The Rabbinical Council of America is rumored to be ready to haul Rabbi Avi Weiss before its disciplinary board
by Jonathan Mark • New York Jewish Week
The word on the street is that the Rabbinical Council of America, the largest mainstream Orthodox rabbinical group, is getting ready to come down hard on Rabbi Avi Weiss, perhaps to expel him, primarily for ordaining a woman rabbi, Sara Hurwitz, whom he calls a “rabba.”
The RCA considers women rabbis a violation of Orthodoxy.
Is the RCA about to haul Rabbi Weiss before its Vaad HaKavod, the committee charged with investigating “allegations of improprieties,” the first step in expulsion or discipline? The RCA’s executive director, Rabbi Basil Herring, was somewhat coy. Rabbi Weiss is not under investigation “at present,” he e-mailed.
However, a source employed by one of Rabbi Weiss’ enterprises confirmed, “the RCA is considering kicking out Avi Weiss.”
Rabbi Weiss has never denied that he is committed to women rabbis. In 2009, he founded Yeshivat Maharat, where Rabba Hurwitz is the dean, “to produce women Orthodox rabbinic authorities.” He says Rabba Hurwitz is a full member of his “rabbinic staff” at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, where he is senior rabbi.
The RCA has been closing in on Rabbi Weiss for several years, declaring that no rabbi ordained by Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, a men’s rabbinical school founded by Rabbi Weiss, can be even be considered for RCA membership. For many mainstream Orthodox synagogues, an RCA denial of membership is equivalent to a denial of YCT’s basic Orthodox credentials.
There have been reports of RCA rabbis lobbying synagogues not to hire rabbis ordained by YCT, a reflection of what they think of Rabbi Weiss’ standards.
In a twist, one Rabbi Weiss school, YCT, won’t recognize the rabbinic credentials of the other Rabbi Weiss school, Yeshivat Maharat, with Rabba Hurwitz being denied membership in the International Rabbinic Fellowship, also founded by Rabbi Weiss and primarily composed of YCT rabbis.
Equally ironic, Rabbi Marc Angel, who has allied himself with the IRF, was president of the RCA in the 1980s when the RCA first attempted to strip Rabbi Weiss, as well as Rabbi Yitz Greenberg, of membership, before calling off the move when the backstage brawl became public.
According to one source in Rabbi Weiss’ yeshivas, the ordaining of Rabba Hurwitz (first as something called “maharat,” then more explicitly as “rabba”) has created a situation in which “we are being absolutely killed on the Internet,” in Orthodox blogs. “Where are the moderate and moderating voices in the Orthodox community?” the source asked.