The Selective Sanctimony of Orthodox Judaism

At times it seems that the Orthodox rabbinate has little more to contribute to the world of Jewish ideas than proclamations declaring who is, or more precisely who is not, "Orthodox." Consider a few recent examples. This past summer Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky wrote a blog post (since removed) discussing his aversion to reciting the daily blessing shelo asani isha, thanking God for not having made him a woman. In response, Rabbi Dov Fischer castigated R. Kanefsky and the community he represents as, "propagating their views without being subjected to scrutiny and critique by those committed to a Mesorah-driven frumkeit" [emphasis added]. In other words, R. Kanefsky's halakhic opinion is not part of the genuine "mesorah/tradition," which R. Fischer apparently does possess. Another writer echoes R. Fischer sentiment more explicitly, "In my view this not only takes Rabbi Kanefsky out of the realm of Orthodoxy, it firmly puts him into the realm of Conservative Judaism."

Or consider the controversy surrounding women rabbis. Last year Rabbi Avi Weiss sparked a larger controversy by ordaining Sara Hurwitz as an Orthodox rabbinic figure, regardless of the exact title. This action also elicited objections of being outside the definition of "Orthodox." The Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of America decreed, "These developments represent a radical and dangerous departure from Jewish tradition and the mesoras haTorah, and must be condemned in the strongest terms. Any congregation with a woman in a rabbinical position of any sort cannot be considered Orthodox." Rabbi Avi Shafran similarly opined, "Women Rabbis Outside Orthodoxy."

And most recently, in response to the Orthodox ordained Rabbi Steve Greenberg officiating a same-sex wedding, over one hundred rabbis signed a proclamation intending to "correct the false impression that an Orthodox-approved same-gender wedding took place," stating, "By definition, a union that is not sanctioned by Torah law is not an Orthodox wedding, and by definition a person who conducts such a ceremony is not an Orthodox rabbi."

The point here is not to discuss the substance of these issues (though I have done so here, here, and here respectively) but the significance and perceived necessity of such exclusionary proclamations. After all, significantly worse infractions of Jewish law and tradition by more prominent rabbis and institutions have not merited the similar disqualification of being "non-Orthodox."

Instances of sexual abuse in the Orthodox world are not infrequent. Brooklyn D.A. Charles Hynes' office reports 89 related arrests, though this exact number may be inflated. Still, there have been several publicized accounts and allegations of sexual abuse in Orthodox youth institutions worldwide the most infamous ones being Yehuda Kolko and Baruch Lanner. Amid various allegations of sexual misconduct, Leib Tropper resigned from his Eternal Jewish Family organization, Mordechai Tendler was expelled from the Rabbinical Council of America and later suspended by his congregation. The list unfortunately goes on.

Yet despite Rabbis engaging in sexual misconduct, there has been no declaration that those guilty are not to be considered "Orthodox." Some rabbis who either ignored or concealed such abuse could even be considered gedolim. Yet while Rabbi Steve Greenberg has been deemed "non-Orthodox" for officiating a halakhically illegal wedding, there has been no such declarations of "non-Orthodox" for Rabbis who in their abuse of students violate prohibitions of homosexual activity (in addition to damage caused by pedophelia).

There other crimes and halakhic violations committed by Jewish leaders or their institutions. In July 2009, forty four people were arrested in Operation Big Rig 3 including prominent Jewish leaders in the Syrian community for crimes including money laundering, political corruption, and organ trafficking. When these or other such scandals break, there is no similar call from Jewish leaders that such perpetrators and sanctioning organizations are "non-Orthodox." Even the esteemed leaders of the aforementioned Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah Of America are not immune to scandal. In 1986, R. Dovid Feinstein's yeshiva Mesivtha Tifereth Jerusalem was involved in its own money laundering scandal. To my knowledge, no one claimed that MTJ or its leaders were "non-Orthodox" despite public violations of Jewish law.

To be sure, no organization would define itself by these violations of Halakhah and no rabbi or institution would state publicly that financial or sexual crimes are permitted and justified, let alone defining characteristics of their religious system. Unlike the ritual innovations cited earlier, no one has stated that molestation is Orthodox, and thus would not warrant the same type of exclusionary condemnation - though perhaps such a declaration and social ostracization may help stem abuse. However there are in fact other crimes committed by Orthodox Jews which are routinely done in the name of Orthodox Judaism, if not with the blessing and encouragement of prominent rabbinic figures.

In Israel, Charedim have repeatedly vandalized property in the name of their religion. One bookstore in Me'ah Shearim was forced to submit to the thuggish tactics of the self-appointed modesty police. Religious conflicts have also erupted in violence, again in the name of their religious beliefs. There have also been reports of physical assaults against women. One woman was recently attacked on a bus. In 2008 a woman was brutally attacked from a "modesty squad" which "has declared a crusade against violations of Halachic law and what it views as 'unchaste' behavior." Perhaps the most extreme example of advocating religiously sanctioned violence is Rabbi Dov Lior who wrote a book in which he legitimized killing non Jews based on his understanding of Jewish law. In all these instances of Chareidi violence and intimidation in the name of Judaism, there have been no calls to deem these halakhic violators, their rabbinic leadership, or their supporting institutions "non-Orthodox." If anything, these people are called "ultra-Orthodox," implying that their brand of Judaism is quantifiably greater than others, regardless of whether or not they act in accordance with halakhah.

And so the question remains why are only some actions elicit the "non-Orthodox" label. Let us assume that the term "non-Orthodox" will be used when there is the greatest threat posed to Orthodox Judaism.

But what then counts as the "greatest threat" and how would this be defined? Clearly it is not a matter of a transgression's prevalence. There are more incidents of fraud, corruption, and sexual impropriety in the Orthodox community than there are rabbis who make significant unprecedented changes to Jewish ritual practice. If traditional Torah observance is the goal then it would seem logical to attack the most common if not systemic violations Jewish law as "non-Orthodox" than relatively isolated incidents.

Nor are the threats defined by their halakhic severity. Not saying shelo asani isha is at worst a passive neglect of a commandment mandated by the rabbinic sages, but according to the Shulhan Aruch, stealing from non-Jews is an active violation of biblical law (C.M. 348:2). Officiating a same-sex wedding violates a biblical prohibition, whereas a rabbi raping a male student would violate the famed "abomination" of Leviticus 18:22. Even Rabbi Shafran concedes that ordaining women rabbis does not violate halakhah, as opposed to causing damage to others (B. Bava Batra 22b). If observance of Torah is the goal of Orthodox Judaism than ostensibly it ought to be less concerned with permitted variations within Halakhah then with outright violations of halakhah.

The real reason for the apparent ideological inconsistency is that contrary to popular belief, "Orthodox Judaism" is not a religious designation based on Torah but a social one embellished with religious rhetoric. Certain halakhic violations may be tolerated as "Orthodox" if they do not challenge the social system of obedience, but any challenge to the Orthodox establishment can be considered heretical - even if they do not actually violate Jewish law. Note that the direction of "non-Orthodox" charges goes only in the direction of right to left. That is, only the so-called "liberal" Jews are branded "non-Orthodox," but halakhically deviant extremists on the other end of the religious spectrum are still within the fold because despite their violations of Jewish law, they do not threaten the socio-religous system based on submission to authority.

