An Open Letter to Rabbi Barry Dolinger

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rabbi-barry-dolingerAn Open Letter to Rabbi Barry Dolinger, Who Testified Before His State Legislative Committee To Advocate Changing Marriage Laws (See

Dear Barry,

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:

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

Irvine, CA

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  1. The very young are excused for making mistakes, but they’re not excused for not consulting any of their elders.

  2. Article loses its strentgh righ at the end!

    “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.”

    The Chillul Hashem is the greatest concern somewhere after that id personal embarrassment.

  3. finally someone standing up for the truth
    and by that i mean rabbi fischer and also matzav for serving as a voice of Torah truth

  4. Kol ha’Kavod to Rabbi Fischer… You are a worthy shaliach tzibur for hundreds of RCA members who are reciting the silent Amida and could not be mafsik to say what you just did – brilliantly at that.

  5. Rabbi’s who embark on the quest that are in line with our traditions or beliefs should have their simecha revoked though the entity in which he is associated with such as the RCA.

  6. In Response to the “Matzav”

    Today, I was attacked in an ad-hominem way on the popular “Charedi” news website You can read the article here. I have submitted the following letter in response to the editor, and assume they will publish it. After all, it’s a general rule in journalism that one who is attacked is given a right of response. I publish my letter publicly because I was attacked in a public forum.

    Dear Concerned Yid,

    A few points in response to your letter published today on

    1) First, I’d like to address the substance of your claims. Throughout your article, you made many false assumptions. If you’re truly as concerned as you claim to be (I have no way of knowing, but you do), you might take the time to verify assumptions before publishing them on the internet. You could have contacted me, if you’re truly concerned, and seen whether your assumptions were correct. After all, the seal of Hashem is emes, and Jews should strive to be honest and accurate in what they say. This is prudent and religious all in one.

    You posit that my support for civil same-sex marriage is a remnant of my “liberal beliefs” and “background” left over from the days before I was observant.

    Truth is, while I used to be far more liberal politically than I am today, I’ve opposed same-sex marriage publicly and privately for as long as I’ve been old enough to have an opinion on the subject. In recent months, however, I’ve changed my mind, specifically because of my religious observance and affiliation. As an observant Jew, I appreciate more than ever the protections of the First Amendment. In the United States, our small minority religion is afforded tremendous protection. Thousands of our Jewish brothers now refuse to work on Shabbat and holidays, knowing full well that their government will support their religious convictions and penalize anyone who tries to discriminate against them by firing them or refusing to hire them. Our rituals (brit milah, kosher slaughter, etc.) are protected by the government, and our institutions receive support, honor, recognition, and even funds from states and the federal government. Jews in public schools are no longer coerced into Christian prayer, and a general spirit of tolerance and understanding has allowed our people a golden age like none other in the diaspora. This is true on both a governmental and social level, and has become an important part of the fabric of our country.

    Therefore, it is our obligation to argue for the protection of minorities, be they religious, ideological, etc., and to advocate to prevent the use of religious doctrine in legislation at all levels. If the state has the power to legislate marriage based on Judeo-Christian religious principles, then there’s nothing to stop the state from regulating other areas of life based on religious principles, Judeo-Christian, Christian, or otherwise. That’s only a stone’s throw away from the days of “the lord’s prayer” and all the rest. It’s bad jurisprudence, bad for the Jews, and coerces people against their will, which is not helpful religiously either.

    One more thing. From a purely political perspective, it’s not necessarily a “liberal” argument to argue for same-sex marriage. I’ll note that there was unanimous support for same-sex marriage among conservative republicans in RI’s State Senate, based on a mixture of conservative and libertarian principles. Conservative – If gay men and women are involved in relationships (which is a given), isn’t it better for them to form committed monogamous relationships with stable family structures? Libertarian – the state ought to stay out of defining, encouraging, or manipulating people’s sexual or social preferences, especially if they’re doing so based on religious convictions in possible violation of the First Amendment (the Court will tell us about that shortly). I argued as I did largely because of my libertarian political leanings, not that it should matter, not liberal ones.

    2) A few pieces of advice. If you want to engage in an ad-hominem attack against someone, sign your name to it and face the consequences, positive and negative. Doing so anonymously is cowardly and characteristic of the culture of fear that pervades our community lately. Let’s be mature enough to have important conversations with each other using our real names please. This is true both locally in the current argument and generally in broader Jewish scene.

