Opening Up Orthodox Judaism

Steve Lipman writes for The Jewish Week:

In a small classroom across Broadway from Columbia University, Moshe is having a meltdown one recent afternoon.

Moshe, in his late 20s, is reluctantly unburdening with his rabbi about his drinking problem. Depressed, almost suicidal, unhappy with his family life, Moshe talks in shrugs and sullen grunts. The rabbi, leaning forward in his chair, listens sympathetically. After a while, he convinces Moshe to make an appointment the next day with a mental health professional. "It’s not going to help,’ Moshe declares. "Rabbi, life’s not getting any better."

Moshe and the rabbi grow silent. And a group of young men sitting around a large table in the classroom break into applause.

Like the other men in the room, Moshe (not his real name) and the rabbi (not a real rabbi, yet) are rabbinical students, taking part in a pastoral counseling class at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School. To learn pastoral skills, students assume the roles, assigned at random, of rabbi and congregant.

…YCT rabbis in some cities report opposition when they try to join local rabbinical boards. The yeshiva withdrew its application for its ordainees to join the Rabbinical Council of America, the central rabbinical group of the Modern Orthodox movement, when it became apparent that the application would be denied. And the National Council of Young Israel recently ruled that any candidates to head its 150 congregations had to submit to a screening by a National Council-appointed committee; the decision was seen as an attempt to keep Chovevei Torah rabbis out of Young Israel synagogues.

Young Israel’s action is the latest implicit recognition of the growing viability and visibility of Chovevei Torah. Many view the creation of Chovevei Torah as an implicit critique of Yeshiva University’s perceived shift rightward, an attempt to produce pulpit rabbis able to relate to and lead Orthodox congregants firmly entrenched in American society.

…YCT enrollment this year is 45, mostly clean-shaven men in their 20s who favor large, colorful knitted kipot.

Opening up Orthodoxy? Is that like straightening out gays? Making boxing less violent? Reducing lust between people having sex?

Open Orthodoxy is like a sporting event without a  result. What’s the point? It’s like kissing your sister or blogging into a void.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
This entry was posted in Modern Orthodox, Orthodoxy. Bookmark the permalink.