Chovevei Torah-Type School Taking Shape in Toronto

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canadian-yeshiva-and-rabbinical-school-toronto-chovevei-torahJTA reports: When the opening of a new rabbinical school is announced, the obvious first question for many is: What denomination is it? In the case of a new yeshiva and rabbinical seminary planned for Toronto, the answer isn’t quite clear.For now, the plan is for the Canadian Yeshiva and Rabbinical School, which calls itself “traditional yet modern,” to open fully by 2012.

The idea of opening the rabbinical seminary is to train liberal halachic rabbis who will be well suited to meet the needs of Canadian Jewry. Organizers say they are aiming at a middle ground between Conservative Judaism and what they describe as an increasingly rigid Orthodox movement.

“I’m somewhat disenchanted with what’s happening in the rabbinic establishment in the United States, especially the direction Yeshiva University has taken, which has moved to the right,” said Rabbi Daniel Sperber, Talmud professor at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University and 1992 winner of the Israel Prize.

Sperber, an outspoken rabbi on the left edge of Orthodoxy, has agreed to serve as the new yeshiva’s chancellor.

It will be the first rabbinical school in Canada, a country with more than 350,000 Jews and some 250 synagogues. The institution already has a board of governors, trustees, some 40 faculty members and a list of potential students.

Sperber says he was drawn to the institution’s vision of “a more liberal, more friendly approach to halachah,” or Jewish law.

The school will not be affiliated with any existing synagogue movement.

“We’ve shied away from terminology,” said Rabbi Roy Tanenbaum, the driving force behind the new yeshiva and past president of the Canadian region of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Association. Saying that the program “is not for everyone,” Tanenbaum described its worldview as “totally halachic and particularly Canadian.”

Canada’s synagogues are served now by rabbis trained in the United States or overseas. Tanenbaum says they often are unfamiliar with the Canadian scene and “look toward Washington instead of Ottawa.”

Canadian Jewry is more traditional than its U.S. counterpart. A number of Conservative congregations recently left the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism to join the Canadian Council of Conservative Synagogues, and several of the new yeshiva’s leaders have been affiliated with the Union for Traditional Judaism, which split off from the Conservative movement decades ago and is based in Teaneck, N.J.

The Canadian Yeshiva and Rabbinical School has been invited to join the Toronto School of Theology, a consortium of seven Christian seminaries connected with the University of Toronto. If the deal goes through, the school will be able to grant advanced degrees jointly with the university, a bonus Tanenbaum hopes will attract students, faculty and funding. The school will be housed on the university campus.

The new institution has not yet launched fundraising or recruitment campaigns, and needs approximately $7 million to open, according to Tanenbaum. Full-time rabbinic students will receive free tuition and residence.

Read more at JTA.



  1. At least this time, it is very clear where they stand. They have affiliations with the conservative movement, and pursue formal institutional relationships with seminaries of other faiths. They are not calling themselves “Orthodox”, rather “halachik”, and are self-consciously styling themselves as an independent denomination. No RCA or Young Israel affiliated shul would even have to debate hiring such a rabbi, nor does it seem that their graduates would interested in such a job. I don;t think their intent is to subtly transform the Orthodox community

  2. As a Torontonian I am embarrased for this place to open up in my city. By saying a “friendly” approach to halacha you imply that is what is missing in halachah. Sheker vechozov and offensive to Toras Hashem Temimah.

  3. #4 — Your comment is ridiculous. Obviously halachik is what’s important. What does “Orthodox” mean? That you eat cholent? If they are learning to pasken according to the shulchan aruch, why should that bother you?

  4. It is not the first rabbinical school in Canada. Lubavitch had its’ first smicha celebration in Montreal in 1956.
    Also this does not bode well as they will probably end up going conservative which is hepech halacha.

  5. If you would like to see the back of these people, According to all studies, these movements are dying out. The only part of Judaism that is growing is OUR Yiddishleit.

  6. To comment 8 you mention the denomination of this “smicha” in montreal. This movement has also removed itself from Torah Judaism and is also halachically suspect as they beshitah dont sleep in a succah (against the Shulachan Aruch Harav), dont eat shalosh seudos on shabbos and many other theological issues of which the olam hatorah knows

  7. Avi Weiss
    Marc Angel
    Alan Brill- Interfaith Relations; a big fan of Marxist author Jurgen Habermas and the Marxist Frankfurt School, denied tenure at YU for his liberalism, supporter of J Street, Huffington Post, Eretz Acheret,Jewish Renewal, Tikkun Magazine,Institute for Christian and Jewish Understanding,Woolf Institute, Rabbis without Borders (CLAL), Woodstock Theolgoical Center, Center for Muslim, Jewish and Christian Understanding, pro-Palestinian groups, feminist minyanim,
    Eugene Korn- Interfaith Relations, EDAH-affiliated.
    Saul Berman- Former head of Edah
    Daniel Sperber- Rosh Yeshiva of a Conservative yeshiva in Canada
    Ethan Tucker- Son of Gordon Tucker, leader in the Conservative movement, and head of an egalitarian yeshiva. Supporter of Obama.
    JOFA- for obvious reasons
    Beit Morasha- committed to “academic methodologies,” aka higher criticism.
    Adam Mintz- Obamabot
    Yosef Blau- pro-toeivah and pro-Obama
    David Silber-Drisha- feminist
    Yeshivat Chovevei Torah
    Neemanei Torah v’ Avodah- liberal MO
    Machon Pardes- “multidenominational,” aka relativistic, everything goes.

    This isn’t an isolated phenomenon. In the past severl years, there has been a growing liberalism within Modern Orthodoxy, with these types of rabbis and organizations advocating for things which are against Torah Mi Sinai- feminism, interfaith relations, socialist “Justice,” and higher criticism, r”l.

    We need to stop them in their tracks by all means possible.

  8. As a Montrealer I must correct you. There were Semicha granted in Montreal before Lubavitch in 1956. This new “yeshiva” is a lame attempt to impersonate halachic Judaism. Roy is a reform rabbi. So much for halachic. Sperber is at best a la Avi Weiss. Those Chovevei Torah and the like are just opportunists. Not whatmost of us would call halachic.

  9. Emes, not that I supoport Obama myself, but what does being pro-Obama have to do with commitment to halacha? And putting clearly Orthodox rabbis and fine scholars such as Rabbi Mark Angel, R. Yosef Blau, and Rabbi Saul Berman on the same list as non-denominational individuals and institiutions is very insulting, and takes away any credence that your post might have.

  10. These are individuals who espouse the same ideas and values, as by and large, those in question in this article. R’ Berman of Edah was called “Amalek” by R’ Herschel Schachter, shlita. R’ Marc Angel is in cahotos with R’ Avi Weiss in all ways possible, organizationally and ideologically. R’ Blau believes that homosexuality is to be legitimized within our ranks.

    Anyone who supports Obama is not a religious person. You cannot serve two masters. Obama is pro-abortion on demand, Judaism is not. He is in favor of dismantling Yesha and is a foe of true Zionists. Judaism is not a religion which sanctions suicidal policies for E”Y. Obama opposes preemptive war- Judaism supports this.

    And let’s not even delve into Torah economics vs. Obamanomics.

    Any “rabbi” who endorses policies and individuals who are against Jewish interests and Jewish social teachings cannot be considered a legitimate rabbi. You cannot be a rov b’yisroel and adhere to alien, krum ideologies, such as feminism, toeva “tolerance,” and everything else these ideologies imply. You are mistaken and apparently lack the ability to think objectively at people’s true intentions and ideological contexts.


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