OPINION: What tradition?


I would appreciate it if you could inform the Montreal frum community about the true nature of Congregation Shaar Hashomayim. Unfortunately, many Jews make their simchas there because the Sha’ar calls itself a traditional Shul (They left the Conservative movement years ago). Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, they have a mechitzah and use the orthodox siddur, but that’s where it stops.

The rabbi there, Adam Scheier, is a product of Chovevei Torah, the controversial rabbinical seminary headed by Rabbi Avi Weiss (of “Rabbah fame – he gave a woman Semicha). Scheier recently attended the installation ceremony of the new “rabbi,” Lisa Grushcow, at Montreal’s reform Temple Emanu-el. She is living (R”L) with another woman as a married couple (see page ten of the Canadian Jewish News by clicking here). Even worse, Rabbi Scheier recently invited her to lecture (see link, page 17) at the Shaar’s adult continuing education program.

On the home page of their website, the Shaar says that they adhere to traditional halacha! Just to add to the confusion, Rabbi Adam Scheier’s wife is attending Rabbi Avi Weiss’s seminary for women “rabbis” (he now calls them Maharat, which is a Hebrew acronym for Manhiga Hilkhatit Rukhanit Toranit, one who is teacher of Jewish law, Torah and spirituality). 

The following is from The Canadian Jewish News website (October 19, 2012): “Montreal should soon have another female Jewish clergy member, it was noted, this time within modern Orthodoxy. Abby Brown Scheier is a student in the inaugural program at Yeshivat Maharat in New York, the first institution to train Orthodox women to be spiritual and halachic leaders. That class is scheduled to graduate next year.” 

The following is from “Yeshivat Maharat” for womens’ website: “Through a rigorous curriculum of Talmud, halakhic decision-making (psak), pastoral counselling, leadership development, and internship experiences, our graduates will be prepared to assume the responsibility and authority to be Poskot (legal arbiters) for the community. Yeshivat Maharat is changing the communal landscape by actualizing the potential of Orthodox women as rabbinic leaders. Yeshivat Maharat represents a natural evolution towards a pluralistic community, where women and men, from every denomination, can enhance the Jewish world.”

I believe a red line has been crossed, and people should be informed of the true nature of the Shaar and its rabbi. They are definitely NOT traditional. Tevye the milkman said it best: “Without our traditions our lives would be as shaky as a fiddler on the roof!”

By Rabbi Mordechai Bulua

Photo by Joseph Wajsberg

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31 Comments to “OPINION: What tradition?”

  1. Shmilfke says:

    But I know someone who made a wedding at the Crowne Plaza even though it is known that gay couples frequently stay there.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Does it say anywhere that women cannot get smicha? And, is not agreeing with the rabbi reason enough to not hold events in a perfectly kosher hall?

  3. CR says:

    You are allowed to make a wedding in a reform shul. As long as it isn’t in the sanctuary…,

  4. ani says:

    I dont understand the point of this article…..does he think by smearing both Chovevei torah and Rabbi Scheier hes accomplishing any good?? bringing achdus amongst Klal yisrael??? lets accept that theirs not one worldview on torah and that open orthodoxy and the shaar subscribe to another worldview than that of your own. You have the right to disagree while not bashing them in public. the hall and the food is perfectly kosher so live and let live………if you get invited to a simcha at the shaar simply don’t attend theirs no need for this article to have been published and for such hurtful words to have been printed about the rabbi and his wife

  5. Thanks! says:

    A women can not get smicha according to jewish law! And its not about someone not agreeing with a rabbi – its about a rabbi going against the rules. And we have laws about walking into places which go against certain halachot! Talk to your rabbi for personal guidance.

  6. Pinchos Woolstone says:

    Avi Weiss tried his best to generate a revolution in the Torah community, he failed.
    From time to time we will read such stories as is happening in Montreal, it is a minor game for Klal Yisroel.
    All those committed to Torah Min HaShomiyim the Halachic process and the Mesorah need to continue their effort in bringing Bnei Yisroel back to Torah.
    It can be Chabad Ohr Semach Pathways, this outreach or that inreach, they are all good.
    Belz Satmar the Sefardim are all involved now.
    Lets spread the light of Torah and the warmth of Mitzvos.

  7. Anonymous says:

    The article is focused on those who wish to make events in that hall, and is warning them about the Rabbi. Who cares about the rabbi? The Torah sets the laws of kashrut and the person administrating the building of an event does not fall under the kashrut laws, because God only cares that you eat kosher and not judge your fellow man.

