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Last month, Israel’s Supreme Court extended the reach of Judaically meaningless “conversions” performed by Reform and Conservative rabbis in Israel. Now, non-Jews who undergo such “conversions” can declare themselves Jews and apply for Israeli citizenship under Israel’s Law of Return.

Although all mainstream Orthodox groups recoiled at the ruling, 50 “liberal Orthodox rabbis” got coverage in left-wing Jewish media for standing alongside their Reform and Conservative rabbinic sisters and brothers. Who are these so-called Orthodox rabbis?

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All 50 are associated with Torat Chayim – a renegade rabbinic body that has put its imprimatur on a wide range of practices that violate normative Torah Judaism.

Seven of them are women, even though women rabbis are not “Orthodox rabbis” and never will be. They can call themselves “Maharat,” “Morateinu,” “Rabbah,” “Rabbanit,” “Reb,” and even “Rabbi.” But they are not Orthodox rabbis – not today, not ever.

The other 43 are men who have no rabbinic compunction about signing “Rabbinic Letters” alongside their fellow sister rabbis. That alone defines these men. No serious rav – even a Modern Orthodox rav – would ever sign a “Rabbis’ Letter” if co-signed by women rabbis.

We could very well co-sign with women laity on a petition to ban BDS efforts at campuses or urging that America remain outside the Iran nuclear deal. But we never would co-sign with women rabbis on a “Rabbinic Letter” just like we would never co-sign with Reform or Conservative rabbis on such a letter – because they’re simply not rabbis properly defined.

But let’s take a closer look at some of the signers. There is the rabbi who personally ordained a homosexual activist who was so over-the-top that even the so-called “Open Orthodox” Chovevei Torah academy refused to ordain him. (If you watch his “engagement” to another man on YouTube – which took place at a public concert starring a Jewish homosexual performer – you don’t need a rav to explain anything more about this desecration of G-d’s holy name.)

Then there’s the rabbi who has famously written that he denies the truth of the Torah narrative.

Then there’s the rabbi who hailed gay rights activists as equivalent to the Maccabees of Chanukah.

And then there’s the “Open Orthodox” rabbi who performs same-sex “weddings” and has written that Orthodoxy needs to rethink its resistance to Jewish-Christian intermarriages.

And these are just the most salient of the rabbis with last names between A and M. The other half of the alphabet are just as dubious and worse, right down to the one who brings his son to sit on Santa Claus’s lap.

Abraham Lincoln once asked reporters: “If we call a dog’s tail a ‘leg,’ how many legs does it have?” A reporter bashfully answered, “Five.”

Lincoln famously responded, “The answer still is four. Just because we call its tail a leg does not make it so.”

And just because a rabbi who is a woman or does not believe in the truth of the Torah narrative or who performs same-sex weddings and urges rethinking resistance to intermarriage calls himself an “Orthodox rabbi” does not make him so.

More than 250 mainstream Orthodox rabbanim – ranging the spectrum from charedi to Modern Orthodox – recently signed a powerful letter advising the Orthodox public:

For several centuries, the term “Orthodox Judaism” has been synonymous with Torah observance – commitment to following the 613 Commandments and Rabbinic enactments as described in our classical sources….

Neither media outlets nor the public should be duped by messaging designed to mislead. No Orthodox rabbis have officiated at same-sex weddings, have ordained women, or have “revisited” whether the Torah was given by G-d to Moses. No Orthodox rabbi ever shall, and any reports to the contrary serve no purpose other than to misrepresent authentic Torah Judaism.

Whether or not an individual attended an Orthodox rabbinic seminary, one who spurns what the Torah requires is not an Orthodox rabbi condoning departure from Torah, but is, at most, someone who forsook Orthodoxy despite rabbinic training….

Though tragic, leaving Orthodoxy after even advanced rabbinic study is hardly a new or particularly noteworthy phenomenon. Any such individual removes himself from the community of Orthodox Judaism for all purposes. He cannot function as an Orthodox rabbi in any context, and any such function he performs is inherently invalid….

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Rabbi Dov Fischer is rabbi of Young Israel of Orange County; senior rabbinic fellow and West Coast vice president of the Coalition for Jewish Values; and an adjunct professor of law.
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