Open Orthodoxy

Where Open Orthodoxy Ends: Your final destination for open review of fringe Orthodox Judaism. If you have comments, send them to

Friday, August 15, 2008

Open Orthodoxy blog mentioned in Forward newspaper

I noticed on the FailedMessiah blog that the Open Orthodoxy blog was mentioned in Forward newspaper:
Though Uri L’Tzedek earned praise from prominent Orthodox leaders for leading the boycott, they have also stirred up anger. Rabbi Pesach Lerner, executive vice president of the National Council for Young Israel, an umbrella group for Orthodox synagogues, publicly slammed one of his member congregations for inviting Uri L’Tzedek’s executive director to speak on “Ethical Issues and Kashrut in Jewish Law.”

“I feel embarrassed for the membership of the Young Israel of Stamford,” Lerner wrote, in a statement published by the blog Open Orthodoxy on July 28. “If they want to be lectured to by a young man with limited knowledge of ethics, of kashrut, of the totality of Judaism, by a young man who has limited experience in life in general, in Judaism more specifically, I guess that is their prerogative.”

Lerner’s tone was so scathing that the blog’s editor, wrote that he had originally been reluctant to publish the statement and had only done so at Lerner’s urging.
I want to be very clear that the reason I was hesitant to post Rabbi Lerner’s comments (see Rabbi Pesach Lerner's unedited response) is not that I don’t agree with the feelings behind them, but the comments about Rabbi Ari Weiss appear to be primarily an ad hominem attack, which is the “scathing tone” that I was uncomfortable with. When I provide criticism or sarcasm, I hope that I do my best to associate it with readily presented facts/sources. I certainly agree with Rabbi Lerner’s implication that a Young Israel (or in my opinion any Orthodox congregation) should not host the Executive Director of Uri L’Tzedek (or IMO anyone from Uri L’Tzedek) as a lecturer. I also agree with Rabbi Lerner’s sentiments of embarrassment for the Young Israel of Stamford. Although, if I was in his position I’m not sure I would have publicly voiced those sentiments.

From my interview with Ari Hart in Uri L'Tzedek, an Exposé, and review of other Uri L’Tzedek material it appears to me that their values and actions (e.g. the way they handled their Agriprocessors boycott) are divisive, self-serving, and represent a radical sliver of the Orthodox community. Uri L'Tzedek has also been inconsistent in their positions, shown poor fact checking, and displayed a high degree of ineptness concerning basic issues like obtaining their domain name (see Agriprocessors still not "kosher" enough for Ari Hart). Is Uri L'Tzedek an organization that deserves respect?

It appears to me that Uri L’Tzedek and its leadership (young men who are either Yeshivat Chovevei Torah rabbinical students or graduates) has very little clout and are publicity hounds concerning Agriprocessors. Uri L’Tzedek has received an excessive amount of news coverage for doing very little. When one reads Uri L’Tzedek’s statements, they give the impression that they’re “on the inside” in regular contact with Jim Martin (Agriprocessors compliance officer) and have directly affected changes in Agriprocessors policies. Anyone following the Agriprocessors saga can see that’s far from the case. For example, Uri L'Tzedek was not invited to partake in the recent and only Orthodox delegation to visit Agriprocessors. (Note: The delegation was led by the National Council of Young Israel and somewhat represented Orthodox diversity. If NCYI or Agriprocessors thought Uri L'Tzedek had any clout, credibility, or value then either would have insisted on Uri L'Tzedek's presence.)

Forward stated Uri L’Tzedek has "earned praise from prominent Orthodox leaders for leading the boycott". None of those leaders are mentioned in the article. Also, those "prominent Orthodox leaders", which I assume are the likes of Rabbi Avi Weiss and Rabbi Shlomo Riskin may be prominent, but only within their left-wing constituencies. No credible mainstream broad-spectrum Orthodox organization has shown any support for Uri L'Tzedek.

As I stated in previous blog posts, I am disturbed by the allegations against Agriprocessors. I believe that Agriprocessors issues are being dealt with by the company and the government. If they don't get a handle on their problems, it appears that ultimately Agriprocessors will lose it kosher certification and go out of business.

Shmarya Rosenberg of the FailedMessiah blog has been an on-going critic of Agriprocessors. I find FailedMessiah interesting to read even though there are many aspects of the FailedMessiah approach to dealing with the Agriprocessors affair (and in general) that I do not agree with -- but it appears that one thing that crosses ideological boundaries is criticism of Uri L'Tzedek, albeit from a different perspective. Here are some FailedMessiah links about Uri L'Tzedek:

- Uri L'Tzedek Spins Victory

- BREAKING! Agriprocessors' Compliance Officer Refuses To Comply With Deal Made With Uri L'Tzedek

- Breaking! Uri L'Tzedek Cancels Rubashkin Boycott

Other left-wing criticism of the Uri L'Tzedek boycott:
- A Half-Hearted Defense of AgriProcessors