    Also, if you want to critique and argument or position, fine. In that case, you should state what you think I advocated, explain why you think it’s wrong, and support your position with reasons and sources. For a more complete argument, you might even offer self-critique, explaining the weaknesses of your own position. All of the personal attacks, prejudicial comments, guilt-by-association character assasination mumbo jumbo (IRF Liberal Left Wing Loving Call His Rabbis Revoke His Degree Public Consequences Chillul Hashem etc.) distract from the content of the actual debate, and are not befitting of reasoned and enlightened discussion. Orthodox Jews should be interested in serious discussion on the merits of the issues rather than vague and uninformed generalizations. Erev Shabbat Shalom.


    Barry Dolinger, another concerned Jew

  7. Yasher Koach to Rabbi Fischer who is a worthy Shaliach Tzibur for hundreds of RCA rabbis who are in the middle of the silent Amida and could not be mafsik to say what Rabbi Fischer said brilliantly. Kol HaKavod.

  8. ???? ??? to Rabbi Fischer for this fine letter.

    I think Rabbi Fischer is especially suited to write it and go toe to toe with Rabbi Dolinger on this matter, because he is an attorney as well, with years of experience.

    Furthermore, Rabbi Fischer has been in Rabbi Dolinger’s place – literally in his Shul, in Yeshiva, in the courtroom, and so on, so he is in compliance with the directive of the mishnah in Pirkei Avos of
    ?? ???? ?? ???? ?? ????? ??????

    “No one is arguing to “throw” you “out” of RCA.”

    Why not? For one thing, he is already a member of a competing body, the IRF. Is freedom of expression granted such a paramount value in the RCA, as in, lehavdil, the parallel heterodox bodies, where members can do all kinds of crazy things, with nary a worry of punishment?

    “But it would be fair 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.”

    Sounds too mild for such a serious breach. The act alone was shocking and indefensible. But to be the first one to do it, makes it even worse. As we are taught on ????? ??:?, as well as for good, e.g. in the case of Nachshon ben Aminadav, that the first one to do something has a special status, which brings with it extra reward or retribution.

  9. Fantastic letter…unbelievable hypocrisy of Mr. (can’t bring myself to consider him deserving of the title Rabbi, sorry folks) Dolinger to cry Chillul Hashem at YU for honoring Rav Shachter. Dolinger, Rav Shachter is ten times the Rabbi you’ll ever be, and you made a Chillul Hashem a thousand times worse then he could ever make. Do Teshuva, learn Torah, and never ever again claim to speak on behalf of the Torah or Frum Yidden.

  10. Rabbi Dolinger it is a Chilliul Hashm to in anyway support same gender marriages. You have given into their agenda of destroying marriage by doing so. Remember the Gemora says that one of reasons that the Goyim aren’t wiped out is because the don’t make kesuvos for same gender marriages!

  11. I commend Rabbi Dolinger for his braveness! Keep up the amazing work and do not let the negativity of others who have nothing better to do with their time influence you or the positive impact you are making on society!!!!

  12. It is worth noting that the opposition to same gender marriage has been collapsing across the country in all political groups. Every REPUBLICAN in the Rhode Island Senate voted for the same gender marriage law that was enacted.

  13. BH FINALLY someone has said it straight up—- thank you Rabbi Fischer. The Prov community has been waiting for such an article

  14. The author should learn the sugya, starting with Chullin 91 and then make the argument. There are clear halachos about this subject. The halacha trumps any argument that anyone makes The emmes is the emmes.

    Barry, beside your ignorance in halacha, you are also ignorant of the 1st amendment. The 1st amendment does not protect a person’s employment situation for not working on Shabbos.

    Another bit of advice, your political leanings should be influenced by the torah, not by liberterianism.

  15. In response to #24 –

    “It is worth noting that the opposition to same gender marriage has been collapsing across the country in all political groups. Every REPUBLICAN in the Rhode Island Senate voted for the same gender marriage law that was enacted.”

    Charlie, I respect you as a highly intelligent person, among other fine qualities, but in this case I must take exception to your comments.

    What you write is not true. It is true that the propaganda campaign by the toievahniks and their allies in the liberal media has, unfortunately, had significant corrosive effect, but a sweeping statement like you made is not correct. There are still faithful people that are fighting against the toeivah, faithful Jews, and faithful gentiles, across the country, and the world. The toeivah movement is trying to break down opposition to their depravity by giving people the impression that it is inevitable that they will win. However, that is not true.

