Prominent Orthodox Rabbis Affirm Progressive Commitments

Rabbi Dov Linzer, our Rosh Yeshiva, spoke at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School’s annual dinner about the centrality of Torah in our lives as Jews, and then shared the following words:

“‘And let it be that we all may know your name and study your Torah.’ Let us make sure that everyone – rich or poor; Orthodox, Reform or unaffiliated; straight or gay; cis- or transgender; those with disabilities and those without; white, black, or brown – that every Jew knows that the Torah is for him or her, and that he or she has a place in our schools, synagogues and communities.”

It was the first time any Orthodox Rosh Yeshiva uttered those words in the same sentence at an Orthodox institution, and it was this vision of an Orthodoxy deeply committed to Torah and mitzvot (commandments) combined with a passion for inclusivity that first attracted us to Yeshivat Chovevei Torah.

We, the undersigned rabbis, are proud to live our rabbinate in way that embodies these commitments and that reflects this radical inclusivity and Torah of love.

In a time when Orthodoxy seems to be moving in a reactionary, regressive direction, we reaffirm that the following social justice ideals are true expressions of Torah values and well within the tent of Orthodoxy:

• When certain voices within Orthodoxy agonize over whether or not women can serve as rabbis and spiritual leaders, we are proud to have women teachers of Torah on our school’s faculty and pastoral counseling departments. We believe the expansion of women’s roles in the pulpit and in the pews glorifies God and Torah.

• When the highest court of our country affirmed that the love of LGBTQ couples should not be “condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions,” we are proud that so many of our school’s graduates work to provide supportive and safe religious centers in their synagogues and homes to our LGBTQ family members, valuing them as equal members of our religious community.

• When the Chief Rabbinate of the State of Israel continues to devalue and demerit the rabbinate of so many of our Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist colleagues, we are proud to serve as allies with the progressive religious voices within Israel who seek to ensure Israel is a home for the entirety of the Jewish people.

• When American streets pulsated with demands for racial justice after the killings of people of color by the hands of law enforcement officials, we are proud that so many of our students and graduates flocked to the streets to express our solidarity with our brothers and sisters of color and remain committed to a society and system of justice for all people.

• When the current Secretary of Education of the United States does not assert or understand that according to US law, students with disabilities must have their needs met in United States public schools, we are proud to be graduates of a school that devotes a yearly summit out of its calendar to focus on the rights of people living with mental and physical special needs.

• When Muslim refugees were held in detention illegally at airports across the United States, we are proud of our yeshiva’s students and faculty who gathered at John F. Kennedy International Airport to express their solidarity with the Muslim community and emphatically state that we believed the Torah’s charge of loving the refugee to be sacred and binding.

• When the future of our planet and its natural resources sustainability is most at stake with climate change proving to be the most existential crisis facing God’s earth, we are proud to be graduates of a school which promotes a Torah that supports environmental justice and compassion for all who walk the earth.

For all these reasons and more, we were drawn to one of the world’s most liberal and progressive Orthodox rabbinical schools, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah. We respect and value machloket l’shem shamayim, holy debate, but we fear that these voices are being pushed out of the Orthodox community. We affirm that the role of the rabbi is to use the prophetic voice in the public sphere, committed to justice, equality and human rights. We salute our teachers and rabbis and say “mi chayil l’chayil – from strength to strength.” We are with you.

Rabbi Daniel Goodman
Rabbi Will Keller
Rabbi Jon Leener
Rabbi Aaron Levy
Rabbi Avram Mlotek
Rabbi Aaron Potek
Rabbi Ben Shefter
Rabbi Aaron Shub
Rabbi Ari Weiss
Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz

This story "Prominent Orthodox Rabbis Affirm Progressive Commitments" was written by Avram Mlotek.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

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Prominent Orthodox Rabbis Affirm Progressive Commitments

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