Exclusive: Orthodox Union Adopts New Policy Barring Women Clergy
The Orthodox Union has adopted a new policy barring women from serving as clergy at its 400 member congregations across the United States.
At least four synagogues that are members of the Orthodox Union currently employ women in clergy roles.
A new rabbinic ruling by seven leading Modern Orthodox rabbis — adopted as official OU policy at a board meeting on February 1 — concludes that “a woman should not be appointed to serve in a clergy position.”
The ruling bars women from holding a title such as “rabbi,” or even from serving without title in a role in which she would be performing clergy functions, such as regularly leading services, delivering sermons, ruling on matters of religious law, or officiating at weddings and funerals.
“We have received a number of requests from member synagogues and their lay leadership and or rabbinic leadership for halachic guidance in this area,” said Allen Fagin, executive vice president of the OU. Fagin said that the OU had, in turn, requested the rabbinical ruling. He said that while the ruling bars women from clergy jobs, it encourages women to take other synagogue leadership roles.
News of the new policy drew immediate condemnation from rabbis and leaders on the Modern Orthodox left.
“The OU should stick to tuna fish,” said Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, spiritual leader of Ohev Sholom – The National Synagogue in Washington, D.C., an OU congregation that employs a female clergy member, Maharat Ruth Balinsky Friedman. (In addition to its role as a synagogue umbrella group, the OU runs the largest kosher certification agency in the world.)
It’s not clear what the OU will do about member synagogues that currently employ female clergy. The OU statement says that the OU’s Synagogue Standards Commission will “enter into a dialogue with synagogues to encourage and facilitate implementation” of the rabbinic ruling.
Fagin said that it was the OU’s “really strong hope” that congregations that currently have female clergy would not split from the OU. “Part of our responsibility here, together with our shuls, is to try to find common ground in those small number of instances where there may be the need for further thought,” he said.
As YWN has reported, the front cover of this week’s Mishpacha Magazine had a picture of Hillary Clinton. YWN has confirmed that this decision was made after consultation with the greatest Poskim and Gedolim in the United States.
Nonetheless, the decision was denounced by the editorship of Hamodia in Israel. Yet Hamodia was well aware that Mishpacha’s decision was checked and double-checked with the Gedolei HaPoskim. In fact, Hamodia has behind the scenes, been avidly trying to get all Charedi media publication to agree to their Chassidish opinion (the Admorim of Gur and Novaminsk — which we FULLY respect) not to publish a Hillary photo.
Apparently they are oblivious to the fact that not everyone is required to follow those Chassidim opinions. It is shocking that the Hamodia in Israel chose to attack the opinion of major Poskim – and label them as not “true Chareidim.”
Here are excerpts from their editorial that slammed Mishpacha: “True Charedi newspapers never have and never will publish pictures of women, even if they are in leadership positions. Jews have their own view of everything that happens, especially when the subject is as important as elections. In the eyes of Jews, the US is definitely a ‘kingdom of kindness’ in our days, and deserves recognition and appreciation for that. They understand that the fact that we won’t publish a picture of the Democratic candidate on the front page of haredi newspapers does not mean that we don’t support her, but rather stems from the fact we keep Jewish law,” said Hamodia.
There is a story told that when Artscroll’s biography on Rebbitzen Kanievsky a”h was about to go to print, a copy was shown to Hagaon HaRav Chaim Shlita. After browsing through the book, he turned to those around him and asked, “Why are there so many photos of me and not many of the Rebbitzen? This book is about her!”
Is Moreinu HaGaon HaRav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita not a “true Chareidi?”
The policy of not publishing photos of women has morphed into a policy of dangerous intolerance to those who do not adopt this Chumrah.
