74-year-old Modern Orthodox former wunderkind Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, known worldwide for his pioneering work in the US and Israel, has named his successor. But this does not mean Riskin is retiring anytime soon.
Above: Rabbi Shlomo Riskin
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Names A Successor
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Modern Orthodox former wunderkind Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, known worldwide for his pioneering work in the US and Israel, has named his successor, The Jewish Week reported.
Riskin first led Lincoln Square Congregation on the Upper West Side, starting in the early 1960s and building what was then a tiny congregation into a large, vibrant one – perhaps the largest and most vibrant Modern Orthodox synagogue in New York City, if not all of North America.
Riskin left Lincoln Square for the West Bank boarder community of Efrat in the early 1980s and built the Ohr Torah Stone network of schools and other educational institution that is based there, keeping his moderate religious outlook as Orthodoxy in Israel and the US shifted ever rightward.
Riskin was known by the nickname “Stevie Wonder” because of his seemingly boundless energy and his success at times and places where others had failed.
But Riskin is now 74—years-old and, rather than follow the pattern many other Orthodox and haredi yeshiva heads or sect leaders have, Riskin has taken a step that essentially names his chosen successor now, perhaps years before Riskin actually retires.
Riskin has appointed 55-year-old Rabbi David Stav, the founder and head of Israel’s moderate Orthodox Tzohar Rabbinical Organization, as the co-chancellor of his Ohr Torah Stone educational network.
Stav, a native Israeli, came close to being elected Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel last year. But his victory was blocked by haredi rabbinic leaders who view Stav as no different than a Conservative rabbi despite Stav’s absolute commitment to Orthodoxy, and by right-wing Zionist Orthodox rabbis often identified as harda”l, haredi-dati-lieumi or haredi in all but name and Zionism only.
“Like Rabbi Riskin, [Rabbi Stav] is an outspoken advocate for an accessible, compassionate and embracing Judaism which will repair the rifts in Israeli society and alleviate the alienation many Israelis feel in crucial areas such as conversion, marriages and divorces. He has devoted his life to promoting an ethical, inclusive and inspiring approach to Zionistic, Jewish life in Israel,” Ohr Torah Stone’s announcement of Stav’s appointment reportedly says.
Stav will reportedly share Riskin’s administrative, teaching and fundraising duties and will be considered Riskin’s successor as head of the Ohr Torah Stone educational network, which Riskin started in 1983 with 12 students but which has now grown to approximately 3,000 students spread over 19 schools at 11 locations across Israel.
Riskin, an extremely successful fundraiser, has no immediate plans to retire.
Riskin and Stav’s two organizations, Ohr Torah Stone and Tzohar, will not reportedly remain separate entities but will work together on issues of joint interest or concern.
Riskin has been the Chief Rabbi of Efrat since the early 1980s and will remain in that position.
Besides his work in Tzohar, Stav is the Chief Rabbi of the town of Shoham. He also heads a Zionist Orthodox yeshiva in Petach Tikva that combines Torah and military service in the IDF and will remain in those positions. But he reportedly said he will cut back on his work teaching at Israel’s Zionist Orthodox Bar-Ilan University so he can devote time “to help [Rabbi Riskin] carry out his mission.”
“My vision is to take [Rabbi Riskin’s] academic institutions and make them as one big movement [together with Tzohar] that will inspire Israeli society. It gives us more opportunities [by combining the two],” Stav reportedly said, adding later that while Riskin is often viewed as a bit of a revolutionary in religious terms, Stav himself is much more of a moderate. “I don’t see myself as revolutionary. Changes in religious life should be made by evolution and not revolution,” Stav said.
[Hat Tip: Joel Katz.]