Ortho­dox mod­ernising row goes global

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY SI­MON ROCKER

EURO­PEAN RAB­BIS have waded into a dis­pute that threat­ens to frac­ture Amer­i­can Or­tho­doxy.

The Con­fer­ence of Euro­pean Rab­bis (CER) voted last week to black­ball grad­u­ates of a New York yeshivah at the cen­tre of a row over its mod­ernising ten­den­cies.

The CER said that it would not recog­nise as rab­bis grad­u­ates of Yeshi­vat Chovevei To­rah (YCT) in New York, be­cause it had de­vi­ated from the “ba­sic tenets of Jewish faith”.

Ac­cord­ing to a spokesman, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis — an as­so­ciate pres­i­dent of the CER — “does not dis­agree with the sub­stance of the res­o­lu­tion, which re­lates to the ori­gins of Jewish law as be­ing in the rev­e­la­tion at Si­nai. But he is of the view that pos­i­tive re­in­force­ment of tra­di­tional Ortho­dox val­ues and prac­tices is a bet­ter way of making the point”.

The CER move re­flects in­creas­ing alarm at the growth of Open Or­tho­doxy, a loose group­ing of Amer­i­can rab­bis in­spired by Rabbi Avi Weiss of Riverdale.

Rabbi Weiss founded YCT in 1999 to pro­mote a more mod­ern ethos than ex­ist­ing Ortho­dox acad­e­mies in the USA. He also co-founded Yeshi­vat Ma­harat in New York, which con­tro­ver­sially or­dains Ortho­dox women as clergy.

In re­cent weeks, Open Or­tho­doxy has been de­nounced as hereti­cal by the strictly Ortho­dox Agu­dath Is­rael of Amer­ica, while the cen­tral Ortho­dox Rabbinical Coun­cil of Amer­ica is­sued a fresh at­tack on Yeshi­vat Ma­harat.

The CER de­clared that it would ac­cept only rab­bis who “lead their com­mu­ni­ties ac­cord­ing to Jewish tra­di­tions as de­rived from Mount Si­nai” and would not recog­nise rab­bis who acted ac­cord­ing to the prin­ci­ples of Open Or­tho­doxy.

The Chief Rabbi of Fin­land, Si­mon Liv­son, is a graduate of YCT, as is Rab- bi Ben­jamin El­ton, one of two Bri­tish alumni from the UK, who was re­cently ap­pointed se­nior rabbi of the Great Syn­a­gogue in Sydney, Aus­tralia.

CER pres­i­dent Rabbi Gold­schmidt ex­plained that the “main prob­lem” for his col­leagues at the mo­ment was not women’s or­di­na­tion but the­o­log­i­cal be­lief.

“The ma­jor is­sue we are con­cerned about, is that some teach­ers in the rabbinical school of Open Or­tho­doxy have doubted some of the 13 prin­ci­ples of Mai­monides — among them, the divine ori­gins of the To­rah,” he said.

If rab­bis seek­ing pul­pits in Europe did not sub­scribe to Mai­monides’s Thir­teen Prin­ci­ples of Faith, Rabbi Gold­schmidt said, “we are not go­ing to ac­cept it”. But YCT pres­i­dent Rabbi Asher Lopatin, re­jected the ac­cu­sa­tions, say­ing that all its rab­bis and stu­dents were “fully com­mit­ted to Or­tho­doxy and to all the 13 prin­ci­ples of the Ram­bam [Mai­monides]”.

Two years ago, a YCT graduate, Rabbi Zev Far­ber, stirred con­tro­versy in Ortho­dox cir­cles when he ar­gued that the To­rah was an edited doc­u­ment and that rab­bis should take into ac­count aca­demic schol­ar­ship on the Bible.

But Rabbi Lopatin said that Rabbi Far­ber had not taught at YCT “as far as I know”.

Rabbi El­ton said that both Chief Rabbi Mirvis and the Lon­don Beth Din “re­gard my semichah [or­di­na­tion] as valid and would not ob­ject if I took a rab­binic post in Bri­tain, and Chief Rabbi Mirvis wrote a warm let­ter to my con­gre­ga­tion on my ap­point­ment.” De­scrib­ing the CER res­o­lu­tion as sad, he said: “I imag­ine that the CER has been mis­led by some very shrill voices in the US.”

There is grow­ing alar­mat growthofOpen Or­tho­doxy

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