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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