    If you want to bring up the issue of a masgiach, that’s another story. But as long as there is a reliable masgiach, the rabbi in charge of the shul should not influence your decision to host or attend an event at that institution.

  8. MoshenChaim says:

    My opinion? Live and let live. If there’s a school for woman rabbis out there then there’s a need for it. You can choose whether or not to join her congregation or shake her husband’s hand. I say instead of announcing to the world that this is wrong or right, live your life strong to your beliefs, be an example by bring true to yourself and others will follow. Or not. But at least you’ll be happy.

  9. Chaim Y says:

    I agree about the live and let live comments. However I do think that the op-ed author has a very valid point.

    “Living and Letting live” is only good when it doesn’t bother my own personal life. What the article is saying is that for the Frum community, too many people are associating themselves and thereby legitimizing a Synagogue that on the outside makes itself to be a fine, Orthodox and Traditional Shul, while displaying very shady and controversial dealings behind the scenes.

    It’s very simple. If the Rabbi’s beliefs and associations bother you, then don’t make or attend a simcha at the Shaar.
    If you couldn’t care less about what the Rabbi thinks, provided that the food has a good hechsher, then continue patronizing the Shaar.

    But it’s important to know where the Shaar stands on Halachic Judaism and I am glad that this website has done the research and put this out in the open.

    Now, to discuss whether or not this was considered to be Loshon Hara, especially during the week that we read about tzora’as… That’s something for higher authorities to discuss.

    (I am sure that Rabbis were consulted before this article was published and this is allowed according to halacha)

  10. zvi says:

    To be clear, a respected Rov was consulted before publication of the article.

  11. Kashrus? says:

    There are places halacha does not allow us to walk into, nothing to do with kashrus!! Thanks for this article to allow us to make an informed decision knowing the whole truth.

  12. cool dude says:

    According to halacha can I make a simcha at st. james united church. providing that the food is kosher…..

    sometimes the truth hurts.

  13. anon says:

    Based on what was quoted about yeshivat maharat which takes up a lot of the article there really is nothing wrong with that institution…….Woman should have other woman who have the neccesary knoledge and training to pasken questions on halachah for them, just cause you don’t like the idea that’s not conservatism. It comes down to if you personally feel you cant go to a simcha there ask a rav and don’t go but to write an article publicly decrying a beautiful historic shul in Montreal is pure sinas chinam and just plain unnecessary.

  14. Rabbi Mordechai Bulua says:

    Anon,
    You claim it is sinas chinam on my part to expose the rabbi at the Shaar. Nothing could be further from the truth. I want the frum community to be fully aware of what he is doing so that they can make an informed decision as to whether to have their simcha there. I have nothing against the shul per se; only its rabbi. A rabbi sets the policy of the shul, and any rabbi who accepts a reform “rabbi” such as the one at Temple Emanu-el to speak in his shul shows that he is not truly orthodox. No other orthodox rabbi in the world would ever do such a thing. Standing up for Torah values is NEVER sinas chinam.

    Rabbi Mordechai Bulua

  15. Anonymous says:

    As a shaliach of the Rebbe, I’m extremely disappointed that you would publish such an article that only promotes sinas chinam. Do you think that you are accomplishing any good by spreading lashon hara and smearing a fellow Rabbi and his wife just because he doesn’t share your world view ? The shaar doesn’t claim to be an Orthodox synagogue. Last time I checked Traditional does NOT equal Orthodox. Nobody is forcing anyone to go there or attend a simcha so if you don’t like it then don’t go but to publicly smear a fellow Jew is pretty UN-ORTHODOX.

  16. Rabbi Mordechai Bulua says:

    Anonymous:
    Please get your facts straight before pontificating. Rabbi Wilfred Shuchat, former rabbi of Shaar Hashomayim, wrote in his book “The Gate of Heaven” on page 409 that according to the charter of the Shaar, the corporation of the shul is based on Orthodox Judaism. The charter has been amended several times, but this particular wording (Orthodox Judaism) in the charter has never changed. Officially, they are orthodox. Furthermore, people have informed me that when they call up the Shaar and ask what denomination it is, the answer given is ‘traditional orthodox.’ I guess in your worldview, one can’t say conservative and reform rabbis aren’t bona-fide rabbis. Otherwise, it would be lashon hara, and we wouldn’t want any of that. Ahavas Yisrael applies to every single Jew, as the Rebbe zt”l pointed out. It does not mean we cannot publicly disagree with rabbis who do not act as orthodox rabbis should.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Mordechai Bulua: Please get your facts straight and check the Shaar Hashomayim’s current website. They state that they are a NON-AFFILIATED traditional synagogue.