Thus the controversies of "non-Orthodox" are nothing more than a territorial claim of the "Orthodox" franchise, and which side gets to portray itself as religiously authentic. By the same token, any claim that a person or position is "non-Orthodox" may be correct insofar as they challenge the religious establishment's status quo. It is a descriptive statement of a social reality. Based on the subjective social norms of Orthodox Judaism, one who does not keep kosher may not be considered Orthodox, as opposed to a child molester who follows the overt norms of religious speech, dress, and observance. The religion of Orthodox Judaism is best defined not in terms of adherance to Torah, but tautalogically, adherence to Orthodox Judaism itself - whatever that might happen to mean.

This is the true point of confusion regarding Orthodox Judaism. The popular understanding is that Orthodox Jews are somehow "more observant" than non-Orthodox Jews, and for the most part this is true - especially as it pertains to observing rituals. But it clearly does not mean that the practice of Orthodox Jews is entirely consistent with Jewish law. I would argue that whether or not one is classified as "Orthodox" is irrelevant according to Jewish law. Halakhah mandates performing what God and the Rabbinic Sages commanded and refrain from their prohibitions, in other words, being a "Shomer Torah" - meaning to keep the written and oral laws of Judaism. For if we assume the purpose of Judaism is to fulfill God's will, then it would seem God cares more about adhering to his commandments than to fitting in with an "Orthodox" society.

To conclude, I am not justifying or defending any of the actions cited above which were deemed "non-Orthodox," nor am I saying that Orthodox Judaism is an intrinsically corrupt enterprise. What I am arguing is that through the selective outrage and silence of others, we can identify the priorities of those who feel the need to exclude others as "non-Orthodox." Even if we do not apply the principle of shetikah ke'hoda'ah, equating silence as tacit consent, where people choose to fight their battles is as revealing of their priorities as the arguments themselves. From my perspective, I have noticed considerably more outrage directed against observant committed Jews who innovate within the bounds of Jewish law, though differently than to what others are accustomed, than there is against the social crimes listed above. I see Orthodox Judaism more concerned with protecting its brand and reputation than it is with enforcing the Torah which it claims to adhere. It is a matter of priorities, and in this case the priorities of the Orthodox Jewish world are not primarily defined or determined by the Torah.

For those who are committed to being a shomer Torah, I leave you with the following thought. If women rabbis or omitting a blessing are greater threats to Orthodox Judaism, and thus more worthy of collective outrage than are theft, violence, corruption, and abuse, then perhaps the Orthodox society has outlived its halakhic usefulness.

Posted in Jewish Culture, Jewish Law / Halakha, Jewish Thought, Theology, and Machshava, Judaism. Tagged with , , .
  • http://twitter.com/jupamejia Juan Mejía

    Yasher Koach Rabbi Yuter.  When we do agree you tend to word things in a pristinely clear way.

    • http://JoshYuter.com Josh Yuter

      Thank you.  I hope I express myself well even when we disagree too.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JE6EZOI3RU4BQQMTYJIAZKSLCI Aaron

    I agree with most if not all of the above. I would make a dstinction between advocating for behavior that is contrary to halacha (Torah/Talmud) versus people being lazy, ignorant, and/or shameful about their transgressions. I would point out a faker (defined as one who claims to advocate the Torah but hypocritically and clearly defies it in the same breath) to be no better perhaps worse than one that advocates for different rules other than the halacha.  I would say any Rabbi or lay person who makes it a point to say they are "Orthodox" after awhile that consistently lapses severely shouldn't be considered shomer mitzvot.  Mr. Tropper should not be considered Shomer Mitzvot. Not sure why anyone would.  I would even say the same for Baruch Lanner.  The priorities are mixed up. 

  • http://twitter.com/MaNishtana Ma Nishtana

    Largely agree with this post and it reflects a lot of my own views. Just one question: Do you NOT agree with the responses to Kanefsky and Greenberg, or are you merely saying that declaring things/people as "not-Orthodox" has a broader application than just those examples?

    • http://JoshYuter.com Josh Yuter

      1. As I wrote earlier and linked in the post, I think the same-sex wedding violated explicit halakhah: http://joshyuter.com/2011/11/17/judaism/why-same-sex-marriage-violates-jewish-law/

      2. I disagree with R. Kanefsky in that I think shelo asani isha should be said.  I also think that following Shulhan Aruch it's worse saying hanotein laya'ef koach than not saying shelo asani isha: http://joshyuter.com/2011/08/25/judaism/a-judaism-of-laws-or-of-men/

      3. The point here was less about if they were right or wrong, but why they incurred the "non-Orthodox" rejection when similar or worse violations of Jewish law from other communities do not.

  • Anonymous

    I suppose it is bad form to start with an insult, so I won't call you Mr. Yuter. Your essay reads like drivel one would expect from the Occupy crowd, railing against "The Man", The Establishment" like a sixties retread. Why am I so dismissive? Your argument is so transparently devoid of reason as to beg the question: did the writer actually earn rabbinic ordination through a rigorous program of Talmudic scholarship?
    The painfully obvious difference between the three cases that warranted censure and the criminality that is sadly all-too-frequent in the Orthodox world, is that the queer "rabbi" and fellow travelers Kanefsky and Weiss are actively and deliberately attacking the structure of Yiddishkeit, not some "establishment". The criminals are just that: criminals. They are not attacking Judaism's core values of morality and mesorah, they are just jerks who happen to be Orthodox. There is no pretense by the criminals or by the Orthodox "establishment" that their criminal behavior is representative of anything Jewish, much less Orthodox. No amount of your childish whining against the "establishment" protecting their turf can plug this chasm in your argument. Of course people who are attacking Yiddishkeit at its core, especially under the pretense of representing Yiddishkeit from within, should be subject to condemnation and driven out of Orthodox precincts with extreme prejudice. Yes, they should be subjected to that ultimate evil (in your moral universe): they should be excluded.Which brings me to one final point. Don't flatter yourself that you qualify as an Orthodox Rabbi because of some piece of paper you have hanging on the wall. I've looked around your "online home" and found that you are little more than a half-baked liberal with a Yarmulka: you're all about "social justice" and "the politics of exclusion" and a few other buzz phrases you picked up along the way.

    • Mike Landes

      Hey Jonni...  When trying to counter an intellectual point against those "half baked liberals," try not to paint yourself as a complete moron when doing so.  Seriously, you could have replied to this post without the vulgar and dismissive attitude - the writer here is expressing a concern for Judaism that he feels must be addressed by the community, and you countered by painting him into a political corner, insulting his pedigree (as if one's academic background precludes the ability to question) and using the unquestionably offensive term "queer" in reference to a homosexual individual.

      Don't be so defensive.  Instead, use your brain to express how you disagree with something he said.