The weekly Flatbush Jewish Journal published a photo of Rebbitzen Pam A”H on her Yartzheit. Their decision was made following the Psak of their Rabbonim – who are among the biggest Rabbonim and Poskim in Flatbush. Sure enough, the paper was viciously attacked by some of the local Chassidish Rabbonim. The Rabbonim who have paskened for the paper have been living in Flatbush for 70 years or more. These Chassidish Rabbonim have only opened their shuls recently.
Recently, the same newspaper was attacked after publishing photos of Rebbitzen Feldman A”H of the Mirrer Yeshiva.
The intolerance has simply gone too far.
Whatever happened to respecting the opinions of others? Why must every Charedi publication follow the opinion of the Hamodia?
Additionally, one must take into consideration the ramifications of ignoring the President of the United States.
Let’s take, for example, when the iconic photo taken inside the Situation Room during the operation to capture or kill Bin Laden. That photo was airbrushed to remove then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and published in the Satmar newspaper Di Tzeitung.
The doctored photo and story went viral. Later, WikiLeaks exposed emails that showed just how furious Hillary was at the time. Imagine her reaction as president. Not to mention the fact that altering the photograph was illegal and the cause for a serious Chillul Hashem.
Today, Sruli Besser – a contributing editor of Mishpacha responded to the HaModiah attack on Facebook. He wrote:
I’m so sorry that you don’t find us to be true chareidim. I thought hours of conversation and deliberation with real rabbanim would give us some credibility, but I guess not. I’m sorry that when we asked genuine gedolim and poskim how to proceed and followed their advice, we didn’t think to ask you what true charedi papers have always done.
I’m much sorrier that you thought it wise to make this a public issue, because the charedim (true, not true, whatever) don’t need this story in the secular media. We were barraged by requests for comment last week from major media outlets, and we respectfully fended them off because we’re not here to be spokesmen and saviors, just to do keep doing our jobs with ehrlichkeit, professionalism and dedication. It’s not about us.
I respect your right not to publish a picture of Hillary, in line with your mesorah. (I imagine that this comment appeared in Hebrew Hamodia, not English, I haven’t yet seen it. I hope it’s not in English!) It’s a holy mesorah. I enjoy Hamodia and will continue to enjoy it.
Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld was asked by a British census taker what language he spoke at home and he said Ivrit, rather than Yiddish- which of course didn’t reflect his true ideology. Talmidim asked him why he chose to answer that way and he said, ‘Voss iz tzuvishen mir uhn mein breeder, things that come between me and my brother, iz nisht di gesheft fuhn der…isn’t the concern of this Englishman.’
I’m sure you mean this l’shem shamayim and I wish you hatzlacha in your great work.”
D.A. Kenneth Thompson, “Voice for racial justice” but not for molested children…
We would not want to celebrate someone’s demise. It would be purely awful of us. He leaves behind a wife and children, parents and siblings.
We offer our sincerest condolences to those who mourn his loss. We do not.
We can’t help but hope that his successor will do more, just a little more is something, to help the victims of sexual assault, suffered at the hands of Rabbis, and frankly Priests. We find ourselves praying, just short prayer, that his successor cannot be swayed by the power of the bloc of ultra-Orthodox voters and power brokers. Perhaps he will meet these men again…
Ken Thompson, Brooklyn District Attorney, Dies After Disclosing Cancer
Kenneth P. Thompson, the first black district attorney of Brooklyn and a voice for racial justice at a moment of tension between law enforcement and minority communities, died on Sunday from cancer, his family said. He was 50.
Mr. Thompson was elected district attorney in 2013 after campaigning on a platform of reform and racial justice, and unseating Charles J. Hynes, a fellow Democrat and a troubled incumbent who had served more than 20 years.
After being absent from his office for nearly two months, Mr. Thompson released a statement on Tuesday saying he had cancer. His office released a second statement on Sunday night, announcing his death and saying that his family had been by his side at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan when he died.
A former federal prosecutor who went on to have a successful private law practice, Mr. Thompson earned a reputation in office as one of the country’s most progressive district attorneys, creating a robust internal unit that reviewed questionable convictions and establishing a policy of not prosecuting most low-level marijuana arrests.
