One of the most beautiful large Shuls I have ever davened in is the Modern Orthodox Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto (BAYT) (named for its benefactor, Joseph Tennenbaum. It is located in Toronto’s upscale Thornhill section.
I am a big fan of this type of Shul but I am also a fan of the Lakewood type community Kollel. A very successful Kollel of that type exists in Chicago. They have been in there for well over 25 years and have largely (though not exclusively) been responsible for the near explosion of Torah learning by Baalei Battim over the course of their tenure there. Just about every Daf Yomi in existence in Chicago today can be in part traced to the Kollel in some way. The Kollel has over the years provided some of the most dynamic and important Mechanchim, pulpit and Kiruv Rabbanim in Chicago and elsewhere and has inspired several smaller communities Kollelim to open ip in Chicago.
What does a Lakewood Kollel have to do with a Modern Orthodox Shul in Toronto? An article in Canada’s Jewish Tribune reports that a Lakewood type Kollel is being brought into town and that they will be renting space at this Shul. That has led to a conflict between factions there. And that is sad.
Among the complaints by the faction on the left is that ideals of Modern Orthodoxy will not be kept. The believe that the entire character of the Shul will be changed by the Kollel’s presence. For example celebrations like Yom Yerushaliyim will be ignored, and there will be no recitation of a Bracha for the State of Israel. It appears there will also be an unsatisfactory shifting of an existing Young Family Minyan to an inferior location that will then impinge on the main sanctuary’s women’s section.
This is just the latest in what seems to be a tug of war between right wing and left wing elements in that Shul and it threatens to disrupt the relative peace and harmony that has long existed between these two factions.
Although I encourage Toronto to welcome with open arms the proposed new Lakewood Kollel, I cannot help but be upset by the thwarting of a similar attempt to establish a Yeshiva university type Kollel at the Shul by memebers of the right. I can’t really blame the Baalei Battim on the left there for being upset by that and reacting as they are.
This in microcosm seems to be the way things are going in the Torah world these days. The right wing is flexing their muscle and getting their way. And institutions like Yeshiva University are denied access to the public forum.
The ‘move to the right’ is not healthy one in my view. It is one thing to strive to be careful in one’s Mitzvah observance and it is fine to believe in the Hashkafa of the right as long as you do not deny the left to present a legitimate Hashkafa of it’s own in the public square.
Let the two philosophies have a place to teach their views to the public. And allow people choices. It will serve the community far better than would a single option community. We already know what that looks like. Its membership are physically impoverished with little hope of self sufficiency.
The Torah only lifestyle is a beautiful one that should be allowed expression. But so should the the Torah ‘and’ community. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch knew that. His community was very successful and we have a lot to learn from it. To bad that Rav Hirsch’s vision is is all but obsolete in our day.
What’s going on in Toronto seems to be adding yet another nail into that coffin.
* My thanks to Mr. Joey Fried for bringing this issue to my attention.