Recently, ads were posted about a “Communal-Wide Modern Orthodox Siyum Hashas & Leil Iyun,” where speakers from various backgrounds within Orthodoxy would be mesayeim Shas and present lectures about the Talmud a few nights after the “main” siyum arranged by Agudas Yisroel of America. The “Communal-Wide Modern Orthodox Siyum Hashas & Leil Iyun” has among its sponsors Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (YCT), Yeshivat Maharat (the Open Orthodox seminary originally designed to ordain women, led by the female rabbi/”rabba” of Rabbi Avi Weiss’ congregation), Uri L’Tzedek (the left-wing social action group led by YCT rabbis), Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA), International Rabbinic Fellowship (“IRF” – the YCT rabbinical organization), a Conservative rabbinical seminary, a traditional Conservative congregation named after a former JTS dean and led by a female “rosh kehilla,” some unaffiliated Jewish institutions, and some liberal Orthodox synagogues and schools, almost all of whose rabbis are members of the YCT Advisory Board, are YCT staff members, or maintain other affiliations with YCT.
This siyum also features male and female mesaymim of Shas, including one speaker from Yeshivat Hadar, a non-Orthodox rabbinical seminary led by JTS graduates. A speech in favor of “academic Talmud” (studying Gemara in non-traditional ways, such as the Talmud critics do) was on a recently-posted agenda of the event. (The agenda has changed many times thus far. The latest agenda is posted at www.siyumhashas12.com.)
Alas, there is another, undeclared yet glaring item in the program’s agenda: triple deception.
On the one hand, this “Modern Orthodox siyum” is not endorsed by any of the national Modern Orthodox organizations or leading Modern Orthodox mosdos in America – not by the OU, the RCA, National Council of Young Israel, YU, Mizrachi/Religious Zionists of America, Emunah, Amit Women, etc. So much for being a “Communal-Wide Modern Orthodox” program.
Furthermore, this siyum was originally slated to feature a few well-known prominent mainstream Orthodox rabbonim, who did not at all fit in with the balance of the program, its sponsors or participants; in fact, they would have stuck out like sore thumbs. To the best of our knowledge, when these few rabbonim (who have since withdrawn from any participation in the siyum) were asked to speak at the event, it was concealed from them that the event was basically an Open Orthodox and non-Orthodox-sponsored program, with no national institutional or organizational Orthodox sponsorship. On the contrary, they were told that it is a Modern Orthodox siyum, sponsored by some well-known Modern Orthodox shuls, and they thereupon graciously agreed to speak, under deception and concealment by those behind the event.
The Yated obtained documentation showing that this siyum is really being run by the YCT office. This fact was concealed from the public by way of the siyum organizers establishing an independent website and issuing a press release that gave the impression that the event is the broad-based effort of a variety of shuls and other institutions.
the significance of this deception
As the Yated previously reported, YCT has been doing its utmost to show that it is part of mainstream Orthodoxy. YCT is currently not accepted by Young Israel and the RCA, and in order to try to prove that it is indeed Orthodox and has legitimate Torah bona fides, YCT has undertaken an aggressive campaign to convince the general Orthodox world that it is indeed part of the machaneh. This siyum is a central part of YCT’s image campaign, and, as this article reveals, the basis for YCT’s image campaign is deception and distortion. YCT is part of mainstream Orthodoxy as much as the pork on the non-kosher meat shelf is part of the glatt kosher shelf.
We pray that the larger Orthodox world see the emes and not interpret the chazer fissel of YCT and its affiliates as simonei kashrus, despite YCT’s every effort to create that false image.
It would be a shame if well-intentioned people attended that siyum and gave credence to YCT and a propaganda victory.
Click here to see the entire Yated article.