What is Open Orthodoxy? Read Rabbi Avi Weiss

Rabbi Avi Weiss is the founder of the open Orthodox movement and while there is so much discussion about Open Orthodoxy, very few have taken the time to read one of the first defining pieces on the subject entitled: “Open Orthodoxy! A Modern Orthodox Rabbi’s Creed.”

The full article may be read at: http://www.yctorah.org/component/option,com_docman/task,doc_download/gid,143/

While so many have so much to say, few actually take the step to read what the founder of the movement actually says. Excerpts from the writing of Rabbi Avi Weiss, a holy Jew, who has done so much for the Jewish people:

“As a modern Orthodox Rabbi I profess an unequivocal commitment to the truth, validity and eternal applicability of the Halakhic system. No less than my brethren of the Orthodox Right, I believe in Torah mi-Sinai, the law given by Gd at Sinai, to which the Jewish people committed itself. Torah mi-Sinai is a form of heteronomous law, a structure of law that operates independent of any individual, imposing its standards and guidelines.”

“..I readily acknowledge that there exist differences in approach within the Halakhic system among Modern Orthodox Rabbis like myself and my Orthodox Right counterparts. For example, Modern Orthodoxy more readily sees Halacha as flexible within rigid parameters than the Orthodox right.”

Ideological Issues:

  • Torat Israel: “Chemistry, language, medicine and all disciplines are potentially aspects of Torah. In the words of Rav Kook, “There is nothing unholy, there is only holy and the not yet holy.”  “In sum….if da’at Torah means to revere the wisdom of our great rabbinic authorities like Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, we believe in it. If, however, it means to follow blindly the great rabbinic authorities in non-halakhic areas or to close off discussion in purely halakhic areas, we disagree.”
  • Am Israel: “chosenness is not a statement of Jewish soul-superiority; rather it defines the mission of the Jew as being of a higher person.” “With the exception of such groups as Lubavitch-Chabad and Aish HaTorah, the Orthodox Right has minimal contact with non-observant Jews. Few non-observant Jews pray, or otherwise interact Jewishly, with the Orthodox Right.”
  • Medinat Yisrael: “Israel, the state, has enormous religious meaning; indeed, for many Orthodox Jews it marks the beginning of the period of redemption…”
  • Women’s Roles: “While women are equal in value to men, they have different preferred roles.” “…supports women’s equality in the workplace, it encourages women to assume a central role in the synagogue, school and communal setting.” (Rabbi Weiss has a book entitled “Women at Prayer: A Halakhic Analysis of Women’s Prayer Groups.”)
  • Pluralism: “The Orthodox Right avoids all contact with the non-Orthodox so as not to give them legitimacy.” “Modern Orthodoxy has adopted the position of Rabbi Samuel Belkin, the late President of Yeshiva University, who insisted that there are many areas – e.g. defense of Israel, Soviet Jewry – where our agendas overlap.” “For myself, pluralism does not mean that the respective movements agree on every issues, rather pluralism means that each movement ought to present its beliefs with conviction, while recognizing it is not the only one caring passionately about the Torah, land, and people of Israel.” “Our energies should not be expended on castigating other movements, but rather on impacting the majority of Jews who are unaffiliated and whose greater involvement in Judaism must be our central focus.”

“Open Orthodoxy is open in that our ideology acknowledges, considers and takes into account in varying ways a wide spectrum of voices. It is Orthodox in that our commitment to Halacha is fervent and demanding.”

“The challenge today is for Open Orthodox parents and institutions to be ideologically open, while intensely committed to Halacha.”

The full article, which was published in the Fall of 1997 may be read at:




About the Author
Ronn Torossian is the Founder, President & Chief Executive Officer of 5WPR. Headquartered in New York City, the firm is one of the 25 largest independent public relations firms in the United States. 5WPR has been named “PR Agency of the Year” by the American Business Awards; and Ronn Torossian is the winner of the Silver Stevie Communications, Investor Relations, and PR Executive of the Year of the Year Award by the American Business Awards. Ronn’s book, “For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations,” received rave reviews. He is a member of the prestigious Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and is an active board member of a number of non-profit organizations. Ronn Torossian is a frequently sought after communications expert, often appearing on FOX News, CNBC, Huffington Post, Time Magazine, and other major media outlets. He resides on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with his family. Email: rtorossian@5wpr.com Facebook: Ronn's Facebook Twitter: Ronn's Twitter Page
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