" Thou comest to me with a sword and a spear and a shield, but I come to thee in the name of the L-rd of Hosts, the G-d of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast humiliated..." (I Samuel, 17:45-47)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Why Did The Feminist Chicken Cross The Road?

"Rabba" Hurwitz with Avi Weiss. 
Q: Why did the feminist chicken cross the road?

A: To daven for the amud at The Hebrew Institute of Riverdale.

It's been a while since I wrote about Avi Weiss, who heads the Hebrew Institute in Riverdale, NY, and whose list of radical innovations in a supposedly "orthodox" synagogue include the recent ordination of a women, Sara Hurwitz, as a "Rabba."  When I last visited this issue, I castigated the Rabbinical Council of America for a weak-kneed response and their failure to throw Weiss out of the organization.The following link contains the RCA's official statement.  Essentially, the RCA told him not to do it again, and he agreed. It's important to note what the RCA did not require of him. They did not demand that Weiss remove the title Rabba from Sara Hurwitz, or remove her from her post. They neglected to deal with the dangerous precedent that even one Rabba represents to Torah Judaism. This concession was a major victory for Weiss and the other ortho-feminists out there. At the end of the day, the Hebrew Institute has a female Rabba. (For more on this subject, read my post, The RCA Is Dead.) As seen by this screen shot from the HIR website, Sara Hurwitz still retains her title.

I wasn't even aware of Weiss's latest outrage, until I stumbled upon an online article from The Jewish Week entitled, "Weiss Moves Beyond Rabba."  The title was appropriate, for indeed Weiss had moved beyond the issue, by allowing a female congregant to lead the Kabbalat Shabbat prayer service one Friday night. 

I don't feel like regurgitating the article. Read it yourself and consider the following points that jumped right off the screen at me:
  • Just how smug and brazen is Avi Weiss, to take this next descent into the abyss right after a public clash with the RCA? He's making an absolute laughingstock of the RCA, and they have neither the courage nor the intellectual honesty to remove him.
  • Consider the contempt he has for many of his former and present congregants, some of whom have already left his congregation, and others who may now reconsider it, after being put off by this latest incident. Avi Weiss does what he wants and the congregation can come along for the ride or leave. Of course there are many sheep in his congregation who will adapt to the innovations of their esteemed rabbi and mentor. In time they may even learn to enjoy it. And then they will hail him as an even greater innovator of "open orthodoxy."
  • Surprisingly, Rabbi Shafran of the Agudath Israel of America had mild words about the incident. While obviously opposing these innovations as contrary to yahadut, his response was parve. This is what I got out of Rabbi Shafran's words. "Rabbi Weiss's move saddens me." Really earth-shaking sentiments. I would have expected the condemnation to have some bite. It did not. And for that the Agudah should be ashamed of itself. Of course, in the grander scheme of things,  the Agudah is irrelevant to Avi Weiss. We're talking about two different planets.
  • Ironically, Rabbi Shmuel Goldin of the RCA had stronger words on the matter, as seen in the following segment of the article. This makes the RCA's subsequent failure to address the issue even more inexplicable:
Rabbi Shmuel Goldin of Englewood, N.J., a vice president of the Rabbinical Council of America, said RCA leadership is critical of Rabbi Weiss’ action, but has not yet decided on any action it may take.
“A woman serving as shaliachat tzibbur [the cantor] for any portion of synagogue services is unacceptable,” Rabbi Goldin said. “If such a thing occurred, it would obviously be wrong and not in keeping with Orthodox tradition.”
The recent RCA agreement with Rabbi Weiss, in which he agreed not to ordain women, did not foresee and “did not address” a woman leading services, Rabbi Goldin said, so Rabbi Weiss’ action is not in technical violation of the agreement. “The question is, is it a violation of Jewish tradition, and we believe it is.”
Does Rabbi Weiss face disciplining by, or suspension from, the RCA?
“It is premature for us to comment on any particular action that we will be taking,” Rabbi Goldin said, “but all actions are on the table.” 
This article was from August 4, 2010 (one day short of a mere five months after the RCA's "Rabbah statement"). From the tone of Rabbi Goldin's words, it sounded like Weiss was in trouble with the RCA.  I've checked the RCA website. I've clicked on every link and searched the site repeatedly. I don't even see a reference to the incident, let alone a statement reflecting any discipline. I don't know about you, but I find this this very disturbing. (I suspect that one or more philanthropists who support  Weiss and the RCA may have put a damper on any plans to oust him.) The RCA purports to represent "Torah true" Judaism. Yet time and time again, they fail to stand up for the Torah. Exactly how far can Avi Weiss push the envelope before they throw him out? Perhaps when a lesbian "Rabba" blows the shofar following neilah.Then again, maybe not.

Where is the public outrage from Torah leaders? There are striking similarities between orthodoxy's collective  failure to address the menace of Lubavitch messianism that arose after the Rebbe's (of blessed memory) death, and this very different but no less dangerous infection that endangers many segments of the "modern-orthodox" world.

"Separate but equal." An obscenity when it comes to dividing people based on skin color, or absurd notions of race. But in yahadutseparate but equal is essential to the perpetuation of the mesorah (tradition). One could surely argue that the role of the woman is even more essential than the man's. In many aspects I believe this to be true. The Torah requires a separation in roles, both for halachic and hashkafic (idealogical) reasons. And both are critical for the Torah observant Jew. Gender confusion, role reversal, these will prove to be the spiritual death of the Jewish family. Jews will leave the fold in even greater numbers if the fundamentals of our tradition become warped, skewed, and finally abandoned. (When Jonathan's Ema starts behaving like a second Aba, something is bound to go wrong.)

Women are as good as men. And Jewish women are as essential to Judaism as men are. But they are not men, and men are not women. Let women find fulfillment as Jewish women in accordance with the Halachah. And let them not be led astray by the false shepherds, who would sacrifice the flock to the wolves, to satisfy a feminist agenda. 

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