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Sunday, February 24, 2019

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