Avrohom Gordimer

R. Riskin versus the Chief Rabbinate – a dose of reality

As his employer, Israel's Rabbinate has good cause to end Shlomo Riskin's tenure as Chief Rabbi of Efrat

He was an amazingly energetic worker, who loved to deal with people and who brilliantly launched countless new projects and developed ingenious initiatives. But he was not a team player. In fact, many of his actions starkly violated our company’s policies, and his maverick approaches to important issues undermined our core values.

It is eminently understandable why the employer felt unable to extend the worker’s employment. Few if any would disagree.

When the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, the Rabbanut, released word that it may not extend the tenure of R. Shlomo Riskin as Chief Rabbi of the city of Efrat, supporters of R. Riskin were up in arms:

Rabbi Riskin is one of the great Modern Orthodox rabbis of our generation. He has inspired hundreds of rabbis in America and around the world to follow in his footsteps, to bring a vibrant Orthodoxy to the masses. He is a mentor, a role model who is beloved. Few rabbis in recent history come close to accomplishing what he has achieved. He deserves our deepest respect and veneration.


We call upon the Chief Rabbinate to withdraw its highly offensive demands.

R. Riskin’s inspiring, vibrant and loving leadership are brought to the fore in the above letter, penned by the leadership of the Open Orthodox movement in America, as the Rabbanut is vilified and smeared as hateful and irrational for its consideration to not extend the tenure of such a sterling and devoted rabbi. Yet the elephant in the room — the very real controversies surrounding R. Riskin — controversies in which R. Riskin materially violated the policies of the Chief Rabbinate, his employer – is intentionally omitted and concealed.

For despite R. Riskin’s rabbinic dynamism and love for Torah and the Jewish People, he has been at the forefront of the ordination of women, he has publicly displayed an uncomfortable enthusiasm for Christian religious values, and he has in various additional ways materially undermined the policies and halachic positions of the Rabbanut, including promoting the chanting of Megillath Ruth by a female at the main minyan of a synagogue under his jurisdiction. These are but a few of the many deviations from normative Orthodoxy and from fundamental Rabbanut standards on the part of R. Riskin. (Please also see this very important article about R. Riskin’s trajectory in the rabbinate.)

Yes, R. Riskin’s devotion and passion to spread Judaism are hard to beat, but when he violates the trust of his employer, and he contravenes the rulings of the most preeminent halachic authorities of this and previous generations, let us realize that it is not the Chief Rabbinate who is the offender, and that it just may be that the employer had more than ample reason to maintain that its employee was not being faithful to the policies and values that he was hired to uphold.

There are indeed two sides to every story, and when the pertinent facts of the narrative are glaringly omitted by one side, the omission is quite telling.

About the Author
Rabbi Gordimer is a kashruth professional, Chairman of the Rabbinic Circle at Coalition for Jewish Values, a member of the Rabbinical Council of America, and a member of the New York Bar.
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