Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Wild Days At The RCA

Again, the RCA has made it into the papers - but perhaps not exactly in the way that it wanted to. The July 13 issue of The Jewish Week featured an exposé about power struggles within the Rabbinical Council of America. While the Yated has heard that many RCA members concur that The Jewish Week article contained many inaccuracies, it is felt that some truth also emerged from this publicity.


It has been no secret, as was reported in Jewish media, that there is ongoing tension within the RCA. This tension in large part relates to the RCA’s current rejection of graduates of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (YCT), the pluralistic rabbinical school of the movement that calls itself Open Orthodoxy. Those Jewish media reports, including articles in the Yated, indicated last year that some RCA leadership was considering moving toward some form of future acceptance of YCT graduates into the RCA, under as yet undefined terms.


This seems to have created a firestorm within the RCA, with members who recognize the dangers to our mesorah that the pluralistic rabbis of YCT, with their numerous halachic innovations and reforms, pose to Orthodoxy of any type. 




The RCA holds elections every year. Typically, these elections are docile, apparently with the RCA’s Nominating Committee choosing people whom it feels should be candidates, with the voters left to select among these candidates, all of whom, for whatever reason, the RCA’s Nominating Committee appoints to run. However, RCA election rules also provide that any RCA member who submits a petition signed by 25 other RCA members supporting his candidacy for an officer slot or the RCA Executive Committee can also run in the elections. This is supposed to enable more open elections.


Normally, no one seems to opt to run by petition. However, it was revealed that this year, over a dozen RCA members opted to do so, shockingly challenging the official RCA slate, which is the RCA’s current leadership, having been nominated to run again, unopposed. (It seems that although RCA elections are held annually, it is customary for each officer or Executive Committee member to be given two years in his position, and these people run unopposed after their first year.)


These RCA petition-supported election candidates appear to have many gripes with the organization, relating to how it is run, what its focus is, and other issues. While The Jewish Week portrayed the schism in terms of the RCA’s selection of salaried leadership and its stance toward YCT, the Yated has learned that broader issues of governance, what the organization stands for, how it performs and the role it assumes are all at the heart of the matter, and that issues of equivocating about YCT and other specifics are viewed by many members and candidates to be symptoms of larger directional and governance issues.


This can perhaps be seen by the list of challengers in the RCA elections that was posted in the media. Many of the challengers are not yeshivishe people, as far as we can tell, yet they appear to have fiercely challenged the RCA’s officers and leaders as to how the organization is being run and its direction.




Until elections are completed and the results are in, only the Ribbono Shel Olam knows what is in store for the RCA. Years ago, even those to the RCA’s right who did not fully agree with its orientation seemed to have recognized its important role in assisting many rabbis and taking stands on important issues of the day, uniting with all of Torah Jewry for basic common causes that defined American Orthodoxy and kept much of it from veering toward non-Orthodox or unclear identification.


While the Yated is not in a position to know the exact internal issues under dispute at the RCA that relate to how it is governed, and the issue is not germane to our readership, it is hoped that whatever changes toward improved running of the organization may occur will positively impact its direction and public positions. If the RCA is to be run more objectively, more openly, making better decisions, it behooves the RCA to make sure that it realizes the mantle of responsibility it bears. While toying with ideas of eventual YCT acceptance under certain tight or limited conditions may sound like a novel innovation that pacifies many sides (sort of the same way that Land for Peace politicians sought to make everyone feel good about the compromises they espoused, promising opponents tight security and layers of protection from any positions of vulnerability), any move to allow YCT into America’s largest rabbinical organization would wreak havoc on Torah Judaism and the many shuls and mosdos hachinuch that would be affected – not to speak of the negative impact on achdus in the larger frum community. It is also rumored that a large percentage of RCA members would quit the RCA and form their own rabbinical organization should YCT graduates be admitted to the RCA under any circumstances. This large-scale fragmentation could result in the dissolution of the RCA, especially given its overall tenuous situation.


Once the RCA elections are over and the smoke has cleared, we hope to have a better picture of where the RCA is heading. Regardless of who wins, we urge the RCA to keep the gates of its affiliated institutions closed to Open Orthodoxy, thereby striving to make sure that RCA policies and positions are in conformity with the parameters of mainstream Orthodoxy of whatever stripe.



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