Sunday, August 20, 2006

KOE Succession

Rabbi Gil Student, at Hirhurim, notes the Jewish Week story about Congregation Kehillath Orach Eliezer's new spiritual leader, Dina Najman-Licht. He opines that this story is irrelevant for Orthodoxy, as the synagogue in question is "halachic", but does not affiliate with any of the Orthodox movements.

Carol Newman, president of JOFA, and Devorah Zlochower, teacher at Drisha, think this is a positive thing, in the article.

On the contrary, I think it shows the weakness of both right-wing Conservative (which KOE is, owing its origin to the then-ailing Rabbi Louis Finkelstein of the Jewish Theological Seminary, and having had Rabbi David Weiss-Halivni, also Rosh Metivta at the Institute for Traditional Judaism, the seminary of the UTJ, as its spiritual leader since R' Finkelstein's passing) and the left-wing Orthodox.

Conservative Judaism has long called itself a "halachic" movement, even though they left halachic process behind 50+ years ago, with the separation widening ever since. Modern Orthodoxy has grown a left wing, which seeks (among other things) to maximize women's participation in communal life within halacha. The Union for Traditional Judaism split off from the right wing of the Conservative movement in 1983 over the departure from halachic process, although in many respects UTJ has followed the structure of Conservative halachic process, with a Committee on Jewish Law taking the role of a Sanhedrin for the movement, but not establishing its own true batei din. This issue deals with the intersection of all three.

Ms. Najman-Licht received all her training in Orthodox institutions, such as Drisha, Nishmat and Torat Miriam, and her bioethics from Einstein med school. Still, she had to go to a Conservative synagogue to find a compatible place. Contrariwise, KOE didn't evidently find a simpatico candidate among recent graduates of ITJ and JTSA. That a right-wing Conservative, or UTJ, synagogue had to get a spiritual leader, who by definition would not be a rabbi, from left-wing Modern Orthodox institutions, speaks to the weakness of both: she couldn't find sufficient opportunities among those who had trained her, and KOE couldn't find suitable candidates in their own movement, but had to look beyond their rightward edge.

Why is this taken as a positive, rather than the negative reaction of Alice Shalvi's defection to become rector of Neveh Schechter, JTSA's Israel branch? It seems an almost exact parallel, in small.


Gil Student said...

On the contrary, I think it shows the weakness of both right-wing Conservative (which KOE is

Oh man, you're going to get it for calling KOE right-wing Conservative.

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

This is "it". Except for the fact that it isn't actually it, since this-here blogger simply made an evaluation based on the facts (which can be disputed), instead of making snide side-comments implying that the good people of KOE are engaged in willful dishonesty as to their affiliation.

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

And now to dispute the identification.

KOE doesn't identify itself as Conservative, whether right-wing or otherwise. And they have a mehhitza. They are non-egal. They are an independent minyan whose practice conforms to Orthodox understandings of Halakha.

Unlike Makhon Schechter, which is officially part of the Conservative/Masorti movement. Comparing the two doesn't hold water.