At a moment of heightened racial tension over police-related shootings, he chose to prosecute — and eventually won — the complicated case of Peter Liang, the former New York City police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man, Akai Gurley, in the stairwell of a housing project in 2014. After the trial was over, Mr. Thompson decided not to seek prison time for Mr. Liang, which enraged Mr. Gurley’s family and led to protests.
“The thoughts and prayers of our entire city are with District Attorney Ken Thompson, his family and his loved ones tonight,” Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, said in a statement on Sunday. “With a life and promise cut far too short, our city was blessed with but a glimpse of Ken’s unwavering commitment to justice and his unrivaled pursuit of a more fair system for all those he served.”
Born and raised in New York City, Mr. Thompson was the son of a police officer and lived in public housing in Harlem before moving to Co-Op City, a housing development in the Bronx. He attended the city’s public schools and applied to the Police Department, as his mother had, before choosing instead to attend the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. After his graduation, he obtained a law degree from the New York University School of Law.
On the advice of one of his law professors, Ronald K. Noble, a onetime Treasury Department official and the secretary general of Interpol, Mr. Thompson sought and found a position as a federal prosecutor in Brooklyn. In 1997, he was assigned the prestigious task of making the opening statement at the trial of Justin Volpe, a former police officer who eventually pleaded guilty to torturing a Haitian immigrant, Abner Louima, with a broken broomstick in the bathroom of a Brooklyn station house.
After leaving government service, Mr. Thompson went into private practice. His most prominent case was representing an African-born hotel housekeeper, Nafissatou Diallo, who accused the French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn of raping her in a Manhattan hotel room in 2011. Cyrus Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, eventually dismissed the case, and Mr. Thompson was criticized for his incendiary personal attacks against Mr. Vance and members of his staff.
Mr. Thompson had harbored ambitions for higher office, but, according to a friend who spoke on the condition of anonymity because Mr. Thompson declined to disclose the type of his cancer, learned he had an aggressive form of the disease this year. By the time he received the diagnosis, the cancer had already metastasized and was incurable.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo may now name a replacement for Mr. Thompson, who would have faced re-election next year. “A lifelong New Yorker, Ken was known as an effective, aggressive civil rights leader — and a national voice for criminal justice reform,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement on Sunday.
Mr. Thompson is survived by his wife of 17 years, Lu-Shawn Thompson; his children, Kennedy and Kenny; his mother; his father; his brother; and his sister.
A School District Whose Children Have Been Raped of an Education and $3M in State Aid
It does not matter in East Ramapo whether you are Orthodox, ultra-Orthodox, secular, Hispanic, Black, White, or Green because all of East Ramapo’s children have been deprived of an education.
In the public schools in East Ramapo despite the best efforts of teachers, parents and activists the resources have been scarce and the schools in disrepair, leaving the public school children to study without proper textbooks, in classrooms known to leak during rainstorms. The schools of that district barely offer core classes. There are few art classes, if any and music is a luxury.
The public schools in East Ramapo, once the best in the State, lack the resources necessary to provide an education consistent with New York State mandates. Funding is grossly inadequate and the Board of Education, comprised in disproportionate part of ultra-Orthodox men blames the State.
There is no acknowledgement on the part of the Trustees of the East Ramapo Board of Education and their spokespeople that money has been siphoned off for years for the ultra-Orthodox and Orthodox religious education. The premise has been that there are more private school, Yeshiva educated children and more resources should be provided for their edcuation. Separation of Church and State be damned.
In contrast the private Yeshivas, funded with public taxpayer money, have the resources but the children are deprived an education by an establishment which actively chains them to functional illiteracy, mathematical ignorance and a non-science based religious education… in Yiddish. Separation of Church and State, an unknown concept.
