Agudath Israel condemns Chovevei Torah for multidenominational roundtable


With Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, the liberal Orthodox rabbinical school founded by Rabbi Avi Weiss, set to install Rabbi Asher Lopatin as its new president next Sunday, the haredi Orthodox Agudath Israel of America is coming out swinging.

The 13-year-old rabbinical seminary always has been a flashpoint for traditionalist Orthodox critics, largely because of Weiss’ controversial actions, including ordaining women Orthodox clergy.

But what has Aguda’s hackles up this time is a roundtable discussion at the Oct. 6 ceremony honoring Lopatin that will feature leaders from the Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist movements. Aguda says the ceremony “does violence” to Orthodox principles.

Here’s the statement:

The forthcoming installation of a new president at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah is scheduled to include a “Roundtable” entitled “Training New Rabbis for a New Generation,” featuring the newly installed YCT president alongside four representatives of the non-Orthodox rabbinate as presenters.  This is a deeply troubling, and telling, development.

Throughout its history, our people have been afflicted with schismatic movements and sects at odds with the mesorah, or religious tradition, bequeathed to us at Har Sinai.

Sometimes such “new approaches” openly rejected the Jewish religious heritage, like the movement that introduced itself in the nineteenth century as “Reform.” On other occasions, the break with the Jewish past was more subtle, as in the case of the “Conservative” movement, whose name, though, was quickly belied by its actions.

Torah giants of decades past warned us to not allow any blurring of lines between the world of Jews who maintain fealty to the Jewish past and “new Judaisms” espousing theologies incompatible with our mesorah.  They accordingly forbade “multidenominational” religious ventures of any sort.

Groups that ignored that wise counsel have come and gone, even as the movements they sought to treat lightly have gone on to even more blatant rejection of our heritage, redefining their “Judaisms” according to their own lights and the whims of the times.

Countless Jews have been led down the path toward Jewish oblivion by the mesorah-rejecting rabbis of the non-Orthodox movements.  That an ostensibly Orthodox rabbinical seminary would now provide a prominent public platform for leaders of those movements to share their wisdom on the subject of training new rabbis is irony of the most bitter kind.

A yeshiva is a place where Jews rigorously pursue the timeless truths of Torah.  That leaves no room for those who reject the very concept that such timeless truths exist.  The forthcoming YCT installation ceremony does violence to this essential principle.

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