Shameful: Avi Weiss Attacks Israel’s Chief Rabbinate – in the NY Times


avi-weissBy Rochel Sylvetsky

After reading an article in the NY Times this past week written by Rabbi Avi Weiss of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, New York, that strongly criticizes the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, I found myself asking the following questions:

How could a Zionist Jewish leader write an article portraying Israel as negatively as he did for a newspaper whose anti-Israel bias is often featured on Arutz Sheva?

Why would an Orthodox rabbi write on issues that are clearly halakhic in nature in a non-Jewish newpaper? Most NY Times readers would accept what is written there without question, as their knowledge of the topic is minimal at best, but that certainly cannot be the motive of a respected rabbi – remembered well for his part in the struggle for Soviet Jewry and the battle to free Jonathan Pollard.

And the timing seems as questionable as the venue – Israelis are being pressured severely by Obama and Kerry’s plans for the Jewish state, so why bring up internal controversies in “The Gray Lady”?

And unfortunately, the article  telling Israelis – from overseas – how to run one of that country’s institutions, contains partial and misleading information. Read the rest of the column here.



  1. The sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, was once at a meeting where one of the participants suggested compromising Torah law in order to save Judaism—then under attack by all types of ideologies that targeted Jewish youth. His eloquent and persuasive argument was that “for drinking purposes, water must be pure and clean, but when it comes to putting out a fire, even dirty water will suffice.”

    This well-meaning Jewish activist clearly admitted that a breach of G?d’s law resembles “dirty water,” but what else could be done—a terrible fire burns!

    The people at the meeting were impressed by the logic; that is, until the Rebbe countered sharply, “But what happens if one mistakenly tries to put a fire out with kerosene..?”

    Of what use are his good intentions? Instead of bringing salvation he has helped destroy.

  2. while i agree with Rabbi Weiss that the Rabbanut has too much power, the answer is not subsidizing more rabbinical programs, but rather just privatizing the Rabbanut just like the Badatz is privately run without government interference. We are not allowed to have a Jewish State in Galus time, and if people choose to follow the privatized Rabbanut, or choose rather the Badatz, or some other group, Open Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform, etc., that is their choice. The only place where it really makes a difference is divorce, as when it comes to intermarriage etc there is alway an option of gerus when someone wants to become frum, but even there we cannot be doche es haketz and prevent every mamzerus. We have no pope in judaism, and the Chief.Rabbinate shouldn’t try to be one, but without it, it should not be calling itself a ”jewish state” but rather a state of all its people

  3. why does MATZAV-or anyone for that matter-give this person all the attention that he seeks & all the shtusim that he talks about?

    he reminds me of the reform group WOW in Israel, for every time they talk about them in the news-even when its against them-it raises their popularity & makes them more famous. why don’t all frum news media stop talking about him?

    PLEASE respond Matzav-& others-with an honest answer, many people are wondering the same thing as me.

  4. Avi Weiss ; let all factions of Jews see him for what he really is, a most miserable person……stop the reporting on him, let’s stop reporting about him; give him no fame at all; he’s a non entity..

  5. It would appear that the Rabbi Weiss’s letter is a different attack on the exact jurisprudence of a central rabbinic authority and perhaps he has his time.

    I would not discount his own directions though I clearly do not think his views on open orthodoxy are befitting a Torah society.

    Truly he has some distinctions of being an orthodox rabbi, but I do think his orthodoxy is more like a chain mail suit whereas true orthodoxy is a plate metal defense.

    Ultimately, Rabbi Weiss is not a nostalgic player for Israel’s direction today, but there are indeed some many people who do not always accept central rabbinic authority that has carte blanch over all religious matters.

    there is no place for questioning our faith out of pity or unreasonable demand. Ultimately, we grow through innocent inquiry and discussion.

  6. Kol hakavod to Ms. Sylvetsky. For those who are skimming this, I just want to point out that the first link is to R. Weiss’s NYT column, the second Ms. Sylvetsky’s first aricle on Arutz-Sheva.

  7. According to my small understanding of Hilchot Shmirat HaLashon, if a Jew says negative things about other Jews, and Gentiles are listening, then that Lashon HaRa is also Chillul HaShem.

    According to my small understanding, the article that Avi Weiss wrote in The New York Times is an example of this principle.

  8. #8, Anonymous @11:32 am: You wrote many words but most of it had no relevance and there is nothing to discuss. Mr. Weiss has forfeited his right to be called an Orthodox Rabbi. There is no such thing as ‘open’ orthodoxy. Orthodoxy cannot be ‘open’ – an oxymoron. He seems to have given himself the ‘right’ to change the most basic laws of Torah, which even pertain to the other nations, such as gay marriage. He can do and make up this new addition to religion, but has an obligation to refer to himself and his new denomination as ‘Reformed’; it definitely is not ‘Orthodox’. There are many uninformed Jews who will be fooled & think it’s part of our traditions, mesorah and according to Torah law. Therein, lies the great danger, and, of course, the dangers pertaining to marriages, divorces and conversions. This is a serious matter.