      • Anonymous

        Hey Mike! Wow, what an ingenious strategy to tell me not to be insulting in an insulting way. What was the intellectual point? There was no intellectual point unless you consider a mealy-mouth attack on Orthodox Judaism in the guise of this kumbaya garbage is an "intellectual point". 

        My point was there was no intellectual point. It was disingenuous at best to compare the reaction of the Orthodox Rabbinate to criminals versus people deliberately tearing at the fabric of halacha with pretensions that they have authority to do so. See, Mike, in Torah Judaism, we don't believe that every ignoramus' blathering about halacha is valid or gives them the "right to question". Orthodox Judaism should not be confused with Orthodox liberalism, as you and Yuter do. Here's the giveaway: "the writer is expressing a concern...that he feels...offensive". It's all about feelings, isn't it? As I said, no intellectual point. The point is to cow everyone into being afraid to speak truth against the feminists, queers and other trendoids. You have Ten Commandments and all ten are "Thou Shalt not Hurt my feelings"; everything else (including buggery) is OK.No, Mike, I won't back down, I won't sugar-coat. We are in a cultural war for the soul of Yiddishkeit. Folks like you want to water it down to a feel-good, drum circle of tolerance with Yarmulkas and all that picky Rabbinic and Scripture stuff that gets in the way will just have to yield. NO WAY!

        • http://twitter.com/MaNishtana Ma Nishtana

          ...and it hasn't occurred to you that, maybe, the criminals who privately undermine Judaism by virtue of their station and the fact that they outwardly do everything "right" are just as, if not MORE, of an insidious a threat to Judaism as the ones publicly flouting what everyone KNOWS doesnt fly in Judaism? Yet there's no equal Rabbinc outcry or acknowledgment at all of their wrongdoing, and in fact, in some cases there are TEHILLIM CIRCLES for said criminals? How, pray tell, is that less of an attack on the fiber of Judaism?

          • Anonymous

            No, it hasn't occurred to me, because it isn't so. Tehillim circles for criminals? Give me some evidence. Hope you're not talking about Rubashkin, because you'd really be off base there.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charlie-Hall/683997138 Charlie Hall

      "They are not attacking Judaism's core values of morality and mesorah"

      Pedophila, pederasty, and money laundering are moral and consistent with our mesorah according to the Torah?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=787040454 Yaakov Simon

    I like your conclusion. Of course R. Yisrael Salanter had similar ideas 150 years ago. It is a lot easier only to eat super-mehadrin food than it is to be nice to people.

    • http://www.facebook.com/nicole.leifer Nicole Leifer

      this basically says it all. love it.

  • Yoni Ross

    Am I missing something? Is anyone getting up and saying that people who
    abuse children, steal, abuse others, and resort to violence are acting
    within the parameters of a torah-true lifestyle? Do rabbis have to get
    up and condemn every act, especially those which don't mark a new and
    evolving trend (corruption, theft, child abuse, etc., while terrible,
    are not new, nor are they limited to the torah-observant, or even
    Jewish, world)?

    When a rabbi purporting to be Orthodox takes a public position on
    something, there is the very real possibility, especially in view of the
    speed with which the position can be widely disseminated, that those
    who are not deeply rooted in tradition will view this position as
    legitimate or mainstream. Appropriate action is thus warranted.

    On the other hand, cases of child abuse, corruption, theft, etc., are
    perpetrated by people hoping not to get caught, and when caught,
    generally try to deny their involvement. No one, not even the
    perpetrators, is saying that these acts are within the pale of Orthodox
    Judaism (except perhaps the supporters of the "modesty police" and their
    kin, and even they only represent a small minority of an already small
    and insular community). Everyone understands that they represent an
    anomaly.

    There's no real significance to being "Orthodox"; there's no membership
    and you can't be "kicked out". A person who doesn't consider himself to
    be Orthodox but believes and acts in accordance with generally accepted
    Orthodox norms, is no less Orthodox than a banner-waiving Orthodox Jew.
    The reverse is true as well. That's why it's important that someone who
    looks the part, but takes a position which is beyond the pale, be called
    on it.

    A frum-looking jewel thief is an embarrassment precisely because
    everyone (not just Jews, anti-semites aside) knows he doesn't represent
    the group; why waste our breath telling everyone we want nothing to do
    with him? We run the risk of appearing to protest too much. However, a
    rabbi who comes off as Orthodox, but publicly lands on the wrong side of
    an issue with which the enlightened Western world is at odds with us
    (and says that his opinion is a valid Orthodox opinion), needs to be
    called out.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charlie-Hall/683997138 Charlie Hall

      "Is anyone getting up and saying that people who abuse children, steal, abuse others, and resort to violence are acting within the parameters of a torah-true lifestyle?"

      Yes, people are saying that. A lot of folks still claim Rubashkin was innocent. He was running an organized criminal enterprise for many years.

  • http://twitter.com/Adderabbi Elli Fischer

    In other words, the problem is not that they're sanctimonious, but selectively so. Which is not like Rabbi Yuter's sanctimony - which is unselective.

    • Anonymous

      Huh? It's not sanctimony to distinguish between two completely different cases and to fashion condemnation (or praise) accordingly. By utterly failing to recognize the difference, Yuter's sanctimony is reserved for moral posturing as the courageous iconoclast standing against (imaginary) entrenched interests.

      I see below in the "reactions" that Yuter has earned the ultimate endorsement by anarcho-Jew Mobius1ski. See his Flickr photos where he is wearing tzitzis fashioned out of a kaffiya at the security wall in Israel because he is down with the suffering of the poor "palestinians". One can not only judge a person by what he praises, but also by who praises him. Yuter is a hero to the morally confused.

  • Dudie Silberman

    I think you've missed the point. The acts which were castigated as "non-orthodox" were originally cast by their respective issuers as being orthodox.  As such, responses stating these acts and people cannot be considered orthodox were issued.  In the case of sexual abuse and the like (if such a relaxed term can be used), there was no one stating these were halachikally acceptable or orthodox approved acts.  As such, the acts should be condemned, but there's no need to make a hullabaloo about them not being orthodox.

  • http://spaghettitree.tumblr.com/ tani P.

    Thanks for this, you cut straight to some things that have been bothering me about Orthodoxy for quite a while.
    Choice quote: "..."Orthodox Judaism" is not a religious designation based on Torah but a social one embellished with religious rhetoric."

  • David Siff

    Awesome--I am a conservative trained rabbi and identify as just "torah observant"--I think your post breaks down the denominational wall from the other direction, which I am very happy about.

    • Anonymous

      Great going Yuter!! You've achieved a breakthrough, destroying the difference between Orthodox and "conservative" Judaism!!! Yasher Koach

      • blenda

        Wow, JonniBgood, you are an Orthodox Jew? You sound like a fantastic guy!! Where can I sign up to be just like you?

        • JonniBgood

          Sorry. You can't sign up to be just like me. That would require intelligence, so you'll have to sign up to be like someone who is foolish enough to think it is a good thing to water down Orthodox Judaism to make Oprah Winfrey Jews feel warm and fuzzy.

