Monday, March 10, 2008

And may you go from Splinter to Splinter

In the early part of this century, the RCA (Rabbinical Council of America) was formed as a YU/RIETS alumni rabbinical group, because the European-trained rabbis of Agudas Horabbonim looked down on American musmachim, even though in many cases they themselves had granted that smicha. Today, the RCA, and its affiliates the Orthodox Union (congregational) and Cantorial Council, are the strongest Orthodox groups in America.

But when a group becomes dominant, it can often stagnate, and lose sight of the reasons it was founded. Today, we have a new Modern Orthodox rabbinical school, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah. It has a consciously Modern program, ordains its own rabbis, and sends them to pulpits and schools across the country. It has a strong service component, training rabbis for community work rather than simply for Torah’s sake. While this might not be an ideal, it is necessary as fewer Modern Orthodox rabbis have been going into pulpit and school work, weakening the Modern Orthodox movement in America, as the best live up to their Zionist ideals and move to Israel, while the relative paucity of Modern Orthodox teachers and rabbis allows the larger number of Black Hat rabbis to fill schools and pulpits, where they influence the next generation to reject modernity and openness to society.

Just as the Black Hat Torah-Only (see R. E.E. Dessler, Michtav M’Elyahu, III:353) model was less than ideal, but perceived as necessary to rebuild Orthodoxy after the War, so too, Modern Orthodoxy needs to rebuild itself after becoming unwitting victims in a culture war not of its own making.

[From R’ Chaim Brown’s Divrei Chaim blog: R’ Dessler (Michtav vol III p 353) wrote that the Lithuanian yeshivos follow a different path than those of Frankfurt; it is better to sacrifice 999 bachurim who won’t make it through the system in order to produce one gadol b’yisrael through torah-only immersion.]

Just as they fear for (or welcome?) incursions from the Right, RIETS and the RCA have closed ranks against the upstart Chovevei, and have refused membership to rabbis ordained by Chovevei. Too, in the recent conversion controversy, the RCA basically knuckled under to the Israeli Chief Rabbinate (increasingly dominated by Black Hats who themselves are non-Zionist) in limiting the number of Modern courts empowered to do conversions without requiring similar stringent standards from Black Hat conversion mills, both in Israel and abroad.

Therefore, Left Wing Modern Orthodox rabbis from Chovevei, who need a rabbinic support organization for their future work, and more Modern-oriented rabbis from the RCA who want to set up conversion courts not dominated by anti-Modern forces in Israel, are joining forces to create the Rabbinic Fellowship (an unfortunate name; while Chevrah is a good Jewish word, in English it connotes Christian groups). As there have been similar rumblings in Israel about Black Hat domination of local and national official rabbinates, perhaps this group will join up with the more left-leaning Israeli National-Religious rabbinate to create a truly worldwide united Orthodox rabbinate.

3 comments:

Dov said...

"RCA ... refused membership to rabbis ordained by Chovevei."

That simply isn't true. As the very article you link to for "Rabbinic Felowship" says, YCT withdrew their application.

thanbo said...

Technically withdrew. Really, rejected, but in a way to save face. Quoting the NY Jewish Week:

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.

It's clear the RCA and YI are going to keep YCT rabbis out.

Is it firing when one is asked to resign? Technically no, really yes.

Larry Lennhoff said...

I think a YCT - Tzohar alliance would be a great thing.