Rabbi Weiss Outside The Pale


The opinion piece by Dov Zakheim and Steven Bayme (“Not A Proud Moment for the
RCA,” Feb. 7) is an unfortunate work of fiction that seeks to promote one of
The Jewish Week’s favorite canards – that Avi Weiss is protecting “Modern
Orthodoxy” from the “senseless and arbitrary actions” of the “Haredi
Chief Rabbinate”, and that the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) is to blame for “failing to censure”
those of its members who expressed negative opinions about Avi Weiss.

The truth is far different. Rabbi Avi Weiss may have started as a Modern
Orthodox rabbi, but over the past few decades has championed positions that
have distanced himself, and his followers, from mainstream Orthodoxy. Rather
than being “Modern Orthodox,” Rabbi Weiss is the prime mover of a new
movement called “Open Orthodox,” which is distinct and different. He and other “Open Orthodox” rabbis are promoting
“halachic” positions that contravene the rulings of every single major
posek (widely respected decisor of Jewish law) in the Modern Orthodox, let
alone haredi, stream, in taking positions that include the ordination of women rabbis, and
embracing openly gay couples and gay marriage.

It is for that eminently cogent and non-arbitrary reason that the Chief
Rabbinate did not recognize Rabbi Weiss’ letters of attestation. [Editor’s Note: That decision subsequently was rescinded.] And it is for that reason that the RCA has struggled
for years — I know this as a former member of the executive committee of
the RCA — to rein in Rabbi Weiss and avoid a public confrontation with him, 
even though he has repeatedly thumbed his nose at agreements that he has made
with the RCA.

It is disingenuous of the writers, and The Jewish Week, to claim
that this opinion piece is a reflection of the grassroots of Modern Orthodoxy
rising to acclaim Rabbi Weiss. Both Bayme and Zakheim are associated
with Yeshiva Chovevei Torah (faculty and board member respectively), an
institution founded by Rabbi Weiss to compete with Yeshiva University — the
flagship of Modern Orthodoxy. Their bias has
clouded their judgment.

Forest Hills, Queens

The author is the rabbi of the Young Israel of Forest Hills. This letter
represents his personal opinion.