I was excited to read that Rabbi Avi Weiss and Rabbi Mark Angel are starting an alternative body to the RCA- The Rabbinical Counsel of America. It will be a coalition and network of Rabbis who are actually Modern Orthodox and eventually will include an alternate Beit Din system as well.

I don’t think the RCA or their Beit Din is all that terrible, it’s not even all that right wing. However, the established Jewish community has consistently stymied the growth of more modern Rabbis. The graduates of Yeshivah Choveveh Torah, the “Open Orthodox Yeshiva,” started by Ai Weiss, have not been allowed to join the RCA, and National Young Israel has even made moves to keep more liberal Rabbis out of their shuls despite the fact that many individual Young Israel’s may be seeking exactly this kind of leadership.

I studied for few years at Choveveh Torah (YCT), in a Talmud class for undergraduates at nearby Barnard and Columbia. So I feel comfortable saying that YCT is refreshingly open and thoughtful about the challenges of modernity, while still being strongly Orthodox and rather traditional in the grand scheme of things.

If RCA and Young Israel, and other institutions of the like, had allowed their Rabbis to quietly join the ranks of the official Orthodox Rabbinical establishment, they probably would have been a minor voice, which slowly widened the spectrum of opinions. Now that the Orthodox world excluded these voices, they have a full out rebellion on their hands and competing institutions.

I only hope that this new Rabbinic Fellowship can find a way to include female leaders as well. I know that YCT is not ready to ordain women, but Modern Orthodox women are studying more, women teachers’ scholarship is approaching the level of Rabbis, and many shuls have opened up communal roles such as Madricha Ruchanit. It would be disappointing if the new Rabbinic Fellowship recreates the atmosphere of the exclusionary old boys club.

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