An Open Letter to Rabbi Barry Dolinger, Who Testified Before His State Legislative Committee To Advocate Changing Marriage Laws (See http://matzav.com/orthodox-rabbi-barry-dolinger-testifies-in-support-of-ri-same-gender-marriage-equality)
You are a member of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA). Your colleagues at the RCA repeatedly have condemned Same Gender Marriage, repeatedly have signed public statements recoiling from Same Gender Marriage, have issued statements jointly with the Orthodox Union (OU), National Council of Young Israel, Agudath Israel, and others stating not only the obvious (that Same Gender Marriage is an impossibility under halakhah) but also that RCA absolutely unequivocally opposes the enactment of any laws anywhere that would legalize Same Gender Marriage.
Thus, RCA explicitly affirmed on March 30, 2004 its policy against “Same-Gender Marriage” by “call[ing] upon our fellow Jews and fellow citizens to stand opposed to any attempt, whether judicial, legislative, or religious in nature, to bestow the sanctity of marriage upon same-[gender] couples” and further stating inter alia that “the term ‘marriage’ by its very definition cannot be construed or applied to same-[gender] relationships,” as “[t]o do so is to deprive the term of its fundamental and defining meaning” that has been “defined and practiced for thousands of years as between a man and a woman, a father and a mother, respectively, [and] is far too important and essential to the bedrock of society and civilization as we know it, to be thus undermined by those who presume to redefine its essence.”
Similarly, the RCA, in a statement issued jointly with the Orthodox Union, Agudath Israel of America, and National Council of Young Israel, explicitly reaffirmed on June 21, 2007 its policy against “Same-Gender Marriage,” stating inter alia that “[o]n the issue of legalizing same-[gender] marriage, the Orthodox Jewish world speaks with one voice, loud and clear: We oppose the redefinition of the bedrock relationship of the human family. . . . [and t]hus, we are compelled to protest the proposed redefinition of marriage for the State of New York.” Moreover, the RCA explicitly reaffirmed, yet again, on December 12, 2011 its policy against “Same-Gender Marriage,” stating inter alia that “[s]ame-[gender] unions are against both the letter and the spirit of Jewish law, which sanctions only the union of a man and a woman in matrimony” and that “[a]ttempts to ritualize or celebrate same-[gender] unions are antithetical to Jewish law.”
No rabbi is going to be told by RCA what to think as an individual nor what he may say in his pulpit, unless he outright advocates that people themselves should violate halakhah. So RCA would step in if a rabbi were teaching that pork is permissible to eat, or that toeivah conduct is permissible. But when a rabbi advocates minority public policy positions from his pulpit or in his writings, or among his friends or at his Shabbat table, that is outside RCA’s orbit of influence. If his balabatim like it, they will support it and extend his contract. If they oppose it, they will meet with him and discuss it privately with him.
Nevertheless, no Orthodox rabbi anywhere in the world, ever before (to the best of my knowledge), ever has gone to a state capitol and, presenting himself formally as an Orthodox rabbi and Orthodox congregational leader, testified before a formally convened governmental legislative body as an advocate for the enactment of legislation that would legalize “Same-Gender Marriage.” Barry, it is unprecedented and indefensible.
When I was a teen in yeshiva high school, our Rebbe once caught two guys in the back of the classroom passing notes to each other about an upcoming Yankees game. It turned out they were getting the paper for their notes by tearing paper off the margins of their Chumash. The Rebbe thought a minute and said: “You know what, boys? I have to admit: There is nowhere in Shas, nowhere in all the Shulchan Arukh or in any of the Poskim that says it is forbidden to tear paper out of Chumashim in order to write notes about a baseball game.” And then, after a pregnant pause, our Rebbe added: “And that’s because the Mechaber and the Gedolei haPoskim never imagined that this kind of [thing] ever could have happened in the machaneh of Israel.”
So, Barry, there are no RCA statements or resolutions regarding RCA members who testify in state capitols, advocating the enactment of legislation that would legalize Same Gender Marriage . . . because no one ever imagined that such a thing would be possible from within our own ranks.
It is unworthy for you to respond by claiming that you are a victim of personal, ad hominem attacks. That is not fair. It is not honest. It is not so. Frankly, in the ultimate analysis, this is not even about you. It is about an issue greater than all of us. If you want to start claiming victimhood and calling things ad hominem, how would you categorize this recent article from The Forward:
. . . An article posted to Y.U.’s website about the event lauds Schachter as a “renowned posek,” or a decisor on Jewish law, and cites his “distinguished association and career” with Y.U. since 1967.
So far, only one RIETS alum has publicly protested Y.U. honoring Schachter. In a letter posted online March 21, Barry Dolinger of Congregation Beth Sholom, in Providence, R.I., stated that Lamm’s and Schachter’s behavior, as well as Y.U.’s inaction, “have caused unbelievable chilul Hashem [desecration of God]…causing many of the faithful to give up or shun observance, Rabbis, God, and causing less observant Jews and non-Jews to view our people as backwards, self-serving, or inauthentic.” Because of this, Dolinger said, he would boycott the RIETS dinner.
In an interview, Dolinger told the Forward that he feared that negative stories emanating from Y.U. contributed to people becoming cynical about Modern Orthodoxy or leaving the movement altogether. “I don’t think that, with all due respect, the leadership understands that this is killing us,” he said. Dolinger added that dozens of people had contacted him to offer their support.
Still, no one posted a public comment underneath Dolinger’s letter. And the Forward is aware of no other rabbi who has complained publicly about the event.
That, dear Barry – that is ad hominem. It gets personal and nasty against Rav Norman Lamm, against Rav Hershel Schachter. It was such a personally insidious attack that it motivated scores of us RCA rabbonim to react by buying a full-page advertisement in the YU Banquet Journal to praise HaRav Schachter.
We all know each other, Barry. I have davened at your shul. I have gone to a PawSox baseball game with you and your balabatim. I sat near you and schmoozed with you, even offering to be there if you ever choose to call for some kind of advice. For G-d’s sake, none of this is personal, or ad hominem, for G-d’s sakes. No one is arguing to “throw” you “out” of RCA. But it would befair and reasonable for the RCA to react by taking a firm stand, reiterating the position it always has held regarding Same Gender Marriage and refusing to associate with the expressed views of its one member (among a thousand) who is testifying at a state capitol for its enactment into law. You already have motivated people to post questions on the internet that place the RCA in an embarrassing position. See, e.g., Comments #40 and #54 at: http://matzav.com/rabbi-dolinger-responds
This testimony that you gave at the Rhode Island Legislature has embarrassed hundreds of rabbonim, members of the Rabbinical Council of America, in the eyes of those who already have diminished respect for “Centrist Orthodoxy” or “Modern Orthodoxy.” Like you, I do not speak for the RCA. Unlike you, though, I comfortably speak for hundreds. We don’t appreciate it, and this letter puts that m’cha’ah on the same public record that you have entered.
Rabbi Dov Fischer
Rav, Young Israel of Orange County