How Open Is ‘Open Orthodoxy’?

I think the proponents of "Open Orthodoxy" mean well. They are the part of Orthodoxy I find most easy to hang with, but "Open Orthodoxy" is a contradiction in terms. "Orthodoxy" means one truth. How open can you be when you have the one truth?

Mark Inhorn blogs:

The fall 2008 edition of Chosen magazine describes how Yeshivat Chovevei Torah graduate Rabbi Darren Kleinberg participated on a conversion bais din with a Conservative woman rabbi and Conservative male rabbi. Chosen magazine states,

[The girl] was immersed in the mikvah at [Reform] Congregation Beth Israel in a traditional conversion ceremony. A beit din of three rabbis, Robin Damsky of Congregation Or Chadash of the Northeast Valley, where the [adoptive family] are members; Mark Bisman, of Har Zion Congregation and Darren Kleinberg of KiDMa-The Southwest Community, officiated.

Wow. Will YCT publicly repudiate their musmach’s participation in this? Is this grounds for revoking smicha? Does YCT or Rabbi Avi Weiss (founder and President of YCT) even care?

In various articles over the past two years Rabbi Darren Kleinberg, has supported interdenomination batei din. YCT has not once publicly condemned those positions or any others of Rabbi Kleinberg’s. However, this is the first time I have seen evidence that Kleinberg (or any YCT musmach) has actually participated on an interdenominational bais din. Here are links to some of Rabbi Kleinberg’s pluralistic writings about conversion:

Getting pluralism back on track

(Much longer version of previous article by Kleinberg, promoting broad-based pluralism and an inter-denomination beis din)
Getting Pluralism Back on Track: Conversion and the Challenge of Jewish Peoplehood

Not-so-universal conversion

If anyone has any doubts why Yeshivat Chovevei Torah has not been and should not be admitted to the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), this should lay those doubts to rest…especially if YCT does not swiftly publicly condemn participation of it’s musmachim on interdenominational geirus batei din. If YCT does not vocally condemn such participation, then it may be time for them to remove "Orthodoxy" from "Open Orthodoxy".

Yehupitz writes to Hirhurim:

With its repeated use of the word "Rabbi", the letter makes it clear that YCT still recognizes the ordination and has no intention of revoking it or renouncing it or regretting it or second-guessing it in any way.

I heard a recording of a speech Rabbi Saul Berman gave several years ago at a conference whose name escapes me. An argument he advanced was that the granting of Semicha should also be understood to be the granting of the right to make "big" decisions within their communities, the kind that more RW Rabbis would defer to "Daas Torah".

In my view, this point of view is playing itself out to its logical conclusion, even if Rabbis Weiss and Linzer do not approve of this or that action of their musmachim.

It seems to me that the YCT mindset approves the ideal of giving its students wings to fly wherever their YCT-imbued consciences take them, even when the YCT faculty might feel the need to formally repudiate those flights.

I see the partial repudiation as an effort to forestall the likelihood of YCT being pushed out of the Orthodox spectrum, not only in cheesy Yated polemic but in more formal forums.

Michael writes:

Has YU "revoked" smicha (can one even do that) of any of its Rabbi alumni that have gone of the YU derech? I do not recall, though I have met some who intermarried, led conservative synagogues for years and advocated halachic recognition of gay relationships. Certainly some Roshei Yeshiva have condemned actions of the "liberal flank" (Rav Weiss, Rav Berman) in stronger terms than this statement without REITS revoking or wishing to revoke anyone’s smicha. What about Rabbi Rackman? Did his creation of the beit din l’agunot, as problematic as it was, eviscerate an entire life’s work as a Rav?

That some students who study at YCT do things that are improper does not mean that the institution is flawed or that everything that the graduate does is wrong. YCT has clearly stated that this Rabbi has done other good things, but that this action does not reflect the philosophy of YCT.

Is not YCT already marginalized in that their musmachim are not accepted into the RCA (effectively barring them from many or most OU synagogues) or as YI rabbis? It is not clear what is left.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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