Monday, November 10, 2014


Rabbi Ysocher Katz
With all of my reservations about Yeshiva Chovevei Torah (YCT), I nevertheless had high hopes when Rabbi Asher Lopatin took over its reins. I consider Rabbi Loptain to be a friend. I hope he still considers me one. It is therefore difficult for me to say this. But my hopes about YCT have been dashed.

YCT is the left wing Modern Orthodox Yeshiva founded by Rabbi Avi Weiss.  Although I have not agreed with its Hashkafa of Open Orthodoxy(OO), I reserved judgement over whether it crossed any boundaries. I was eventually disappointed by YCT’s tolerance of one of their Musmachim, Rabbi Zev Farber. He has bought into the arguments of biblical criticism. Which in essence holds that the events in the Torah are fairy tales and never really happened.

For me that crossed a line. You cannot allow such thinking into your midst and call yourself Orthodox. 

It’s one thing to go against the mainstream and tradition by allowing the spirit of the times to lead your agenda. Although I am strongly opposed to it, I was not willing to characterize YCT and OO as crossing the lines of Halacha. 

The same is true about their embrace of and interaction with heterodox movements. This too went ‘off the reservation’ of tradition and contradicted the express views of Rabbi Weiss’s mentor, Rav Soloveitchik. He admittedly deviated from the path of his Rebbe. But even there, as long as the strict letter of the law was not violated, I was willing to consider him to be under the ‘big tent’ of Orthodoxy. Albeit at the most extreme left wing of it.

I understand his motivation. His intent is good. He wants to be relevant to serious Modern Orthodox Jews who had issues with traditional Orthodoxy’s approach to women. They were looking to the Conservative Movement as a model.  

He also wanted to be ‘Mekarev’ – reach out to those in the Conservative and Reform movements and get them to see Orthodoxy in an embracing light rather than a rejectionist light. Thus appealing more to their masses. And thereby get them to give Orthodoxy a serious look. But as correct as those motivations were, their implementation seems to following the same path that the Conservative movement did.

The Conservative Movement was also L’Shma. They wanted to ‘conserve’ Judaism by appealing to the masses who did not want to be limited by the strictures of Orthodoxy. This - at a time where ‘melting pot’ type of assimilation was the order of the day. They came up with some very controversial Halachic opinions because of that. Like allowing their members to drive to Shul on Shabbos. They reasoned that since their flock were driving anyway  let them drive to Shul.  And we now know the road their good intentions has led them down. Right to the precipice of eventual oblivion. 

YCT and OO seem to be embarking on the same path – with the same good intentions. Add to this their policy of allowing the arguments of bible criticism into their midst (disclaimers not withstanding) and what you have is decidedly not Orthodoxy.

But all this has been discussed in the past. Now one of their rabbis has gone well beyond the limits of all propriety. Rabbi Ysocher Katz has hurled an unbelievably shocking insult at a fellow rabbi. From Cross Currents, here is what he said on his Facebook page: 
Another peeping RCA rabbi. R. Gordimer, like his colleague R. Freundel, is peeping into people’s bedrooms (who sleeps with whom and who’s married to whom) and perversely sexualizes the important conversations in our community.
These abusive Rabbis need to be stopped from further corroding our communal fiber. We can’t allow them to continue trespassing boundaries and trample on our standards of tznius and kedusha. 
Rabbi Gordimer is too much of a gentleman to respond in kind. But I’m not such a gentleman. What kind of human being (let alone rabbi) stoops to this kind of comparison?! To equate Rabbi Gordimer’s views with Rabbi Freundel’s voyeurism crosses all bounds of social intercourse.

As Rabbi Gordimer points out, he must have touched a raw nerve in Rabbi Katz. It might be understandable for people to react that way when  a raw nerve is touched. But not when you are in a position of leadership and respect. His noxious comments severely undercut any arguments he might have had with Rabbi Gordimer.

I happen to agree with most (but not all) of Rabbi Gordimer’s points. But that is irrelevant. Even if you don’t agree with him at all and agree entirely with Rabbi Katz, that does not make his comments any less egregious. Is this the kind of people that YCT and OO produces? Is this the kind of person you want leading your congregation? Or setting examples for your children? I wouldn’t have anything to do with him even if his worldview was identical to mine. Which it isn’t.

You want to argue with Rabbi Gordimer on the merits? Go ahead. But what Rabbi Katz did here went well beyond the pale. Regardless of how Rabbi Katz feels about Rabbi Gordimer’s views, he owes him an apology for even thinking these comments – let alone making them public on social media.

I am also disappointed that no one in OO or YCT has come out with a condemnation of Rabbi Katz’s remarks. There is some very loud silence about this over there.

Unless there is a sincere apology made - if I were a member of Rabbi Katz’s Shul, regardless of my agreement with his Hashkafa, I would demand his resignation. Or I would quit.