      • Argaman

        Sounds like a great idea to me! (and I'm serious about it, which you are not).

  • Ezzie Goldish

    I'm sorry Josh, but your post here makes a mistaken argument about Orthodoxy (at least in terms of how the signers of these view it) and therefore misjudges the entire point of these.

    The real reason for the apparent ideological inconsistency is that contrary to popular belief, "Orthodox Judaism" is not a religious designation based on Torah but a social one embellished with religious rhetoric. Certain halakhic violations may be tolerated as "Orthodox" if they do not challenge the social system of obedience, but any challenge to the Orthodox establishment can be considered heretical - even if they do not actually violate Jewish law.

    I think this is wrong. The signers of these statements firmly believe that Orthodox Jewry is based on Torah. Therefore, when other Rabbonim purport to affirm actions as being within Torah/halachic boundaries which they deem to be against the Torah/halacha, they make a statement to show their disagreement. They do not need to make such statements regarding actions within the community which are simply wrong: Those are obviously against halacha, and nobody is claiming otherwise or attempting to establish these actions as within the pale of Orthodoxy.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charlie-Hall/683997138 Charlie Hall

      Ezzie, what about the people who continue to claim that Rubashkin is a victim of persecution?

      In any case, Rabbi Yuter is not the first person to notice that Orthodoxy is a social construct. I think that Dr. Marc Shapiro may have that distinction.

  • Joshua Maroof

    You are erring with regard to the definition of Orthodox. Orthodox has to do with beliefs and principles, not actions. It is the beliefs and principles of those undertaking controversial actions that might place them outside of the framework of Orthodoxy, not the behaviors themselves. One can commit crimes and be Orthodox. One can subscribe to one or more liberal practices and be Orthodox. But one cannot undermine the system of mesorah and be Orthodox.

  • Anonymous

    Rabbi Yuter: I think this is an excellent article. I do think the distinction you yourself make between the behavior of individuals and pronouncements on halacha is more important than your article acknowledges. However, in the scheme of things, that seems like nitpicking, and I completely agree with your conclusion. When rabbis can go on and on about Rabbi Kanefsky, but nary a word is spoken by these same rabbis against Leib Tropper, who seems to have abused his position in several very destructive ways, something is radically wrong with the value system of what I would define as the Orthodox establishment. In fact, looking back at what I just wrote, I feel bad about including the names of Rabbi Kanefsky and Rabbi Tropper in the same sentence - Rabbi Kanefsky, whether he was right or wrong about the much-discussed issue of "sh'lo assani isha," certainly comes off as a mentch.

    • Anonymous

      And that's the most important thing, isn't it? "Coming off as a mentch" Not actually being a mentch and not actually adhering to acceptable norms of Torah discussion, but doing it nicely. Far more important than intolerant adherence to the Torah and divrei Chazal is not hurting anyone's feeeeeeelings.

      Face it, you wish you could reconcile liberal feel-good ideology with Yiddishkeit. It won't work. 

      • Anonymous

        No, that's not the most important thing. But it's something, And no, I don't particularly care about reconciling liberal feel-good ideology with yiddishkeit. But good midos are a part of yiddishkeit, as a lot of people seem to have forgotten in their rush to denounce any opinion that makes them uncomfortable. Is what Leib Tropper did an example of your idea of Yiddishkeit?

        • Anonymous

          You are prevaricating. Your original post clearly showed that you held feelings over Torah principles. 

          We are not talking about "opinions that make us uncomfortable" We are talking about ideas and actions that clearly attack Mesorah, Halacha, Halachic decision-making and Torah morality in the guise of a principled "Orthodox" stance. Oh, I get it. Your question about Tropper is a supposed to be a sharp rhetorical point.  Don't quit your day job. Actually, I said the exact opposite. What you and other Yuter fans can't seem to comprehend is the difference between people who commit sins and people who have an ideological agenda. The sinner's actions are to be condemned, but the people actually attacking Yiddishkeit are actually doing something as serious if not far worse than the criminal sickos. Look up the halachos of a meisis. 

          • Anonymous

            As a matter of fact, I wrote: "I do think the distinction you yourself make between the behavior of individuals and pronouncements on halacha is more important than your article acknowledges." But if you'd like to attribute opinions to me that I don't hold, and then attack those opinions as a straw man, go for it. Seeing your rude comments directed towards Rabbi Yuter, I think one can take pride at being the target of your vitriol. If you think that insulting people and withholding the title "Rabbi" from a rabbi is a good way to promote your opinions, who am I to say your wrong? By the way, as to the substance of the issue, I think the next comment, by Honi Sanders, is good response to the argument you are making.

          • Anonymous

            More proof that once liberalism gets hold of your brain, it becomes immune to facts and logic. Again, your critique of my tone reveals your agenda: the most important thing is to play nice. When the authority of Torah and Mesorah are being assaulted it is not the time to play nice. Whether subtly or otherwise Yuter's ultimate point is to undermine the Mesorah, to render every pipsqueak with a pulpit a halachic authority to himself. To prop up this strategy, Yuter has to come to the defense of the other pipsqueaks and deviants: after all, who are we to say they are wrong as long as they sincerely feel that gays and feminists should be coddled and halachically accommodated,  we have no right to say they are non-Orthodox. Heaven forbid! (irony intended)

            This is not an intellectual coffee house game: this is the same struggle that has been going on since Avraham stood up to Nimrod and chose the fire, since the Chashonaim took up the sword against the Hellenists. Yiddishkeit is not about going along to get along and when its core principles are under attack with dissembling professions of tolerance and niceness is not the time to mince words. I stand by what I said and how I said it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/honiraphael Honi Sanders

    I think the point you need to make in response to several of the comments is that examples abound of actions being made IN THE NAME OF Orthodox Judaism that are patently outside of halacha, as you point out in the following paragraph.  Those statements need to be condemned with the utmost vehemence and all those who make them should be excluded from legitimacy.  
    In Israel, Charedim have repeatedly vandalized property in the name of their religion. One bookstore in Me'ah Shearim was forced to submit to the thuggish tactics of the self-appointed modesty police. Religious conflicts have also erupted in violence, again in the name of their religious beliefs. There have also been reports of physical assaults against women. One woman was recently attacked on a bus. In 2008 a woman was brutally attacked from a "modesty squad" which "has declared a crusade against violations of Halachic law and what it views as 'unchaste' behavior." Perhaps the most extreme example of advocating religiously sanctioned violence is Rabbi Dov Lior who wrote a book in which he legitimized killing non Jews based on his understanding of Jewish law. In all these instances of Chareidi violence and intimidation in the name of Judaism, there have been no calls to deem these halakhic violators, their rabbinic leadership, or their supporting institutions "non-Orthodox." If anything, these people are called "ultra-Orthodox," implying that their brand of Judaism is quantifiably greater than others, regardless of whether or not they act in accordance with halakhah.