Presently there is a public meeting at Rockland Community College, located in East Ramapo intended to explain how $3M in New York State aid will be allocated. Perhaps Church and State can walk on separate sides of the road….
Lohud reported on September 27, 2016
Full-day kindergarten and other programs will start Oct. 6
The state education commissioner has approved the East Ramapo school district’s plan for using $3 million in state aid to create universal full-day kindergarten and restore arts programs in grades K-6, among other initiatives.
Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said Monday that she had given her blessing to the plan, and also said she would join state-appointed monitors Charles Szuberla and John Sipple at a public meeting to discuss the initiatives at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Rockland Community College’s Cultural Arts Center, 145 College Road, Ramapo.
Full-day kindergarten and other programs will start Oct. 6, according to a district spokesperson.
The district conducted its own public hearing to receive community input on the expenditure plan on Sept. 7. The school board approved the plan on Sept. 13 and it was submitted to Elia on Sept. 20.
“These plans represent the district’s path forward to ensure progress continues and to ensure the educational rights of every East Ramapo student are met,” Commissioner Elia said in a statement. “Chuck Szuberla, John Sipple and Superintendent Wortham have worked as quickly as possible to put a long-term strategic academic and fiscal improvement plan in place that is both thorough and thoughtful. It continues the work already done to repair the trust of the East Ramapo community, while recognizing there is still work to do.”
The $3 million in supplemental funding was approved under a state oversight law that required the development of the strategic academic plan, as well as a comprehensive expenditure plan, in consultation with Szuberla.
In 2012, East Ramapo went from full-day to half-day kindergarten amid $14 million worth of budget cuts. Last year, two sections were added. Four new full-day kindergarten classes were included in the district’s $224 million budget approved by voters in May.
Here’s what’s being proposed for the $3 million:
$1.2 million to hire six monolingual kindergarten teachers and four bilingual kindergarten teachers.
Up to 11 sections of full-day kindergarten would be created, depending upon the number of children who enroll.
The bulk of kindergarten funding, $670,000, would go towards salaries, while the remainder would cover classroom materials, instructional technology and building adjustments to accommodate new classes.
Restoring art, music, dance and theater classes for students in grades K-6 will cost around $1.7 million.
The district aims to hire 12 teachers for arts instruction, the majority of whom were previously laid off and are on the preferred eligibility list (PELL).
The night Menachem Stark died, he should have been at a wedding, his wife told a Brooklyn court.
Vashi Stark testified Wednesday about the night her husband was killed in an attempted shakedown, during the trial against his alleged killer, construction worker Kendel Felix. “I was expecting him to be home by 11,” the widow told the jury, according to the New York Post, “or 11:30 at the latest.”
By then, Stark, the now-infamous developer and landlord, had already been abducted outside his Williamsburg office, bound and stuffed into a Dodge Caravan, and suffocated. His body was later found, partially-burned, in a dumpster in Great Neck.
The court viewed footage of that grisly scene, filmed by then-NYPD detective Bruce Schurman. Members of Stark’s family cried as the footage played and some got up to leave, the New York Post reported.
Felix, who confessed to the murder and implicated two accomplices, had worked construction on Stark’s properties, and may have worked for a contractor to whom Stark owed $20,000. Felix told police the abduction had been an attempt to “scare” the businessman and his death was an accident.
Stark, a member of the Satmar community, got in early in the Williamsburg gentrification-driven real-estate boom. He had at one point amassed a portfolio of about 1,000 units in the Williamsburg-Greenpoint area, together with his partner Israel Perlmutter, but ran into financial trouble after the 2008 crash, according to The Real Deal. He was millions of dollars in debt and embroiled in a number of financial and legal disputes at the time of his death.
This is an unprecedented and long overdue step. These 300 rabbis are to be commended.
However, Frum Watch notes that the bulk of the signers are from the Modern Orthodox camp. It is the insular, self ghettoizing ultra-orthodox communities that lag farthest behind on reporting of suspected abuse directly to the secular authorities. We call upon the rabbonim, dayanim, rebbes, and rosh yeshivas of these communities to join their colleagues and endorse this initiative.
