RCA Examining Its Guidelines For Individual Membership of Yeshiva Chovevei Torah


avi-weissYeshiva Chovevei Torah has been spearheaded by its controversial founder, Rabbi Avi Weiss, and has now graduated 65 rabbis in its 10 years. Opening in 1999 as an undergraduate program at Columbia University, it has evolved since 2001 into its own institution, moving from the Upper West Side last year to Rabbi Weiss’ Riverdale enclave in the Bronx.

This fall’s incoming class of 16 candidates is the largest ever, up from seven last year. The four-year program – less for some students with comparable accredited yeshiva experience – is tuition-free and has attracted candidates from as close as Riverdale and as far as Europe, Israel and Sweden.

Rabbi Weiss’ movement, which he calls “Open Orthodox” as distinct from Modern Orthodox, emphasizes feminism as well as interaction and cooperation with other denominations. Those stances have widened a gulf with the RCA’s members, who see the issue as a complex philosophical divide and not just a personal issue with Rabbi Weiss.

Chovevei Torah withdrew its application for inclusion in the RCA early on when it became apparent that it wouldn’t be approved, and the National Council of Young Israel later set up a screening committee for its branch congregations widely seen as intended to keep out the yeshiva’s graduates, who are ordained by Rabbi Weiss, Rabbi Dov Linzer (YCT’s dean) and Rabbi Yaakov Love, who is chair of the department of halacha.

But this week the incoming president of the RCA, Rabbi Shmuel Goldin of Congregation Ahavas Torah in Engelwood, N.J., in a carefully worded statement, said that while the council’s stance on Chovevei as an institution wasn’t likely to change anytime soon, the leadership was in the process of examining its guidelines for individual membership.

“The possibility has been discussed for a while that opportunities for membership may be found based on performance and other criteria, which might affect those who have semicha [rabbinic ordination] from an unrecognized institution, or private semichot,” said the rabbi, who took office last week.

“These possibilities are in the drawing stage and would have to be reviewed by the RCA executives and if presented would have to be approved.”

“We’re getting ready for our second decade,” said Rabbi Linzer. “We’re not going anywhere.”

Rabbi Weiss has stirred up major controversy by pushing Orthodox feminism to the limits with the escalation of a Torah scholar, Sara Hurwitz, to the newly minted title of rabba, a female halachic authority that is comparable to a rabbi. Orthodoxy rejects spiritual leadership for women, and last spring the RCA reportedly threatened to expel Rabbi Weiss over the rabba title. Ultimately, a compromise was reached: Hurwitz got to keep her title, but Rabbi Weiss promised not to give the title to any other women.

The above are excerpts from an article in The Jewish Week. Read the full article here.

{The Jewish Week}

{Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. I don’t think it is proper for Matzav – a website catering to those who believe in Mesorah, to publish articles from the Jewish Week that finds Mesorah to be “optional”. The slant of this article is that “Open Orthodox” is a legitimate “brand” of orthodoxy, just dealing in a slightly different way to a few “details”, such as feminism etc. Is the Mesorah that Klal Yisroel has since Kabolas Hatorah totally irrelevant? Were there no women in the Midbar, or in the cities of the Rishonim and Acharonim, that we find ourselves blinded by a brand-new issue called feminism? Klal Yisroel that follows its Mesorah knows the proper response to these ideas and issues. If a movement purporting to be Jewish ignores the Mesorah, where does “orthodox” fit in?

    Another example: The article mentions a “newly minted title of rabba, a female halachic authority that is comparable to a rabbi” – says who? Rabbi Avi Weiss? Is he the Rav Hamachshir of this website? That is not a stated fact, rather one man’s opinion of how to “upgrade” Yiddishkeit.

    Matzav.com shouldn’t allow itself to become the sounding board for individuals and ideas that don’t conform with Da’as Moshe v’Yisroel, unless presented from a religious viewpoint.

  2. On sensitive issues like this, Matzav (and other similar “Kosher” Web sites) should not re-publish verbatim from objectionable sources. I respectfully recommend that Matzav write its own stories based on its own interviews and investigations.

    Objectionable material from elsewhere does does become “Kosher” by merely “pasting” a Matzav label on it.

  3. The RCA started dying last year when they didn’t vote weiss out. they were afraid he’ll open his own council.

    Pretty soon, the legit and serious RCA rabbis will open their own council, as the RCA is serving them less and less. Quite ironic.

    The feared another institution, and through it lost their core.

  4. This “yeshivah” is in left field.He is creating his own form of orthodox religion. Stay away and go to traditional yeshivas.