  • http://profiles.google.com/onthemainline Mississippi Fred

    Right on; but I would just point out that at least at the popular level, the Orthodox man on the street often tends to dismiss Orthodox criminals and such as "he's not frum/ Orthodox at all." Often this is a defensive mechanism. If you think about it, declarations that Orthodox criminals are not Orthodox at all wouldn't be so great either. It would just be another way of saying "Of course we are better."

  • Micha Berger

    Someone who doesn't redefine Orthodoxy but sins is an Orthodox sinner.

    Someone whose notion of the ideal is being deemed un-Orthodox could well be a holier person than the sinner, but he isn't affiliating with the Orthodox ideal anymore (in the eyes of those judging).

  • Anonymous

    The fact that the Orthodox establishment should be "more concerned" with gross violations of biblical law than with "variations within" Halachah, as you put it, does not negate the fact that they should still be concerned with those variations that undermine the underpinnings of Orthodoxy. Don't forget that the Reform Movement started with minor variations within the bounds of Halachah.

    And that doesn't even begin to address the issues at hand, which are far more severe than minor variations within the bounds of Halachah (which, I know, you are deliberately avoiding in this post because you've already addressed them).

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charlie-Hall/683997138 Charlie Hall

      A lot of the "variations" that are getting blasted, such as giving semicha to women, are within halachah. How does that violate the underpinning of Orthodoxy? Which one of Rambam's ikkarim does it violate. (Or, if you choose, the shorter lists by Crescas or Albo?)

  • Anonymous

    And that doesn't even begin to address the issues at hand, which are far more severe than minor variations within the bounds of Halachah (which, I know, you are deliberately avoiding in this post because you've already addressed them).

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Marty-Balfour/100001067791660 Marty Balfour

    as someone who spent many years in the yeshiva world and as someone who was sexually harassed by a prominent talmid chacham and as someone who is no longer observant or involved in the yeshiva world I commend and cheer your sentiment and message. speak louder, speak clearer and maybe the beauty of a halachic life not rooted in  superficial, materialistic and xenophobic mindsets will once again thrive. 

  • http://twitter.com/LauraBenDavd Laura Ben-David

    While your outrage is justifiable, and while I don't disagree with the particulars, I completely disagree with the main point of the article. Where rabbis have spoken out it was protecting what was done in the name of Orthodox Judaism. Whether or not you agree with them, they were saying what they believe. 
    Where they were silent it was about crimes of individuals - even those against others. That may be wrong, but there was no attempt at 'koshering' their actions in the name of Orthodox - or any other - Judaism. 
    Yes, there should be an outcry, and yes, the rabbis should not be silent about this. But I do not see the relevancy of one to the other. Do you think the rabbis should be the 'sin police', ready to pounce on, denounce, and discredit every Jew who transgresses, and make public announcements, "What this person did is not according to Orthodoxy!" 
    There is a clear difference between actions that are done to affect the status quo, and actions that are just - done. There are a lot of problems in Orthodoxy. (Where are there NOT problems?) But I just do not think this is a fair way of attacking the issues.

  • ShaulDavid Judelman

    the distinction i think that needs to be made is what is the implication of the action (maybe the kavana of the action). In officiating a same sex wedding which you agree seems to be not halachikally sanctioned- did Rav Greenberg make a statement that he is not following halacha b'shita? as opposed to people who give in to their ta'avot- like many of the examples of sexual misconduct and making money off illegal things you mentioned. I don't think the religious jews who did those things had any misconception that what they were doing was kosher, or justified by anything other than their ta'avot-- while I don't think that R Kanefsky or R Greenberg or R Weiss would say the same about their actions which do place them outside the orthodox fold. They believe perhaps, b'shita that what they are doing is halachic? ( i don't know). 
     While I agree there should be more awareness/ attention assistance given to things like sexual abuse in the religious world (by the community leaders) I don't think that individuals fallings as humans in any way means their life-style is not orthodox. Lets not confuse specific actions with haskafa/ ritual observance which is what orthodoxy is. While I think the examples of making a woman a rabbi or making a halachic same sex wedding are actions ideologic actions and thus are "zoche" to being called out as un-orthodox.
          so-- based on that distinction, I can't really agree with what you've put forth in this piece. 
     I got to this article from the Facebook posts going back and forth blasting the haredi world for the offensive oppressive actions of too many individuals there. But the verocity of the anti-charedi lines is something we have to watch out for-- Rebbe Nachman warns- when's someones coming to dig a tunnel under your house- dont start digging a tunnel back! 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=655242151 Ari Kellman

    It's a subtle difference, but I believe your outrage should be targeted towards the actions that violate halacha themselves and not the people who claim to be in one group or another. The real issue here isn't the dismissal of those 'who innovate within the bounds of Jewish law', but the disgraceful behavior of those who still call themselves 'Orthodox'.

  • Liz Shayne

    There seems to be a trend in these comments of pointing out that those who are religiously observent yet transgress are not changing Orthodoxy, merely violating its norms, while those Rabbis who claim to be Orthodox yet advocate positions outside the bounds of Halacha are.

    There also seems to be a mistaken assumption that Rabbi Yuter is arguing that the latter are not worthy of censure, which is an implication I didn't get from this post. I did get the feeling we should be censuring BOTH groups, which is something I can agree with, because the former are also changing what it means to be Orthodox.

    Why won't the Rabbinic establishment come out and say that the sikrikim in Meah Shearim are not Orthodox? They call themselves frum, but they claim that destroying someone's livelihood, ruining property and even harming other Jews is okay because those Jews are violating what they see as halacha. This follows the same pattern of a group that sees something it wants to do and decides that Orthodoxy can change to make room for it. In this case, they're borrowing the idea of the zealot, but changing it so profoundly that it is no longer remotely familiar to our tradition. Rather like appropriating the idea of Chuppah and applying it to two men.
    Where is the condemnation? Why don't we see petitions signed by Rabbis saying that those who vandalize property in the name of Orthodox Judaism are not Orthodox?

    Constant, systematic violation of Halacha, even if it lacks the claim that such things are now within Halacha, can actually bring change faster than statements of validation.  The threat that comes from ignoring halachic violations, because "we all know its wrong" is that sooner or later we won't. People will take silence to mean assent. Speaking out and giving mussar is critical and perhaps articles such as this, articles that frighten us and make us defensive, might not be necessary if a Rabbinic establishment is more willing even to say "No, you're wrong." Not even "this is not Orthodox" but "This is morally repugnant and we will not tolerate it."

    It isn't the absence of denominational accusations that scares me. It's the total silence.

    • Shock ed

      >Where is the condemnation? Why don't we see petitions signed by Rabbis saying that those who vandalize property in the name of Orthodox Judaism are not Orthodox?

