Open Orthodox Rabbis Weiss and Herzfeld Attend Bible Study at Church Massacre Site


herzfeldYesterday, Open Orthodox Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld shared in Times of Israel his impressions of a visit, along with Open Orthodoxy founder Avi Weiss, to the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston for a “Nichum Aveilim journey.”

Herzfeld travelled with rabbis Etan Mintz and Avi Weiss two weeks after the murder of nine people on Wednesday June 17.

Herzfeld shares that “we asked if we could attend the bible study that afternoon at 6 pm. It was the same bible study group at which the 9 were murdered. The (sic) said, ‘Of course. Everyone is welcome.’”

“These simple words moved me a great deal. A murderer had taken advantage of their kindness and hospitality and brutally violated their sacred space but they had not changed one bit. They said everyone was welcome.”

Herzfeld relates that as he walked into the social hall of the church, “we introduced ourselves as rabbis and we were uplifted to see that two other rabbis, a husband and wife rabbinic team, rabbis Meir and Tara Feldman of Temple Beth El of Great Neck, were also present at the bible study.”

The instructor, Reverend Dr Lawrence Gordon, encouraged an interactive discussion, writes Herzfeld, who adds, “Two themes of the session became the focus of conversation. First: was it ok to be angry with God? Many were wondering if they were being unfaithful if they felt anger. A visiting AME pastor from Dayton said ‘it’s not anger, it’s questioning.’”

At one point, Herzfeld says, Avi Weiss shared “his own story of unity with his friendship with a local Baptist Church. He taught the song ‘because of my brothers and sisters, I wish the best for you.’ The entire room joined together in singing these words.”

After the healing session, writes Herzfeld, “we were then invited to take a picture with the pastors that were present. We were also embraced by family members of the murdered.”

Herzfeld, who received semichah at Yeshiva University, currently heads the Ohev Shalom Synagogue of Washington, DC. He served as the assistant rabbi under Avi Weiss at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale from 1999 to 2004, before transferring to Ohev Sholom.

Herzfeld’s temple, Ohev Sholom, was the first synagogue in the United States to hire a Maharat, or a so-called ordained Orthodox female clergy member. Ruth Balinsky Friedman joined the congregation in July, 2013.

{Gavriel Newscenter}


  1. Matzav’s obsession is so absurd to the point that they find normal friendly human behavior to be a problem. I bet no one at this close knit publication owns a pet or has a non Jewish friend. In fighting, however, is acceptable and even encouraged through instigation. Weird.

  2. Although Shmuel Herzfeld attended YU, he later aligned himself with Avi Weiss and YCT. Herzfeld has very publicly attacked YU and has severed all ties there. He resigned from IRF this week and has become fully Open Orthodox. At his shul, women lein and also daven for the amud. Women also act as mikri for tekias shofar there.

  3. Excellent coverage. Matzav, please continue to be a voice against this reform movement as that pretends to be Orthodox. Those on the left of Modern Orthodoxy are most at risk from Open-ended Orthodoxy. It is a selfless act of Ahavas Yisroel to be one of the lone voices to stand up against this reform copycat for the benefit of people that may be different then you.

  4. #1, Why does Matzav’s “obsession” get you so nervous?
    They have a mandate from the true leaders of Klal Yisroel to expose this vulgar group of heretics as being not in line with the Hashkafa of Torah or Mesorah of Yiddishkeit.
    Is there a reason that no other Jewish organization felt that they should act in “a normal friendly behavior”, and be Menachem Avel in Charlseton? I believe that The Agudah and other organizations issued statements of condemnation toward hate and religious persecution. But they didn’t go to bible study in Charleston, because Christianity is Avoda Zara, and Halacha prohibits entering a church.
    It would seem to me that you have been so influenced by this open liberal attitude that it bothers you every time you see Matzav try to admonish and uproot the terrible organization that call themselves “Orthodox”.

  5. This guy needs to go to the church for which jewish congregants? I guess that is nice, but is it not just him trying to build his credentials? I do not think that rabbinic pleasure is needed in a mourning community. Seems like it becomes a circus tent overall.

    But maybe he can help? No, they need Hashem and Liberty.


    Not a rabbi I have found is leading our Torah values in this world.

    What is he doing?