvin Schick. Rabbi Salamon is also correct in noting the overuse and most often inappropriate use of the term “at risk.” Most important of all is Rabbi Salamon’s point out how our current mainstream system of chinuch is shortchanging many of our young students.

Rabbi Salamon is incorrect, however, in his claim that his is the “only independent yeshiva dedicated to helping boys who need a little more attention.” Yeshiva Ohr Eliezer, founded by Rabbi Shlomo Milstein over thirteen years ago, is a yeshiva that does just that. Testament to our success are our many graduates who have gone on to earn college degrees, spent time learning in yeshivas in Israel and America, and most noteworthy of all, taken their rightful places as productive members of their respective communities.

Yeshiva Ohr Eliezer’s reputation for accepting boys who most often have been rejected by other yeshivas and whose only recourse would otherwise be to register in public school, as well as its dedication to turning no student away for his inability to pay, has transformed the lives of many.

No matter how long it may take, Yeshiva Ohr Eliezer maintains the policy of working with each student and not even considering final expulsion unless he is a danger to others.

What is most baffling to me, as well as to the highly qualified and dedicated individuals who make up our professional staff of rebbeim and teachers, is how the great work that Yeshiva Ohr Eliezer and other schools like it are doing is not supported by the foundations and institutions who would rather steer their funding toward the “fancier” and more mainstream schools.

It certainly is time for those at the helm of these foundations and organizations – and those in charge of managing the funding and deciding the direction in which it is funneled – to heed the warning of Dr. Schick and to face the realization that schools such as ours are rescuing the students who have been rejected by the very institutions that are beneficiaries of most of their financial support.

Unfair, unjust, and poor business, to say the least!

Sharon D. Hagler, Principal
Yeshiva Ohr Eliezer
Brooklyn, NY

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/letters-to-the-editor/letters-to-the-editor-134/2006/04/26/

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