      The answer to that is the same reason we don't see petitions regarding every single halacha out there. Where is the systematic violation of halacha that you're referring to? The sexual abuse? How many known cases have there been of that? And how are they undermining Orthodox Judaism? Fraud? How many cases? These aren't dangerous to Orthodoxy. What is very dangerous are people posing as Orthodox Jews and asserting things that are completely contrary to halacha.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charlie-Hall/683997138 Charlie Hall

        Lots and lots of fraud -- and the rabbis responsible remain in positions of respect and authority. The chief rabbi of the Syrian community in Brooklyn is a convicted money launderer. A rabbi of a shul in New Haven pled guilty to a housing fraud scam. The National Council of Young Israel committed Medicaid fraud -- and its then-leader is now cited by name as the halachic advisor behind the efforts to stop the Women of the Wall. Lots of folks still think that Shalom Rubashkin is innocent -- and his sister's husband, a prominent school head and contribution bundler for right wing political causes, is also in federal prison for fraud.

        This tolerance of financial wrongdoing is far more dangerous than letting a few women read from a sefer Torah.

  • Sara Kutliroff

    Rabbi, I completely agree with this statement: " I see Orthodox Judaism more concerned with protecting its brand and reputation than it is with enforcing the Torah which it claims to adhere. "...You are 100 percent correct. The mere fact that Orthodoxy has even become a brand is sad in and of itself.

    • Shakla Vatarya

      This sentence quoted from R. Yuter's post and your comment are perplexing. The "brand" of Orthodox Judaism is precisely "enforcing the Torah [to] which it claims to adhere." There is nothing sad about that. 

      The words "brand" and "reputation" are evidently meant to be understood pejoratively here, suggesting superficiality and dishonesty. Those connotations may emerge from a sarcastic tone, but not from the normative meaning of these words.

      This is not mere linguistic nitpicking. In fact, it goes to the heart of the matter. Reputation matters a lot, as does "brand" in the sense of what something represents at core. 

      In the context of consumer products, people know what to expect from a product based on its brand and reputation. There is a consistency of experience that will engender loyalty if the experience associated with the brand is positive, or drive people away if it is not.

      To restate R. Yuter's ultimate point somewhat differently, his view seems to be that Rabbis purporting to speak for Orthodox Judaism have hurt its "brand" through their choices of issues or people targeted for vehement public criticism. I think reasonable minds could differ on that point.

      I disagree with R. Yuter to the extent he suggests that Rabbis should avoid making judgment calls about communal matters outside the narrow realm of determining issur v'heter.  To borrow an analogy from US Supreme Court confirmation hearings, communal Rabbis have never functioned as the religious equivalent of baseball umpires, calling balls and strikes without regard for the ultimate outcome of the game.

      This suggestion would be a curious one for R. Yuter to make, since he has often written and spoken in favor of the authority of individual Rabbis to make rulings and certainly policy decisions not dictated solely by issur v'heter. The flip side of that authority is that when a larger Rabbinic consensus emerges contrary to the view of the individual Rabbi, the majority has the right to reject the position of the individual.

      The only remaining question is one of brand. I would posit that "Orthodox Judaism" means "a set of practices and beliefs adhered to by Shomrei Torah, as determined by a majority of their Rabbinic leaders." Can the proponent of the rejected minority view nevertheless claim that the view is normative and entitled to equal weight and deference notwithstanding the majority rejection? If not, then calling the proponent non-Orthodox is less a canard than a statement of fact at a given point in history.

  • http://rainbowtallitbaby.wordpress.com Rainbow Tallit Baby

    I am not Orthodox, but am observant ( and educated) and I appreciate your thoughtful post. Beyond egregious violations like the ones you cite ( theft corruption and abuse of children), how do you feel about the relative lack of condemnation around much more common violations like Tfillin dates or texting on Shabbat?.

    • Anonymous

      What are "Tfillin dates"? 

      What makes you think there is a "relative lack of condemnation of texting on Shabbat? Should the Orthodox Rabbinate also come out against pork? 

      • http://rainbowtallitbaby.wordpress.com Rainbow Tallit Baby

        The difference is that eating pork is not currently a huge trend with Orthodox teens, while texting on Shabbat is. 

        http://www.thejewishweek.com/news/national/many_orthodox_teens_half_shabbos_way_life

        http://www.frumsatire.net/2011/06/22/texting-on-shabbos-becoming-more-common/Moreover the teens interviewed bythe Jewish week probably feel that eating pork is wrong-- less so about their texting.A tfillin date is when a man brings his tfillin on a date because he expects to sleep over and does not want to be without them in the morning. there used to be a whole facebook page on it. Much has been written about the phenomenon.

        • Anonymous

          RTB: You missed the point of my joke, which is to say its just as silly as objecting to something as obvious as eating pork if you have to have a campaign against texting on Shabbos. The kids who are texting know damn well that its assur and nothing the Rabbis would say is going to make an impression when they already know its wrong. Also, many of the people posting on this thread would scream in outrage "Why are those nasty Rabbis picking on those poor kids? Don't they have anything better to do, like condemn pedophelia?"

          Finally, the Jewish Week item is very particular about the texting problem being widespread (supposedly) among Modern Orthodox teens, not a group that is going to listen to those Chareidi types anyway. If you think they should then you'll also be calling for the Rabbis to condemn women wearing pants and married women going without their hair covered.

  • Anonymous

    I think it would be overkill to also identify these hypocritical rabbi's or other religious "orthodox" figures as un-orthodox based on the crimes they commit. They have already been shunned by the jewish community and their opinions are now negated anyway. I think the concern is over calling certain traditions orthodox when the same practices were veiwed as non-orthodox not too long ago. The fact that the religious figures who perform these practices are now considered non-orthodox is just a by-product of the mentality of the orthodox community.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charlie-Hall/683997138 Charlie Hall

      As I pointed out in a comment above, many of the fraudsters are still respected leaders within the Orthodox world.

  • Aharon Eviatar

    Chutzpa from my side,but as a member of a Reform congregation in Israel, I can assure you that Orthodox Judaism is corrupt to its bones.  The violence against Reform and Conservative institutions, the political involvement that means milking the taxpayer cow but giving nothing in return to the state or general society, the prevalence of child abuse and the subsequent cover up, all wrapped in a package of power supported by superstition and exploitation of the ignorant, the evidence is before you  That is a very partial list of the corruption.  The ultimate is a psak halacha by several Rabbis that organs taken from non-Jews (vid. China) who are execution victims may be purchased by Jews, despite being in violation of all moral and ethical standards gives you a calibration of how rotten the system has become.

    • Anonymous

      Bravo again for Yuter! More ammunition for reform!! Way to go Joshie! Maybe you should also post your essay on Stormfront and other neo-nazi sites? After all, they need all the help they can get.

    • Anonymous

      Sarcasm aside, Eviatar's post proves better than anything I can say what Yuter's essay really means and how it is understood, if that is anything different. "Orthodox Judaism is corrupt to its bones". 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=509742012 Erin Griver

    Well written, just one thing to note :
    "for Rabbis who in their abuse of students violate prohibitions of homosexual activity (in addition to damage caused by pedophelia). "

    I just want to clearly state, that homosexual activity, just as any other sexual activity can be between two consenting adults, it is NOT pedophelia.  When Rabbi's are sexually abusing students, it is PEDOPHELIA NOT HOMOSEXUALITY.
    If by “male homosexuality” we mean a general sexual attraction to other men,
    then pedophiles—including the abusive Rabbi's are not
    homosexual. Research shows that men who molest young boys overwhelmingly either
    have no sexual interest in adults, or are heterosexual in their adult
    orientation.

