Riskin Versus The Chief Rabbinate – A Dose Of Reality


shlomo riskinBy Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer

He was an amazingly energetic worker, who loved to deal with people and who brilliantly launched countless new projects and developed ingenious initiatives. But he was not a team player. In fact, many of his actions starkly violated our company’s policies, and his maverick approaches to important issues undermined our core values.

It is eminently understandable why the employer felt unable to extend the worker’s  employment. Few if any would disagree.

When the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, the Rabbanut, released word that it may not extend the tenure of R. Shlomo Riskin as Chief Rabbi of the city of Efrat, supporters of R. Riskin were up in arms:

Rabbi Riskin is one of the great Modern Orthodox rabbis of our generation. He has inspired hundreds of rabbis in America and around the world to follow in his footsteps, to bring a vibrant Orthodoxy to the masses. He is a mentor, a role model who is beloved. Few rabbis in recent history come close to accomplishing what he has achieved. He deserves our deepest respect and veneration.

We call upon the Chief Rabbinate to withdraw its highly offensive demands.

R. Riskin’s inspiring, vibrant and loving leadership are brought to the fore in the above letter, penned by the leadership of the Open Orthodox movement in America, as the Rabbanut is vilified and smeared as hateful and irrational for its consideration to not extend the tenure of such a sterling and devoted rabbi. Yet the elephant in the room — the very real controversies surrounding R. Riskin — controversies in which R. Riskin materially violated the policies of the Chief Rabbinate, his employer – is intentionally omitted and concealed.

For despite R. Riskin’s rabbinic dynamism and love for Torah and the Jewish People, he has been at the forefront of the ordination of women, he has publicly displayed an uncomfortable enthusiasm for Christian religious values, and he has in various additional ways materially undermined the policies and halachic positions of the Rabbanut, including promoting the chanting of Megillath Ruth by a female at the main minyan of a synagogue under his jurisdiction. These are but a few of the many deviations from normative Orthodoxy and from fundamental Rabbanut standards on the part of R. Riskin. (Please also see this very important article about R. Riskin’s trajectory in the rabbinate.)

Yes, R. Riskin’s devotion and passion to spread Judaism are hard to beat, but when he violates the trust of his employer, and he contravenes the rulings of the most preeminent halachic authorities of this and previous generations, let us realize that it is not the Chief Rabbinate who is the offender, and that it just may be that the employer had more than ample reason to maintain that its employee was not being faithful to the policies and values that he was hired to uphold.

There are indeed two sides to every story, and when the pertinent facts of the narrative are glaringly omitted by one side, the omission is quite telling.

Times of Israel

{Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. Not that I necessarily support Rabbi Riskin, but your article assumes his employer is not the people of his city and the citizens of Israel, but the Rabbanut.

    While that might be true technically, it must be pointed out that the Rabbanut certainly does not speak for the people of Efrat.

    Rabbi Gordimer: While I understand you believe Rav Riskin has gone too far (and maybe he has), do you think the Rabbanut’s history of imposing (almost always haredi) Rabbis on communities that prefer zioinistic and more modern ones is a good thing?

    (And that’s to say nothing of their history of regualrly appointing Rabbis whose only qualification is their being someone’s relative and as a result having Rabbis who only serve to alienate the communities they “serve” from Yiddishkeit.)

  2. R. Riskin is a dangerous man.

    Korach, was a great man, he possessed wisdom & wealth and was leader of his tribal sect. But he wanted to CHANGE the Jewish community. He thought he knew better then Moshe what the Jewish community needed. “The ENTIRE community, they are all HOLY, so why do you, Moshe & Aharon elevate yourselves over them?” he proclaimed. Yes, he managed to attract learned, wise and powerful community leaders like him – 250 of them, to join is illustrious cause for the sake of the Jewish community, of course. But Hashem revealed his TRUE intensions, his SELFISH intensions & interests. The glory & sanctification of Hashem were NOT Korach’s goals, rather is own power and prestige. We all know where Korach is today.

    The man known as R. Riskin is a man who believes only in himself and his own interests. He TRAMPLES on Jewish orthodox values and traditions, in the name of PROGRESS and all that is good for the Jewish community. But his true intensions lie far from the good of the Jewish community. May Hashem expose his SHAME publicly, so that the Jewish community not fall prey to the smooth talk of an evil man.

    הושיעני מפי אריה, ומקרני רמים עניתני.

  3. #3 – of course he is wearing a yarmulka. Chevre, do not judge someone based on rumors or hearsay. Rabbi Riskin is one of the greatest ohavei am yisrael, erets yisrael, and limud hatorah I have ever met. And this is coming from someone who is far from part of his kehillah (I hate boxes, but the closest label one could approximate would be yeshivish).

    Rabbi Riskin is not paskening for everyone, and he doesn’t claim to be. I do not pasken by him, and I have found myself disagreeing with his outlook at times. But his love for torah and the Jewish people, as well as his sincerity are beyond reproach.

  4. Rav Riskin is an amazing Rav for the kehillos of Efrat and Gush Etzion.

    I can guarantee that #2 never met, spoke to, had a connection to or was a room ever with Rabbi Riskin. A community has the right and obligation to be involved in the hiring and maintaining a Rav of their choice.

  5. How do I show my support to the Rabbanut. They will come under intense pressure from the “So Open You Fall Out of Orthodoxy ” crowd.