300 Orthodox rabbis urge reporting of child sex abuse
August 25, 2016 2:03pm
(JTA) — Three hundred Orthodox rabbis have signed a proclamation urging those suspecting child sex abuse to notify secular authorities and calling on Jewish institutions to take preventative measures to prevent abuse.
The letter, which was released Thursday and signed by rabbis from the the United States, Canada, Israel and Europe, recognizes that Orthodox communities “could have responded in more responsible and sensitive ways to help victims and to hold perpetrators accountable.” It also condemns attempts to ignore or silence abuse victims and witnesses.
Those suspecting sexual abuse do not need to seek rabbinic approval before contacting civil authorities, the proclamation states.
“We condemn attempts to ignore allegations of child sexual abuse. These efforts are harmful, contrary to Jewish law, and immoral,” it said. “The reporting of reasonable suspicions of all forms of child abuse and neglect directly and promptly to the civil authorities is a requirement of Jewish law.”
The letter strongly condemns ostracizing victims of sexual abuse and calls upon synagogues and schools to set up policies to prevent sex abuse, including carefully screening new employees, raising awareness of the issue, and teaching children about sexual development and safety.
The proclamation draws upon the biblical precept not to “stand by while your fellow’s blood is being spilled” (Leviticus 19:16). One of the signatories likened sexual abuse to murder.
“Every sexual abuser is a potential murderer,” said Rabbi Hershel Billet of the Young Israel of Woodmere. “They destroy the souls of their victims and at times cause the death of their victims.”
The signatories include members of the Orthodox Union, Rabbinical Council of America and Yeshiva University.
In August 2015, more than 100 haredi Orthodox rabbis and teachers signed a proclamation obligating Jews to report suspected child sex abuse to the authorities, citing the same verse from Leviticus.
RAMAPO – A year ago, a grassroots group called CUPON was formed by a Hillcrest resident who saw an urgent need to keep the area’s development in check.
Since then, that group has helped a handful of similar organizations spring up around Ramapo, a town with a long history of civic activism. They all share concerns similar to CUPON’s, which stands for Citizens United to Protect Our Neighborhoods.
“What we wanted to do is, instead of having a big CUPON for Ramapo, we wanted an individual area to have its own CUPON-like organization,” said Micheal Miller, who started the group in Hillcrest and has subsequently helped organize other neighborhoods. “Then, if you go to a (municipal board) meeting, you’re going to be representatives of your area,” he said. “That carries much more weight than if we go as one organization.”
Ramapo is Rockland County’s fastest-growing town, home to an estimated 126,595 people with 12 villages. In recent months, new groups focused on controlling development have formed in such areas as Monsey, New Hempstead, Airmont and Chestnut Ridge.
“The goal is to empower the other members of the community,” said Hilda Kogut, who launched CUPON Chestnut Ridge this spring, noting that many of her fellow villagers have begun speaking up at village meetings about their concerns. “We’re making some progress.”
What activists are up against is substantial: More than 3,000 homes are proposed or could be proposed for large pieces of land that changed hands in recent years, according to Miller, who compiled the information based on property sale records and other sources. In addition to the 197-acre property in the Route 202-306 corridor just outside of Pomona where the controversial 479-unit Patrick Farm development was proposed, the list of parcels include the 130-acre Minisceongo Golf Club property on Pomona Road and the 145-acre former Edwin Gould Academy site in Chestnut Ridge.
Based on ongoing trends, those properties could potentially be developed into higher-density housing catering to Orthodox or ultra-Orthodox Jewish families from outside the county, Miller said.
“They are bringing in Brooklyn to Ramapo,” Miller said. “It’s going to become an extension of New York City.”