    Firstly, their wins so far have been achieved in blue states – liberal places that voted for the democrats – which is not a major accomplishment when a state that elected them does such a thing. If a red state would do such a thing (chas veshalom), on the other hand, that would be a chiddush.

    Second of all, even in places where they succeeded so far, it was (as in NY) often by quite narrow margins and achieved through various dirty tricks.

    You say that every Republican in RI voted for it – Republicans in places like RI are very liberal, so that is no great feat. There are only 5 Republican state senators in RI now (of 38 total senators). That alone tells you what kind of a place it is. Very blue.

    Meanwhile, the liberal current administration of Obama, Biden, & Co. used dirty tricks against the National Organization for Marriage, and conservative groups, turning the IRS against them, among other things, to terrorize them for not going along with their agenda of trashing traditional marriage. This is a giant scandal now and the subject of hearings in Congress in Washington, D.C.

    Meanwhile, in other news, just to prove further that you are wrong, a strong effort to pass toeivah ‘marriage’ in Illinois has just failed, despite it being a deep blue state, where liberals hold a super-majority in both chambers of the state legislature, the personal lobbying of President Hussein Obama, the pork-barrel bribery of Governor Pat Quinn, and the bare-knuckled arm-twisting of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

    (a significant portion of the above is based on info from which is highly recommended to be able to refute liberal propaganda on the issue).

  16. P.S. Charlie – even if what you said was true (which it isn’t), since when do we base our morality and stances upon fickle polls and the flavor of the day public opinion manipulations by propaganda experts?

    The idea of Judaism is to stand for what is right, even if it is not in style.

  17. Sounds like kfirah to me.
    Against the torah.
    Against daas torah.
    Against the 13 ikrim.
    A disgrace to the human race.

  18. Please, please, someone explain to me why a persons secular opinion regarding a SECULAR manner should be so condemnable. I don’t know if you have realized this or not, but we live in a country that mandates separation of religion and state. That means judaism does not dictate secular law and secular law does not dictate judiasm. Rabbi dolingers opinion is one that is outside of the Jewish realm. Honestly, if you need more explaining or don’t quite understand the meaning of the first ammemdment, email me at my email: [email protected]

  19. R’ Barry,

    I believe it is unfair to say to the author you were publicly attacked. You were called out, publicly, for taking an inappropriate action. In the process, you attack the author and absolutely refuse to accept critique or criticism, both of which in this case are deserving and valid.

    On the issue of these actions being based on your pre-religious liberal beliefs, you are right and you are wrong. It is true that no one can be in your head to know what your thought process was in doing this. You are also correct in asserting that there are conservative and libertarian ways of justifying your actions, though the assumption would be that it would be a liberal ideology driving your decision to advocate for the cause you did since gay marriage is solely a liberal platform. What you are wrong about is it doesn’t matter since none of these three ideologies are supposed to be informing your decisions on these matters. As a rabbi, only the Jewish understanding is supposed to inform your decision, and clearly it didn’t because your decision to advocate for gay marriage in the Rhode Island assembly is an affront to the mesorah. It is quite clear that whatever ideology drove you to do it, it wasn’t the Torah and it certainly wasn’t Da’at Torah. So it really doesn’t matter what non-Jewish ideology drove you to do this, because all of them are in conflict with the Torah and thus shouldn’t be part of your calculation of whether or not to do this.

    I understand any public criticism can be perceived as an attack. However, when we take an extreme position or engage in an extreme activity in a public fashion, it is an open invitation for your detractors to denounce you. You can’t get upset if they accept the invitation. As the old adage goes: if you can’t take the heat then stay out of the kitchen.

  20. Thank you Rabbi Fisher! I learned so much about Rabbi Dolinger that has increased my admiration and respect for him as someone who is a true kiddush Hashem!

  21. I nominate Rabbi Barry Dolinger to be made part of the Moetzet Chachmei Haliberalim at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (YCT). He belongs to be in a place which appreciates extreme liberalism and innovations, while still claiming to be ‘orthodox’. He already belongs to the IRF, the organization of clergy aligned with YCT anyway. Why is he so concerned with being part of the ‘old fashioned’ RCA (I think that cross membership, being part of the RCA and IRF at the same time, is like poseach al shtei haseipim, and out of place)? He belongs in a more ‘progressive’ group!

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