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Rabbi Avi Weiss

But he has been as active in creating new, imaginative projects as in fighting old evils. Rabbi Weiss is the founder of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, a rabbinical seminary he dubbed “Open Orthodoxy.” The term may sound dubious, but the rabbis his yeshiva has graduated are now the most sought after rabbinic prospects in America. He also founded Yeshivat Maharat for Orthodox women, dealing through halachic means with the changing gender roles in America. And then he co-founded the International Rabbinical Fellowship, an Orthodox rabbinical association that’s a liberal alternative to the Rabbinical Council of America.

Big mistakes, all three.

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For the record: I support and embrace every one of Rabbi Weiss’ endeavors, I believe that they’re completely proper in terms of Jewish tradition, and I’ve had the honor of being part of a congregation that was led by a YCT graduate—and the experience was fabulous.

But each one of Rabbi Weiss’ endeavors have been so poorly presented to the Orthodox public, that he was practically begging for his current confrontation with the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) and, in turn, with the Israeli Rabbinate.

I don’t believe the YCT movement is actually interested in a split from mainstream Orthodoxy. But at this point it is facing a terrible image issue with that mainstream. Complaining in heartfelt op-eds is fine, but there appears to be an existential problem today which a mere public relations effort will not fix. It concerns the ability of Zionist, Orthodox Jews to make aliyah quickly and without needless hassle.

Luckily, Minister of religious Services Naftali Bennett, the one who dropped the ball on our chances to revive the Chief Rabbinate, can still get involved with the RCA and explain to them in no uncertain terms the difference between the value of Zionist aliyah and the value of Rabbinic turf.

This outrage must be stopped. The RCA must be told, by a dedicated and Zionist Orthodox Israeli leader, the damage caused directly by their shenanigans. If they have bridges to mend with the YCT crowd–and Heaven knows those bridges could use mending–they mustn’t do it on the backs of American olim, and the best kind of olim at that.

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Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.
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