International Rabbinic Fellowship Statement on Tzohar Weddings

December 8, 2011

The International Rabbinical Fellowship calls upon the Chief Rabbinate of the State of Israel to permit the rabbis of the Tzohar rabbinical organization to continue registering marriages and conducting weddings in the State of Israel as has been the practice for the last decade.

The wedding initiative under the auspices of Tzohar has allowed thousands of Israeli couples, who might have opted for non-halakhic avenues, to marry under the wedding canopy according to the laws of Moses and Israel. Furthermore, it has brought many more to greater love for Torah and the commandments and respect and appreciation for tradition in the spirit of “Her Ways are ways of Gentleness and all he paths are peaceful”. The important work of Tzohar is a Kiddush Hashem, a sanctification of God’s name, which should be strengthened and supported.

Tzohar’s wedding project has also been a tremendous resource for many couples from here in the United States and other areas of the Golah looking to celebrate their weddings in the Jewish state.  Many of these couples would not have had the opportunity to create as joyous and meaningful a wedding were it not for the work of Tzohar.

We call upon the political and rabbinic establishment in Israel to ease this process and not put up more roadblocks that cause dissention and create difficulties for those who would avail themselves of this avenue of Huppah and Kiddushin.   We include in this ensuring the right of every Israeli citizen to register for weddings in the municipality of their choosing regardless of residency.

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Schism!? –By Rabbi Alan Yuter

December 4, 2011

Acting on its Torah-informed conscience in its Torah framed response to modernity, Modern Orthodoxy   has recently endorsed what are taken in other Orthodox quarters to be really radical changes:

1.          The first out-of-the-closet Orthodox female Orthodox rabbi was  ordained, and is now serving as a Rabbah,

2.          Women are permitted to read Megillah, not only for women, but in the presence of  and for men, [at B’nai Israel of Baltimore, the Orthodox synagogue I serve, we do allow women to read Megillah],

3.          Some within Modern Orthodoxy support secular policies that protect gay and lesbian civil rights, [I signed on to this policy and was criticized roundly and soundly for doing so],

4.          in some Modern Orthodox quarters,  partnership prayer groups have been endorsed,  [these are Orthodox gender egalitarian services, stretching Judaism to but not beyond a reasonable reading of the letter of the law–I believe that partnership prayers violate no law but I do not permit these rites in practice  because of B’nai Israel’s  Orthodox Union charter that requires that we follow Rabbinical Council  policy].  The arguments against partnership prayers do reflect legitimate policy concerns  but do not convince me that the partnership prayers themselves violate any explicit normative Oral Torah rule or statute.  As will be shown below, historical Orthodox precedent has allowed for far more radical changes than those put into practice at partnership prayers.

5.          Many Modern Orthodox rabbis allow double-ring Orthodox marriage services,  [I also permit modified double ring ceremonies, to be discussed below, for those who want them as I am convinced they are permitted and a marriage is a private ceremony which not subject to public policy discipline or rulings],

6.          and some Modern Orthodox rabbis have been known to object to the Orthodox “blessing” that mandates men to praise God for “not being created a female.” [Following the letter of the law and the spirit of our times, this rabbinically  mandated blessing in my view was not originally intended to be said in women’s presence  and perhaps not  be said out loud when women are present. My practice is to say this blessing, following the Oral Torah mandate.]

These modernity inspired changes have been challenged by other Orthodox rabbis who see themselves as “traditional” and who believe that Tradition is to be mediated by their inherited and conditioned sense of propriety.

1.          Consider the Agudath Israel statement:

Rabbi Avi Weiss has conferred “semikha” upon a woman, has made her an Assistant Rabbi at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale where she carries out certain traditional rabbinical functions, and has now given her the title of “Rabbah” (formerly “Maharat”). He has stated that the change in title is designed to “make it clear that Sara Hurwitz is a full member of our rabbinic staff, a rabbi with the additional quality of a distinct woman’s voice.”

These developments represent a radical and dangerous departure from Jewish tradition and the mesoras haTorah, and must be condemned in the strongest terms. Any congregation with a woman in a rabbinical position of any sort cannot be considered Orthodox.

 

After accurately describing what was done using detached, restrained, objective, and descriptive narrative, Agudath Israel’s statement then  makes value judgments that tell the attentive reader much more about  Agudath Israel’s own world view  than it does about the Modern Orthodox target of its animosity:

 

  • It is the social radicality of the change and dislocative dissonance  and not the real, actual laws of Jewish Tradition that determines what

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