Orthodox group defends Lookstein

NEW YORK (JTA) — The leaders of a liberal Orthodox clergy group defended the rabbi who took part in an interfaith service with President Barack Obama.

Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, the longtime leader of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, drew fire from the main U.S. Orthodox rabbinic group, the Rabbinical Council of America, for his participation in the Wednesday morning service.

But the founders of an alternative Orthodox rabbinic group, the International Rabbinic Fellowship, have come to Lookstein’s defense. In a statement, Rabbis Avi Weiss and Marc Angel defended Lookstein’s right to decide for himself whether to participate and took aim at what they framed as the increasingly authoritarian tendencies of the Orthodox rabbinate.

"We were saddened to read that Rabbi Lookstein was rebuked by the Rabbinical Council of America, of which he is a longtime member and leader," said Weiss and Angel, who is a past RCA president. "We believe that the RCA’s public criticism of Rabbi Lookstein is an embarrassment for the Orthodox rabbinate and the Orthodox community."

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