That's right. Despite the spin from Rabbi Basil Herring and others at the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), the dissent within the organization over its capitulation to Israel's chief rabbis is deeper and wider than claimed.
…Barry Freundel, the head of the RCA's conversion committee claimed:
Sadly a few voices within our community have spoken out publicly against GPS. For the most part their criticisms are based on incorrect information and do not reflect the realities of the new system.
But this is simply false. Rabbi Marc Angel is not out of the loop. Rabbi Avi Weiss, another RCA critic, may be – but Rabbi Haskel Lookstein is not.
Rabbi Lookstein, who is one of the 36 rabbis currently on the approved list of rabbis who may serve on the religious courts that finalize conversions to Judaism under the new RCA system, is repulsed by where Modern Orthodoxy is headed and by what some of his colleagues have done:
“I oppose the system,” said the rabbi, in an interview from Jerusalem, where he was visiting. “I am very much afraid of this system.
“The RCA is making it more difficult for people to convert just as the Chief Rabbinate has made it more difficult for people to convert in Israel. We are replicating their mistakes,” he said.
And Rabbi Lookstein would resign from the committee and perhaps from the RCA itself, except for one thing:
He hesitates to withdraw from the new system because of the impact it could have on the hundreds of people he has already converted and their descendants.
If he is considered a critic of the establishment, past conversions could be challenged.
“Somebody in Jerusalem might say ‘Lookstein that liberal, that renegade, we can’t rely on his judgment.’ That’s the next step.”
Rabbi Lookstein also notes that there are many RCA rabbis who privately agree with his criticism of the new conversion agreement – but those rabbis won't speak out publicly, except for Rabbis Marc Angel and Avi Weiss.
Fear of retribution, it seems.
Think back to Rabbi Mordechai Willig's behavior during the Rabbi Baruch Lanner affair. Rabbi Willig ranted and raved at a victim's brother at the beginning of what was supposed to be an impartial beit din with Willig sitting as a judge. Willig used that position to excoriate the victim's brother for speaking 'loshon hora' against Rabbi Lanner.
Under heavy fire after word of his disgusting behavior leaked out, Rabbi Willig 'apologized." He has never spoken up for victims of rabbinic abuse, never done anything to help victims, and never done anything to support those who have. In other words, the man issued a politically expedient apology – he did not do teshuva.
This man, this arrogant, foolish, thug, is one of the two RCA rabbis in charge of the new RCA conversion apparatus.
The other guardian of this RCA process is Rabbi Hershel Schachter, a man known for his intolerance of MO rabbis who disagree with him. He also a man known to be far more haredi than Modern Orthodox.
In the end, most rabbis who oppose the agreement will continue to do so privately. They won't speak up. They won't fight.
And that will force those who do have the courage to speak out to break formally with the RCA and start a competing organization with its own rabbinic courts.
And these courageous rabbis will need to fight the Israeli chief rabbis in Israel's court system and in the Knesset.
What should you do?
Stop funding rabbis who support this RCA-Rabbinute agreement. And stop supporting and funding the RCA's parent organization, the OU.
You can do this in several ways – one of which should include minimizing the number of OU-certified products you purchase. Go to Rabbi Abadi's website and check out what foods you can safely buy without a hechsher.
Then remove the OU from your kitchen, and the RCA from your life.
UPDATE 3-16-08: Rabbi Haskell Lookstein wrote a letter to the Jewish Week to clarify his views on the agreement. It was published on 3-14-08. Here is the relevant section of that letter:
…The article reported that I said that “converting an adopted child under the new RCA guidelines requires a commitment to “12 years of Orthodox day school education for that child, something Rabbi Lookstein finds too strict.” I do not find that too strict.
In fact, the commitment of the adopting parents to give their child a day school education is precisely the requirement upon which I insist. I try to encourage the family to observe Shabbat, kashrut and as much of Jewish religious practice as possible but the minimum requirement is a commitment to a day school education. This is the published view of the late Rabbi Moshe Feinstein in his responsa and it was also the instructions conveyed to me by my teacher, the late Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveichik. That is the fallback position for converting an adopted child where the family itself is not observant. The new guidelines require much more than that commitment.
I am very disturbed at the situation that has developed whereby rabbis of the unquestioned halachic stature of Marc Angel and Avi Weiss may no longer be considered eligible to serve on a Bet Din in the new system because they disagree with the new requirements. If we are questioning the work of such outstanding and clearly halachically committed rabbis, what has been achieved here? And will I be the next to be excluded because I find the new guidelines to be much stricter and more excluding than my own rabbinic teacher taught? Maybe some people in the RCA and in the Chief Rabbinate’s office in Israel are happy with the new system; I am sad.
In my more recent posts on this issue you'll see one of the main purposes for making this deal is that the RCA is able to use it to destroy moderate Orthodox rabbis like Marc Angel, Avi Weiss and Haskell Lookstein, and also use it to destroy Yeshiva University's competition – Yeshivat Chovvevei Torah.
[Hat Tip for the update: Yankle.]