Open Orthodoxy

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Yated exposes YCT as a "Threat to Halachic Judaism"

Recently, the Yated newspaper published an article titled: "Yeshivat Chovei Torah: Is it Orthodox? An Expose on a Threat to Halachic Judaism". The article comprehensively discusses Orthodox halachic and hashkafic concerns with "Open Orthodoxy". Althought the Yated readership is ideologically right-wing Orthodox, it appears from Googling that the article has found its way to the target Modern Orthodox audience. At the end of this blog post I provide a list of links.

In my opinion, the Yated article accurately and appropriately critiques the hashkafah of YCT and Open Orthodoxy from the top down. The article first discusses the ideologies of Rabbi Avi Weiss (dean and founder of YCT) and Rabbi Dov Linzer (YCT Rosh Yeshiva), then focuses on the behaviors of YCT musmachim.

There are a couple of web sites where the article is available:
- Yeshivat Chovevei Torah: Is It Orthodox?
- Click here for a pdf of the article, scanned from the original Yated newspaper.

While the Yated article is comprehensive, I find it interesting the amount of material that wasn't discussed:
- Open Orthodox rabbis further radicalize left-wing Orthodoxy (Yated did write that they might cover Open Orthodox feminist ideology in a future article)
- Mechitza magic: now you see it, now you don't
- Weeping for Psalms
- Stressful God of "tension" and "anxiety"
- and more...

The Yated article has generated a fair amount of response (or should I say backlash) in the blogosphere. Harry Maryles' blog post, YCT: Time to-Take a Stand is the only one I could find that takes a somewhat balanced (centrist) approach to reviewing the Yated article. While I think that Rabbi Maryles could be harsher, at least he approaches the facts rationally instead of emotionally.

Scrutiny of YCT hashkafah is not exclusive to Chareidim. Here are recent heartfelt comments from someone who considers "Rabbi [Avi] Weiss a good friend and a mentor." I have bolded passages that I find most insightful.
From Rabbi Joshua Maroof at The Yated - a Mamzer?:
I consider Rabbi Weiss a good friend and a mentor. During my time in Riverdale, he was the primary source of encouragement for me to leave my chosen career path as a psychologist and take up the pulpit rabbinate - something I had never ever even imagined pursuing professionally and in fact had a strong aversion to at first.

He is a human being of profound sensitivity and I learned a great deal from observing his interactions with congregants, interns and employees (I was none of these, being the Rabbi of the Sephardic congregation that borrowed space from his shul - although I did teach the Daf Yomi at HIR every morning for 2 years, and contributed to educational programs there as well.)

Rabbi Weiss is genuine and sincere and I owe him a lot for the inspiration he gave me to change my path in life. I spoke about this publicly at the last HIR dinner I attended before relocating to Maryland.

That being said - with all due respect to Rabbi Weiss, Rabbi Linzer and many of the YCT graduates whom I consider personal friends (one is my wife's brother-in-law and a wonderful rabbi in his own right) - I have an issue with any institution that considers itself Orthodox but questions the binding force of the 13 principles of the Rambam.

The religious leadership of YCT, at least in part, seems to advocate a bottom-line Orthopraxy with an option of Orthodoxy for those who are so inclined. With the passage of time, this trend has become increasingly pronounced, as far as I can tell, with the musmachim of YCT looking and talking more and more like Conservative rabbis as the years go by.

Again, I have a deep affection for Rabbi Weiss and many of the teachers and graduates of YCT (admittedly, even some of the very controversial ones who've been lambasted in the papers are people whose company I enjoyed immensely while I was in NY and whom I consider my friends.) However, I believe that Orthodoxy must draw the line when it comes to the fundamental tenets of the Torah system, i.e., the 13 principles. And, as I know from personal dealings and discussions with YCTers, the 13 principles are far from being universally accepted in its Bet Midrash.

Commenting on Is YCT treif or not? Rabbi Maroof states,
I think an institution must be judged by its leaders and the philosophy and outlook they espouse. In this case, sadly, [Rabbi Dov] Linzer (a friend of mine whom I admire very much) has endorsed a form of Orthopraxy that essentially makes the 13 principles optional.

He has a right to take this position and to have his own opinion - although I believe it is erroneous - but he cannot then insist on being Orthodox which, by definition, means having the "correct beliefs."

I think that Rabbi Avi Weiss and Yeshivat Chovevei Torah should applaud Yated. The Yated is adhering to principle #6 of the Open Orthodoxy philosophy: Public Protest

Should YCT and Open Orthodoxy be scrutinized? Are they a threat to all legitimate expressions of Torah Judaism (aka Orthodoxy)? Judge for yourself.

Links that discuss the Yated article:
- Yated Ne’eman’s Latest Against Chovevei
- Not Taking A Stand
- Glass Houses Alert
- Cross Posted at DovBear: The Yated, the Rav and YCT
- The Challenge of Constructive Criticism
- There was an article that appeared in last weeks issue of Yated
- Yated's YCT Critique Critiqued
- The Challenge of Constructive Criticism
- Strange Bedfellows
- Conflicted about YCT, Yated and R' Harry Maryles
- YCT-Yated Ne’eman Dustup
- Rabbi Chaim Rapoport -- Open Letter to the Yated Ne'eman
- pre-LA and rightwing jews
- How mighty are the righteous....
- Learning with the Yated
- Taking Each Other Down A Peg
- In the following pages, we will quote...
- paradoxical faith