Rabbi Gordimer’s writings have afforded the community an opportunity to seriously reflect on issues important to the entire Jewish community. Studying our tradition in its written and oral facets and working hard to understand it and apply it to our lives in light of our contemporary gedolim, such as Rav Linzer, is the mission Hashem has given us. I’m proud that Modern Orthodoxy can still be a critical player in fulfilling this mission.
Over fifteen years ago, Rav Avi Weiss wrote his manifesto on “Open Orthodoxy,” calling for openness in learning Torah. Two years later, Rav Avi started a new rabbinical school, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, to train rabbis to be open, inclusive, sensitive, and connected to the real world as they became leading Orthodox rabbis. Today, 87 rabbis have graduated YCT Rabbinical School, all steeped in an Orthodoxy that struggles to meet the challenges of today’s world with meaningful Torah. Yet as important as openness is in the process of rabbinic training, this openness has always been just one feature of our Yeshiva. We have always seen ourselves as part of the Modern Orthodox movement. So while YCT is thrilled to be known as “open,” we are a lot more, just as Modern Orthodoxy, in its authentic form, is open and a lot more. From the start, we have always strived to produce rabbis who will be integral to Modern Orthodoxy— Modern Orthodox rabbis for the entire Jewish world.
Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, along with other Modern Orthodox institutions and individuals all over the world, continues to restore Modern Orthodoxy to its rightful vigor and vibrancy, to reclaim and revitalize an Orthodox movement that in the past was committed to openly wrestling with the challenges of our changing world and addressing them in a creative, open, and meaningful way. Yeshivat Chovevei Torah continues to find new ways to rise to the challenge of helping to lead Modern Orthodoxy into a new era of relevancy, making it an address for people look to for meaningful Yiddishkeit to connect to Hashem and God’s Divine message.
Modern Orthodoxy of our times should be as rambunctious and serious as it was in the past; it never was a wimpy, warm-fuzzy movement. We need to bring back the passion of a Modern Orthodoxy dedicated to truth and our tradition. In the 1960s Rav Ahron Lichtenstein debated Rav Yitz Greenberg in the pages of Yeshiva University’s Commentator. In the 1970s Rav Eliezer Berkovits published pieces of theology in Tradition, while the magazine printed a disclaimer that the views of Rav Berkovits did not necessarily reflect the views of Tradition or the Rabbinical Council of America. Decades ago Rav Emanuel Rackman suggested that there were changes in the reality of society and marriage from the time of Talmud, whereupon Rav Soloveitchik publicly berated him at an RCA conference. It seems like a very long time ago that Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm’s “Faith and Doubt” set an honest tone for dealing with challenges of the world around us. Too much time has passed since the excitement at Edah conferences where Rav Daniel Sperber debated Rav Shlomo Riskin. Modern Orthodoxy was—and with enough brave leaders can be once again—a movement made up of different voices, frequently arguing vehemently, even considering one another to be outside the bounds of Jewish law or philosophy, but still united in one big Orthodox camp, publishing in the same journals, speaking at the same conferences, even teaching in the same institutions.
What institutions are willing to train rabbis to reclaim that Modern Orthodox heritage? To open their students’ minds to the breadth of Modern Orthodox thinking, from the past and the present, from Israel, America, and beyond? To be think tanks for the students and the broader community for the deepest understanding of the most relevant laws and traditions? Yeshivat Chovevei Torah is committed to being that kind of a Modern Orthodox yeshiva, devoting ourselves to training rabbis to be the future leaders of a restored Modern Orthodoxy so that they can teach and model a Modern Orthodoxy as a meaningful expression of Yiddishkeit.
At Yeshivat Chovevei Torah we continue to train our talmidim to rediscover and reclaim a Modern Orthodoxy that values diverse, even contradictory, ideas and passions in the service of God and God’s divine Torah, and to take that Torah out into the world and connect with today’s Jews. Openness, inclusivity, dedication and fear of God and God’s Torah are the ways to bring back the luster of Modern Orthodoxy. At YCT Rabbinical School we are committed to that mission and are proud to be part of a movement that is reclaiming Modern Orthodoxy—as relevant today as ever.
Rabbi Asher Lopatin is the president of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in Riverdale.
By Rabbi Asher Lopatin