  7. For many years we have had people like this. We had the Hellenists during the time of Chanukah. Socialists, Communists, both on the Menshevik side and the Bolshevik side. We have Zionists etc. The latest is this. Regardless of the RCA does, torah-true hashkafa does not change. In 10 years we will have other ideas that are along the Hellenist, Communist, Zionist line, but torah-true hashkafa will remain the same. Ein kol chadash tachas hashemesh.

  8. How is it that matzav keeps on going after avi weiss yet they never said anything about the phoney conversion of trumps daughter

  9. I have to take exception the the motzi shem ra against Rabbis Weiss, Linzer, Love, Helfgot, and Katz at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah. They may not have your hashkafah, but they are all committed to halachah and increasing Torah observance. Many of their shiurim are open to the public and I would invite everyone to attend; Rabbi Linzer gives a Daf Yomi shiur for which the audio is available from their website. And the rabbis they graduate are willing to take positions that few other Orthodox rabbis will take, in small struggling communities.

  10. To Charlie Hall (#12):

    “Halachah” means The G-d given Written & Oral Laws of the Torah.

    Why is this set of Laws given the name “Halacha”, which denotes: “Halichah”-Traveling?

    I think two very distinctly different answers to this question are what separates Torah-true Jews and Rabbi Avi Weiss and his ilk.

    For Torah true Jews, the “Halichah” refers to themselves-THEY must travel on the path of Halachah-wherever it may lead them-every moment, and in every aspect of, their lives.

    In “Open Orthodoxy”, the “Halichah” refers to the Laws themselves.THE TORAH LAWS must travel on the road of Enlightenment and Modernization, if they are to be respected and upheld.

    So yes, your Rabbis definitely are committed to increasing Torah observance. But of a Torah “cleansed” of all that their small heads find objectionable.

    As far as your gracious invitation to attend the shiurim-Thanks, but no thanks! I like my my Torah undiluted.

  11. We need to be as strong regarding recognition of legitimate Mosdos HaTorah as we are in our pursuit of observance of Torah and Mitzvos. Work on Lchatchila, sometimes rely on Bideved if necessary , but never violate bmaizid- intentionally. THEY may be vioalting unintentionally and while being misguided, but we need to be careyul about accepting the bideved of people who present their views as lchatchila. It can damage us and the Klall.
    Charlie – the priest of the catholic church in my neighborhood learns Gemara from as artscroll and can give a daf yomi class…… it does not make him into a god fearing man. That is not the criteria.

  12. I know you are a Baal Teshuva (that davens at the rabbi weiss’s place) who means well but the Gedolim including Rav H. Schachter of YU ALL FEEL THAt Chovevei is beyond the pale.

    Perhaps, instead of complaining on Matzav you should make an appointment with the Novominkser,Rav Shmuel Kamanatsky, Rav M. Solomon, or Rav Meyer Twersky in your own neighborhood and find out that raising awareness of the danger of the place is unfortunately a mitzvah and not motzei shem ra at all.

  13. Charlie,

    It is far from Motzei shem ra. They self describe as “open orthodoxy” not so secret code words.

    You should be standing up against the chilul hashem that Weiss and his cohorts propagate on a regular basis. It is probably ossur to listen to any shiur from that place.

    Sure they take positions where others won’t, because they take positions where halacha is not a requisite of the job. It is optional. Thus, a true orthodox rabbi would not serve there.

  14. #12,

    Do you have any doubt that the Chofetz Chaim, ZT”L, would have done anything other than condemn these “rabbis” and their “yeshiva” for time and again breaching the Mesorah?

    I’m wondering if you feel that HaRav Shimshon Raphael Hirch, ZT”L, likewise committed Motzi Shem Ra in condemning Dr. Zachariah Frankel for his heretical views on Torah She’baal Peh, which are credited with having led to the founding of the Conservative movement. See Collected Writings of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Volume V, p.p. 207-330.

  15. YCT stands for progressivism/liberal religion- ie. communism,/socialism (they call it ‘social justice’), toeivah rights, feminism (woman rabbis, abortion-on-demand, etc.), Darwinism, environmentalism, historical-critical methodologies (which implies kefira vis-a-vis the Divine Inspiration of Torah), etc. Not much different than JTS, HUC, or any of the liberal protestant seminaries that focus on liberation theology, liberal politics, and the chic causes of the moment. This is leftist infiltration of Orthodoxy, plain and simple.

  16. I am once again shocked at the narrow minded fear evidenced by those submitting comments on this site. Why not worry about your own communities’s flaws…rather than deciding that fellow Jews you have never met or studied with are evil incarnate.

    As a g d fearing observant Jew, I am embarasses by your readers.