Orthodox Jews share concern
Tension between religious and non-religious communities has been on the rise in Rockland for the past several years, fueled by strained relations between members of the East Ramapo school community and its school board, which is controlled by Orthodox Jewish residents who send their children to private schools.
But over-development is a shared concern in her Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, said Shani Bechhofer of Monsey, who has lived in a community called Viola Estates for more than a decade. A major housing development, also called Viola Estates, is under construction on a nearby 5.5-acre property on Viola Road, even though Bechhofer and her neighbors expressed their opposition before the Ramapo Planning Board, she said.
They formed a grassroots organization, Viola Estates Residents Allied for Integrity, which is also being assisted by Miller.
“The more we were educated, the more we began to understand the issues that are affecting us, not just this development,” Bechhofer said. “That’s why we named our organization ‘Allied for Integrity.'”
Bechhofer said she was “disheartened” by the town’s response when she and her neighbors reported to officials that more units than planned were being built there. The property, formerly owned by Temple Beth El, was originally zoned for single-family homes allowing 1.74 units per acre, or a total 10 units for the site. In July 2013, the developer was granted a zone change to allow for eight units per acre, or 44 units on 5.5 acres.
As construction moved along, neighbors saw that the basements in each unit had been turned into what they saw as accessory apartments, according to a letter they sent to the town. Ramapo officials acknowledged the work done was not according to the plans but, instead of requiring the developer to follow the existing plans, officials approved revised plans that included a “finished lower level.”
In June, three neighbors sued Ramapo town Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence, Building Inspector Anthony Mallia and Viola Gardens LLC., the owner of the property, over the issue. Town Attorney Michael Klein has told The Journal News the lawsuit lacks merit. Attorney Steven Mogel, who was recently retained by the neighbors, said Friday that the lawsuit, filed in Putnam County Court to avoid any potential conflict in Rockland County Court, was expected to be discontinued because of procedural issues, but “it doesn’t mean that the efforts that the neighbors have engaged in are over.”
Miller, for his part, has been leading the effort to stop a 20-unit housing development, Bluefield Extension, on the 1-acre site on the east side of Union Road in Hillcrest, along the Monsey border. The property was originally zoned for single-family homes.
“This would set a precedent,” Miller said. “If they are allowed to build that, they can come into Hillcrest and do the same thing where they want to.”
From 2000 to 2010, Ramapo’s total population grew by 16.2 percent, while the statewide population grew 2.1 percent and the county’s grew 8.7 percent. The biggest increases within Ramapo were seen in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish villages of New Square and Kaser, which grew by 50.2 percent and 42.5 percent, respectively. Montebello village saw a 22.7 percent increase, and unincorporated Ramapo, including Monsey and Hillcrest, grew by 20.9 percent.
In addition to over-development, community activists keep an eye on issues such as illegal conversions of homes, zoning and code violations, and so-called “blockbusting,” the practice of persuading homeowners to sell their property cheaply by suggesting that changes in neighborhood demographics will destroy their property values.
“Some of the villages and areas are going through all of those issues, while others are going through only some of them,” Miller said. “But, eventually, every one of them is going to affect every area.”
Leaders of the newly formed community groups say they want town officials to stop “spot zoning” — which they think has become too common — to accommodate high-density housing development. They also want officials to enforce zoning codes more stringently.
Kogut, a retired FBI special agent who moved to Rockland decades ago as a child, said she doesn’t want her community to be overcrowded.
“If we were constructing homes for people in this county who had no place to live, I would not have been so offended,” she said.
Klein, the town attorney, said the town is trying meet the needs of different groups, the largest town in New York state outside of several on Long Island.
“We have many groups in the town who criticize us for not providing enough housing and enough development. We have other groups in the community that criticize us for providing too much development. So it’s a difficult balance that the Town Board needs to strike between what is appropriate, manageable development, and what might not be,” he said. “While I understand people have different views, particularly where it affects their immediate community, many people have different opinions on what’s appropriate development and what’s not.”