Op-Ed: Open Orthodoxy's Real Victims: Good Enough isn't Enough
Avi Weiss unilaterally has brought on himself the problems he now has, being denied recognition by the Chief Rabbinate when he tries attesting to conversions. However, the real victims in his story are the tragically unsuspecting prospective Gerim, converts ,who merely have gone to their local rabbis, unaware that — besides Reform Judaism, Conservative Judaism, Humanist Judaism, New Age Judaism, Reconstructionist Judaism — there not only is authentic Orthodoxy . . . but also Avi’s new-fangled “Open Orthodoxy.”
This “Open Orthodoxy” extends to Avi’s seminary, Yeshiva Chovevei Torah (YCT), and his rabbinical association, International Rabbinic Fellowship (IRF).
Just as 99 percent of world Jewry have no idea that there are at least three different Lutheranisms in America (ECLA, Missouri Synod, and Wisconsin Synod), so does the prospective convert to Judaism have no clue that there is any difference between authentic Orthodoxy and new-fangled “Open Orthodoxy.” So those victims haplessly and ignorantly go to the local Orthodoxy within their neighborhood, dutifully do what is asked of and taught to them, and perceive that they are getting “converted Orthodox” — blissfully unaware that their IRF rabbi and YCT graduate is affiliated with a leader who publicly is at war with the Israeli Chief Rabbinate and who publicly is advocating for recognition in Israel of Reform conversions.
Those are the real victims, the prospective Orthodox converts caught in a political maelstrom they neither understand and of which the vast majority of them remain unaware, to this day.
I long admired the neshomo of Avi. And I probably always will. He is no Acher (heretic in Talmud). He inspired a generation of us, before he himself went into orbit.
But Avi brought this rejection on himself. I do not know whether he still is a member of the Modern Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America (RCA). His name appears in the RCA online roster, but other publications report that he is not in RCA.
No matter. He ordains woman rabbis. He advocates for Reform conversions to be granted equal sway in Israel. He compliments one of his YCT boys for showing courage and sensitivity in allowing a reform woman rabbi to lead Friday night services at an Orthodox Union temple.
Anyone who says that Avi does not personally observe the mitzvot is a liar — there is no question but that he does not turn on lights on Shabbat, does not eat milk and dairy, has honored Taharat HaMishpacha (ritual purity marriage laws), learns Torah daily, davens (prays) three times daily, bentches (says grace after meals).
, his personal halakhic practice is unblemished. But his halakhic judgment is suspect. If he were to declare someone converted, who could blame a Rabbanut for wanting to double-check whether there might have been an intervening sympathy factor, a possibility that someone had not met the halakhic standard but that, out of sympathy, the converting “Open Orthodoxy” rabbi would have said: “It’s a tough one, but I guess it’s good enough.”
“Good enough” is never good enough.” And “Open Orthodoxy” leaders and spokespeople demonstrate repeatedly the price of “Good Enough.”
So “Open Orthodoxy” wunderkind Shmuly Yanklowitz teaches that non-Jews who want to think of themselves as Jewish are also part of the Jewish people. Wunderkind “Open Orthodoxy Dayan” Zev Farber teaches that there is no Patriarch Abraham, Avraham Avinu, yet sits as the editorial consultant for “Open Orthodoxy’s” Maharat Yeshiva for Women Rabbis and as the sole ordained Dayan of YCT, and also as the immediate° outgoing Conversion Coordinator of IRF. “Open Orthodoxy” is about celebrating homosexual married couples and their adoptions with Mazal Tov cakes at synagogue kiddush. It is about a practice where “Good Enough” is not good enough.
Avi brought this on himself. He brought it on his IRF converts. And it is our obligation to assure that he does not bring it on all of Israel.
( Rav Dov Fischer is Rabbi of Young Israel of Orange County, now in his fourth year as a member of the National Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America (for identification purposes only), an adjunct professor of law, author of General Sharon’s War Against Time Magazine (Steimatzky), and former Chief Articles Editor of UCLA Law Review. )