Sunday, December 11, 2011

From an Israeli former Mishlei Student at Schechter

Dear Chevreh,

Reactions to the open letter from Bay Area Masorti regarding the resignation of Rabbi Tamar Elad-Appelbaum from Machon Schechter have ranged from rejection (mostly from American-born Conservative rabbis and American rabbinical students) to appreciation (mostly from Israeli-born Masorti Rabbis and Jews). 

This email (below) was just sent to the ShefaNetwork by Noa Raz (also available online here: For those who might remember Noa's name, she was the Israeli woman assaulted one year ago at a bus station by a Charedi man for having evidence of having put on tefillin on her arms. Her experience, reflected below, is important to consider, in that light and on its own.  This isn't about gay inclusion. It's about Israeli Masorti leaders aching to be trained, embraced, and empowered by a resonant Israeli institution whose mission is the support of the  Masorti Movement.

Again, it is natural and expected that any institution would protect itself. But the experience of students, Israei-born Masorti-raised students who would be the next rabbinic leaders of the Israei Masorti Movement, is not reflected in Rabbi Hanan Alexander's eloquent statement in defense of Machon Schechter. 

It is important to realize, as many do not, that the Jewish Agency's funding of Masorti is divided approximately in half - split between Machon Schechter and the Masorti Movement. Realize that Masorti communities are severely underfunded, and our heroes, the Masorti rabbis who are the next wave of Chalutzim, pioneers in a spiritual war to reclaim the fundamental pluralistic vision of Judaism from a fundamentalist Rabbinate. They can't make a living, and half of the funding that would secure their work (and lives) is being allocated to a school where only the rabbinical school purports to be connected to the Masorti Movement, and which claims a small handful of students. Many Masorti rabbis have lost their jobs, and many communities struggle to organize themselves without rabbis, which is certainly possible but far from ideal.

In other words, the Masorti Movement would be strengthened enormously by a correction to the Jewish Agency's policy, which is enormously influenced by American Conservative Rabbis whose understanding of Schechter is vastly different from the Israeli Masorti's. This isn't about JTS students studying abroad. This is about the Israeli Masorti Movement's welfare. Just think about what the Israeli Masorti Movement could accomplish with double its allocation.

In addition to Noa's email (pasted below) please also see this official statement from the Masorti Movement's chair, Emily Levi Shochat, online here:

The original Jpost article has been taken down yet again. But it is archived here:

Shavuah Tov,

Re: [Shefa] "We Have a Problem" - An Open Letter from Bay Area Masorti

Boker Tov and Shavua Tov from Israel :-) i would like to drop my 2 cents to this discourse. I'm sorry for the lame English, i'm writing out of great frasturation. I'll followo Jonah's steps...

I was the onlyout LGBT student in Shechter. It was last year, when I atended Mishley, headed by Rabbi Tamar. At the end of the year I was expelled, I will collaborate more on that later. It wasn't homophobia, i think, but it surely was very disturbing behavior of Shechter's leadership.

1. I think Jonah is up to something. Raba Tamar did requested not to discuss the issue of her resignation. Even though i'll be the happiest person on earth to learn that this was indeed the reason, i still think we should respect her request.

2. The fact that Shechter didn't respond is just another layer in Shechter's dissability to lead something, let alone the most important institution is shoulb be.

3. As for Mishlei, last year. when my class enrolled, we were promised that this is a Masorati leadership progrem that will lead evantually to 2 extra years for Rabbinical ordination. About 50% of my class enreolled just for that. we want to be Masorati rabbis, and this was the way to do that. Sadly enough, at the end of the year everything changed. Mishlei now is nothing but a MA program for people that want to do it in the easy way, 2 days a week in Beit Midrash. It has nothing to do with Rabbinical aspirations or leadership, and my classmates who stayed are highly frasturated. The reason I was expelled together with two other students is that we don't have a BA yet (something that Shechter knew all the way and still enrolled us). I'm about to finish mine, but the other two are far from that and Shaechter knew it. It was perfectly fine for leadership-rabbinical program (dependong of coursr on us completing the academic demands), but it's not okay for MA program of Machon Shechter, so we're out. They told us that during summer vacation, without really letting us deal with it, discuss it, or ask our classmates how will they feel without a half of the class, three of its best students, all of them want to go on for ordination. As for now i'm working on my MA in the Talmud department in Bar Ilan University, studying torah from Rabbi Prof. Shama Friedman and Dr. Aaron Amit, i guess Bar Ilan now is more Conservative than shechter :-)

4. I'm glad to hear that. But please ask your Isreali classmates about THEIR experience as for now. You'll get a different picture. 

5. Gee, thanks Shechter for letting us use Ani Tfilati. Jonah just forgot to mention that students in shechter are not allowed to mention the Imahot in Amida, so in fact there's no reason to use Ani Tfilati, since the verses are orthodox. 

It's time for Shechter to ordain gays, but even before that, it's time for Shechter to be part of the Masorati movement in Israel, and to train its leadership. Without doing that, as it is now, it's time for the Rabbinical Assembly in Israel to initiate a real Conservative seminary in here, and let Golinkin's Shechter to be the modern-orthodox seminary it is. Without our students, and yes, without our money.

Shavua Tov U'Mvorah

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
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