Open Orthodoxy

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

Sunday, October 19, 2008

YCT leadership rejects musmach's participation on "non-halakhic beit din"

On Hirhurim today, Rabbi Avi Weiss and Rabbi Dov Linzer of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah responded to the fact that YCT musmach Rabbi Darren Kleinberg participated on an interdenominational conversion bais din, as discussed in my previous blog post. This is the first time I have seen YCT's leadership break with their unspoken policy of “don’t publicly address critics or problems”. I commend both Rabbi Weiss and Rabbi Linzer for their swift public response repudiating participation on an interdenominational conversion bais din. I’m sure it was not easy for them to do, but it was the right thing to do. Aside from the religious issues involved, from a humane perspective, there should be zero doubt whether a conversion is valid or not, especially for a child who has little or no say in the matter.

One statement of YCT’s response I do not agree with is the following: “Rabbi Kleinberg's statements and actions should not be assumed to be representative of YCT's positions and principles.” While Rabbi Weiss and Rabbi Linzer believe and wish for that to be true, it is somewhat an unfair expectation. To a certain degree, a musmach is an extension of his smicha granter, whether both like it or not. Fundamental religious hashkafic and halachic issues expounded by a musmach are innately considered as reflective of his smicha granting institution or individual. For example, if YCT would have known in advance that Rabbi Kleinberg was going to participate on an interdenominational geirus bais din, would they still have accepted him as a smicha candidate? If the answer is yes, then Rabbi Kleinberg most definitely represents their positions and principles. If the answer is no, then are his actions grounds for revocation of smicha, especially if Rabbi Kleinberg is resolute to participate on interdenominational batei din in the future?

Here is the complete YCT response:
Rabbi Darren Kleinberg was ordained as a rabbi by Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, an Orthodox rabbinical school, in June 2004. Since then, he has been engaged in many positive endeavors as a rabbi on behalf of the Jewish people. However, recently, Rabbi Kleinberg has participated on a non-halakhic beit din for conversion. This violates the standards and principles of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and YCT categorically rejects this action. Rabbi Kleinberg's statements and actions should not be assumed to be representative of YCT's positions and principles.

Rabbi Avi Weiss
Founder and President

Rabbi Dov Linzer
Rosh HaYeshiva and Dean

Thursday, October 16, 2008

YCT-ordained rabbi joins "Conservative conversion bais din"

Updated 10/19/2008

The fall 2008 edition of Chosen magazine describes how Yeshivat Chovevei Torah graduate Rabbi Darren Kleinberg participated on a conversion bais din with a Conservative woman rabbi and Conservative male rabbi. Chosen magazine states,
[The girl] was immersed in the mikvah at [Reform] Congregation Beth Israel in a traditional conversion ceremony. A beit din of three rabbis, Robin Damsky of Congregation Or Chadash of the Northeast Valley, where the [adoptive family] are members; Mark Bisman, of Har Zion Congregation and Darren Kleinberg of KiDMa-The Southwest Community, officiated.
Wow. Will YCT publicly repudiate their musmach's participation in this? Is this grounds for revoking smicha? Does YCT or Rabbi Avi Weiss (founder and President of YCT) even care?

In various articles over the past two years Rabbi Darren Kleinberg, has supported interdenomination batei din. YCT has not once publicly condemned those positions or any others of Rabbi Kleinberg's. However, this is the first time I have seen evidence that Kleinberg (or any YCT musmach) has actually participated on an interdenominational bais din. Here are links to some of Rabbi Kleinberg's pluralistic writings about conversion:

- Getting pluralism back on track

(Much longer version of previous article by Kleinberg, promoting broad-based pluralism and an inter-denomination beis din)
- Getting Pluralism Back on Track: Conversion and the Challenge of Jewish Peoplehood

- Not-so-universal conversion

If anyone has any doubts why Yeshivat Chovevei Torah has not been and should not be admitted to the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), this should lay those doubts to rest...especially if YCT does not swiftly publicly condemn participation of it's musmachim on interdenominational geirus batei din. If YCT does not vocally condemn such participation, then it may be time for them to remove "Orthodoxy" from "Open Orthodoxy".