  • http://twitter.com/Daganev Daganev

    Hi, first time commenting here or reading this blog but I just wanted to make a couple points.

    1.  Rabbis in Israel HAVE condemned Torat Hamelech as non-halachic and of having no validity.
    2. Rabbi David Lior, did not say he agreed with the book, he said it made for interesting reading and halachic logic, but ultimately comes to the wrong conclusion.

    3. You are mixing and matching your communities here.  I'm not aware of any blog posts in English, or published english opinion pieces which say that Beating up people for Tzniut is the appropriate approach to Torah.    Maybe if you read these in Hebrew, and read the Hebrew responses to them, you would have a different view on the matter.

    4.  There is a group, Machon Shilo, which has written some controversial halachic opinions.  (For example, that Ashkenazim can eat Kitnyot in Israel.)   However because of the way it is written, nobody has attacked this change in practice, or bucking against authority as being non-Orthodox.   http://kitniyot.blogspot.com/2011/04/dont-be-bamboozled.html

    I think you should look into the Situation of Machon Shilo and Torat Eretz Yisroel a bit more closely, and you will notice that there are Orthodox ways of "rejecting the authority" as you put it.   For me, because of groups such as Machon Shilo or the Hamoqorim group on facebook  https://www.facebook.com/groups/113062955402633/ exist, and do not get labeled as anti-Orthodox, coupled with the large angry protests and condemnations of the Thugs in black clothing, your argument falls flat. 
    Granted, those condemnations are in Hebrew and so you may not have access to them, but they exist.

  • ebpicard

    Rabbi Yuter,

    WADR, you omit one salient difference between those deviants receiving the "non-orthodox" label and those who escape that wrath.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tamara-Levin/1002557650 Tamara Levin

    There is one good point: “If observance of Torah is the goal of Orthodox Judaism than ostensibly it ought to be less concerned with permitted variations within Halakhah than with outright violations of halakhah”.
    Everything else is unreliably shallow.
    I don’t believe that the author doesn’t understand that:
    -official reaction to objectionable behavior doesn’t have to be public as the public reaction may bring unwanted publicity.
    -the secular government and judicial system is corrupt to the point that religious people have serious doubts about them.
    -when the government expropriates people’s money for secular schools they still have to find the way to teach kids in private schools,
    The author may or may not understand that as a schoolchild has a chance to fix his grammar only if he continues to listen to his teachers and attending classes, similarly a person who adheres to the orthodox tradition has a chance to fix his or her faults, while those who look down on tradition are taking different path, G-d forbid.
    I can agree that Judaism is changing with time http://machanaim.org/philosof/kook/b2-e.htm
    But being an immigrant from Russia I’ve seen results of shallow thinking and prefer that the changes should meet with strictest scrutiny possible. So I see nothing wrong that only most needed changes through frictions will make their way into Jewish tradition.  It is MUCH better to be safe than sorry!

  • Jason Lederman

    With all respect, this article advocates a ridiculous position.  The glaring difference between sexual misconduct and all of the other things you mentioned is that no rabbi condones the practice of molesting children.  On the other hand, gay marriage, blogging about gender apartheid brachos, and performing gay marriages are all instances where the rabbi falsely depicts orthodoxy as embracing these ideas when it does not.  They are all false light depictions of orthodoxy -- smoke and mirrors -- whereas sexual misconduct, as ugly as it may be, has never been painted as permissible.

    With respect to the instances where "ultra orthodox" people damaged property and attacked women, yes, those people ought to be deemed non orthodox as well.  However, they represent fringe members of the group, and not a movement within orthodoxy, so rabbis do not feel the need to "revoke" their orthodoxy.

  • http://a-gnu-hope.blogspot.com Ploni Almoni

    Although I respect you and have enjoyed your tweets, I don't know where to begin with this illogical rant. Because there are alleged child molesters who were part of the Orthodox community, therefore homosexuality is permitted?! It's a non sequitar - of course, both are forbidden by the Torah, and whether or not our response has been adequate to one does not change the Torah position vis a vis the other. Also, if you want to read about religion as a sociological construct - may I direct you to a Conservative or Reconstructionist seminary where Judaism is taught overtly as one.

  • http://a-gnu-hope.blogspot.com Ploni Almoni

    Although I respect you and have enjoyed your tweets, I don't know where to begin with this illogical rant. Because there are alleged child molesters who were part of the Orthodox community, therefore homosexuality is permitted?! It's a non sequitar - of course, both are forbidden by the Torah, and whether or not our response has been adequate to one does not change the Torah position vis a vis the other. Also, if you want to read about religion as a sociological construct - may I direct you to a Conservative or Reconstructionist seminary where Judaism is taught overtly as one.

  • Anonymous

    I'm completely blown away that the comparison that Rabbi Yuter wrote has been given any
    credence (with no offence intended G-d forbid). As JonnibGood has been saying,
    the first examples Tabbi Yuter brought are undermining Judaism to the core whereas the latter examples of the rabbi's not signing petitions and making declarations are cases where individuals privately transgressed. If someone steals/abuses does that make them unorthodox? No, it makes them an orthodox person that stole/abused. If they say that Chazal are wrong about something, then they're kofrim. How anyone could see it otherwise is beyond me.

    >If women rabbis or omitting a blessing are greater threats to Orthodox Judaism, and thus more worthy of collective outrage than are theft, violence, corruption, and abuse, then perhaps the Orthodox society has outlived its halakhicusefulness.

    Can someone please elucidate this sentence for me? Particularly the last bit?

  • Tamir Evan

    "To be sure, no organization would define itself by these violations of Halakhah and no rabbi or institution would state publicly that financial or sexual crimes are permitted and justified, let alone defining characteristics of their religious system. Unlike the ritual innovations cited earlier, no one has stated that molestation is Orthodox, and thus would not warrant the same type of exclusionary condemnation"

  • moshe cor

    This
    is an article about terminologies –a tit for tat ‘you can’t call
    yourself orthodox bc you violate mitsvot ben adam l’chavero when you call ME
    unorthodox- huh!’ rant. Let’s boil things down here and state facts: it
    goes without saying that unethical behaviour is at odds with orthodoxy- the
    article basically says that it should be more vocal about declaring and  ‘explaining’ that it is not ok , or rather
    ‘unorthodox’ to engage in paedophilia – which is actually a bit superfluous
    unless you really need it spelled out. Furthermore, no orthodox Jew is about to
    get the psak of an ‘ortgodox’ rabbi who has just been exposed for sex crimes
    because clearly the rabbi’s human and religious credibility has been
    undermined- but does this really warrant emphasis? 

