Dear Rabbi Schiowitz,
I read your letter to the community on behalf of the RCBC with a profound sense of appreciation and respect. Our community is fortunate to have leaders like you who care about communal unity and harmony. At the same time, I respectfully disagree with your suggestion that Netivot’s members elect to stay in the RCBC despite its passage of a bylaw expelling its rabbi if he were to continue training female rabbinical students. If the bylaw remains, Netivot’s members should vote to leave the RCBC. And you and your shul should too.
Kennedy once said that success has many fathers but that failure is an orphan. Thus far, the RCBC’s bylaw has only one RCBC-affiliated defender—you—a person who voted against the bylaw and who has to defend it by virtue of his position as the organization’s president. Indeed, there are already communal rumblings about a number of prominent rabbis who voted against the bylaw or abstained, or who voted with the majority and now deeply regret their decision.
The RCBC’s bylaw is a failure not only because it has no defenders but because it achieved nothing. It has certainly not discredited or isolated Netivot or its rabbi. Quite the contrary—in the days since the bylaw’s passage became public, Netivot has been flooded with support from across the community. The bylaw has highlighted the dignity and resiliency of the shul and its rabbi. The only group of people who have been hurt by the RCBC’s bylaw is us—the broader Teaneck Jewish community. Our town is the talk of the modern orthodox Jewish world for none of the reasons any of us would have wanted. The RCBC has embarrassed us as a community through its lack of decency and transparency.
That the RCBC’s actions were the products of apparent deliberation, as you suggest, is not at all comforting. So the organization made such an ill-conceived, destructive decision after thinking things through? Candidly, my description of the RCBC’s actions as those of a “mindless mob” were not meant to be insulting—I just couldn’t fathom that wise people would deliberately engage in such an obviously foolish exercise.
The real question is not whether Netivot’s rabbi should remain in the RCBC–it is whether anyone else should. It is whether our community should allow a communal organization that behaves the way the RCBC has to survive.
I would submit that, if the bylaw remains, our community should let the RCBC die.
We need communal organizations that solve communal problems, not those that create and compound them. We need communal organizations that bring us together, not those that divide us. We need communal organizations that put our community first, not those that put their members’ personal perspectives ahead of the common good.
If the bylaw remains, the RCBC will have proven to our community that it is nothing more than a mark of shame upon an otherwise decent, intellectually open and unified community. A mark of an organization that would expel a beloved and respected rabbi from its ranks because some of its members don’t agree with his view on a matter where reasonable minds differ does not belong anywhere in our community—not even on its vegetable packaging.
Rabbi Schiowitz, such an organization doesn’t deserve a man of your caliber, decency and sensitivity as a member, much less as its spokesperson. Our community needs leaders like you solving its real problems—the rising cost of tuition in our schools, high school admissions, assimilation and apathy—not putting out fires needlessly created by those who lack your vision. It needs you speaking from your pulpit, teaching in our schools and representing us on the broader communal stage perpetuating values—intellectual openness and decency—that make our community a wonderful place to live, not defending those who seek to undercut those values.
Instead of asking our community to join the RCBC, I would respectfully ask you—and all like-minded people in Bergen County—to join us. Our community has a bright future. Let’s focus our collective energies on building it.