    At the same token however I’d
    be very worried if orthodox Judaism lost its role in speaking out against say-
    a gay orthodox marriage, which is intrinsically problematic both halachikaly
    and institutionally- and those lines must be kept sharply alert, unless of
    course the shulchan aruch’s importance weans in the quest to jump off the
    liberal far end. Orthodox Judaism and ritual/ ceremony has always been
    inextricably linked but certainly not at the expense of private human practice-
    what the article tries to do is dish some gross private conduct of individuals and
    then cry that they haven’t officially been cut off from Orthodox Judaism- this
    becomes a bit pedantic.

    Finally, the article ignores the fact that many
    orthodox groups including hareidi ones have lashed out against violation of
    property by other extremist hareidim, moreover, it almost makes out that it is especially
    in orthodox sectors that the sexual and financial misconduct takes place! Giving lip service to liberal humanism doesn’t actually advance Judaism
    any more than publically declaring that someone is no longer orthodox because
    he has stolen or raped. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Moshe-Averick/1353759044 Moshe Averick

     Rabbi Yuter,

    Although some of the points you make might have validity, the article as a whole is nothing more than contrived posturing as far as I'm concerned. Avi Weiss and Steven Greenberg sanctioned, approved, and promoted practices that effectively speaking the entire Orthodox world deemed forbidden. He was castigated by both the RCA and Agudat Yisroel. Although I am not aware of ny formal statement by Young Israel, I think we can be pretty certain that they are completely opposed to these actions also. Anyone who has heard Steven Greenberg's musings about the "two verses in Leviticus" regarding homosexuality (by the way, the prohibition against murder is only two words) understands that he has clearly rejected Orthodox Judaism and is unable to make a clean break for reasons that are not worth discussing in this comment.

    The RCA and Agudat Yisroel have also strongly condemned charedi violence. Having lived in Eretz Yisroel for 14 years and having personally witnessed some of the "violence", it is for the most part fringe elements and youngsters who do it more out of a thrill than any ideological committment. WE see ourselves in America, how a small group of losers and whackos can create chaos in the "Occupy Movements"
    For you to self-righteously assume the mantle of the moral voice of Orthodoxy, as if the great Torah leaders of America and Israel encourage and condone this violence is
    a terrible slander.

    In Israel everyone in the DAti-Leumi (Modern Orthodox) community knows the terrible open secret: that frightening amounts of kids who go to the army abandon Yiddishkeit and shmirat hamitzvos. In America many modern orthodox kids also meet their spiritual deaths at top notch universities where there parents are so proud to send them. Where is your outrage, why is it not included in this article?

    If any "Rabbi" like Avi Weiss claimed that fraud and sexual abuse were permissible according to the Torah believe me you would see an outpouring of outrage that would make the most recent official letters pale in comparison. Nobody is doing this. Nobody claims that abuse and fraud are permitted. Everybody thinks it's horrible. In the same way, nobody thinks it's a good thing for kids to abandon yiddishkeit in the IDF or at University. The solution for these types of problems is not to issue public letters, those are only necessary when  people like Weiss, Greenberg, Kanefsky, or extremist Chariedim try to do things in the name of Torah that actually are destructive to Torah.

    The response to white collar crime is to increase the community's awareness of the halachos of Choshen Mishpot, which is being done in communities all across the US. There are constantly programs and speakers now to increase awareness about sexual abuse. All types of college kiruv programs are opening up across the US, including the YU based program designed specifically for day school kids at college. Pre army mechinas are operating all over Eretz Yisroel to strengthen the ruchnios of boys before they go into the IDF.

    Get off your high horse, Rabbi. How dare you suggest that Orthodox Jews think that fraud, corruption, and abuse are not serious issues that need to be addressed and remedied. Threats to Yiddishkeit by so called "Rabbis" need our attention and so do all the other challenges that are faced by Am Yisroel. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charlie-Hall/683997138 Charlie Hall

      "The response to white collar crime is to increase the community's awareness of the halachos of Choshen Mishpot"

      That has not happened. If anything, we have been circling the wagons to protect the fraudsters. In a comment above I have pointed out that many fraudsters are still respected leaders, despite no apparent tshuvah.

  • https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawmsI4K6FYljCJhEuuuKvAxj1EAIvk7sJ1o Yitzchak

    Your article drives home an uncomfortable position in which many observant Jews find ourselves. My halakhic practice and opinions on halakhic innovation make me what many --including you-- would call RWMO or even charedi. Yet I agree with you 100%  about the sorry state of Orthodox society. I agree with you that the charedi camp has outlived its usefulness for quite a while. In fact I'm not sure if it was ever very useful since it was founded (c. 1830 or 1912 depending how you count).

    Yasher Koach!

  • NOAH

    YOU'RE ENTIRE MESSAGE IS IRELEVANT!

    TWO WRONGS DON'T MAKE A RIGHT. STEVE GREENBERG ET ALL ARE WONRG AND SO ARE THE ORTHODOX SEX ABUSERS AND THIEFS!

  • http://profiles.google.com/mslipkin Menachem Lipkin

    I'm not sure you see comments on older posts, but if you do, I just want to let you know that this was an excellent article. It's very relevant today as the WoW is really hot here in Israel. It's astounding the amount of energy people put into STOPPING people from praying, especially when, as you said, there are seemingly much bigger issues in our and the world.

    This idea was brought into even clearer focus this past week with the events in Lakewood, where accused child abuser, Yosef Kolko, confessed to his crimes. This after years of the Rabbinic "authorities" in Lakewood came down really hard... on the victim's family! It was also revealed that major rabbis who some would consider "gedolim" got involved on behalf of the accused. So much so that they even suggested working to get the victim to drop the charges!

    So it's even worse than you imply. It's not just misplaced priorities, it's really, really, screwed up priorities. Unfortunately so many of the commenters here don't get it, they truly cannot see the forest for the trees getting so pedantically tied up in the minutiae of what you were saying.

    We're in deep "you know what"....

  • Elana Sztokman

    I think there's a definite theme in what counts as "not Orthodox" -- it all has to do with gender. Shelo asani isha, women's leadership, and homosexuality, all of these are about gender. Playing around with gender is the real no-no b/c that threatens masculinity. This has nothing to do with halakah and everything to do with the idea of male mastery. It reminds me of the pasuk in megilat esther when Ahashverosh removes Vashti and then tells the whole world about it -- "so that every man will be master of his own home and his nation and language". It's this very ancient idea that national "mastery" is dependent on men being men and making sure that women know their place. It's just masculinity.

    B'vracha,
    Elana

  • Abi

    Great article! I'm not sure whether its already been commented on, but wouldn't there be a distinction between people thinking they are acting within the framework of Halacha when performing a same-sex marriage, and people guilty of sex abuse when everybody agrees that is wrong? That is, wouldn't it be a given that sex abusers are 'non orthodox' whereas something which may seem like a halachic loophole (rabbi publicly officiating same-sex marriage) may be needed to be labeled as 'non-orthodox' to avoid doubt?