  18. Chaim Y says:

    I agree with Rabbi Bulua… This article could have perhaps been a little cleaner with the tone they gave, but the idea of informing everyone of what is going on behind the scenes is a necessity, given that perhaps so many people have gone to simchos there (myself included) and would never have stepped foot inside had they known of this low standard that the Shaar has adopted.

    If they continue to do as they do, then that’s their business… But I have a right and I’m grateful that this website has given me this knowledge. The next time I’m invited there I will be more careful.

  19. Never Again says:

    I love Sinat Chinam, especially on days like Yom Hashoah. Respectfully done, rabbi.

  20. Never Again 2 says:

    Nice Sinas chinam Ranbi B. !

  21. Sam18 says:

    Fav Hirshprung attended events at Temple Emanuel

  22. dovid leib says:

    Kashrut is not only what goes into your mouth, but more importantly, what comes out of your mouth. Learn a little more before opening your mouth.

  23. dovid leib says:

    By the way, many great Rabbanim and Rebeiim have davened at the Shaar!

  24. Long live Chazonus says:

    They daven at The Shaar because of the fantastic Chazan and choir, unmatched anywhere in the city or, dare I say, in North America.

  25. Rabbi M. Bulua says:

    Dovid Leib,
    I will stand up for the Torah anytime anybody (and that includes a rabbi) publicly disparages it. By inviting the reform woman “rabbi” who is living publicly with another woman to speak at his shul, he is making a mockery of the Torah and halacha. Learn the laws of loshon hara before accusing others. By the way, the latest post on the Shaar only confirms what I have written.

  26. Dina says:

    For a rabbi who claims such Orthodox credentials with backing from a “consulted Rov” to write so hatefully about a respected Montreal institution and its spiritual leader shows that for some the rituals and symbols of religious practice supersede respect for your fellow.
    The quality and quantity of Torah learning and learning le shem shamayin that goes on at the Shaar has no equal in this city. I am not a member of this congregation but attend many of its events and have seen over many years what a wonderful and welcoming shul and community it is. Rabbi Bulua could learn much about ahavat Israel and probably even some Torah from the Shaar Hashomayim.

  27. Rabbi Mordechai Bulua says:

    What is wrong with saying you do not agree with an orthodox rabbi approving of giving a woman a spiritual role to speak from the pulpit in an orthodox synagogue? 99% of orthodox rabbis worldwide would agree with me. I am standing up for Torah principles. I am not disputing the Torah learning that goes on at the Shaar. I only take issue with their hiring of a “Maharat” who to all intents and purposes will act as the assistant rabbi of the shul. Are you saying one can’t disagree or else be accused of lack of ahavat Yisrael? Ahavat Yisrael means one has to love every Jew. It doesn’t mean one has to approve actions which go against the Torah, and Torah ethos.

  28. Confused says:

    Rabbi Bulua, where in the Torah does it say that one may not hire a Maharat to be Director of Education and Spiritual Enrichment? Is it in the chapter that commands us to light Chanukah candles, or the chapter that commands us to light Shabbat candles? As Protector in Chief of the Torah and its ethos, surely you can help us!

  29. CS says:

    Please all, including author of inflammatory op-ed piece, read Rabbi Scheier’s response carefully. We do not need to agree on everything in order to still get along in a civilized manner.
    http://shaarhashomayim.org/docs/Shavuot5773.pdf

  30. Sam says:

    Maharat Finegold’s first two weeks at Shaar Hashomayim have been an unparalleled success.

    She has been warmly embraced and has returned to the COngregation a remarkable start in her position as an educator.

    Rabbi Balua could not be more wrong in attitude, motivation and approach.

    Shul attendance is up in the Maharat’s early days. Something exciting is happening in Montreal.

    Orthodox women are assuming new roles to embrace new challenges that orthodoxy faces. Maharat Finegold is a wonderful orthodox leader inspiring many. Kol Hakavd.

  31. Rabbi M. Bulua says:

    Sam,
    Maharat Finegold could be the best speaker and have amazing qualities, but it doesn’t change the fact that in orthodox Judaism, a woman cannot be a rabbi or spiritual leader. The two largest orthodox organizations in North America, The modern Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) and more right-wing Agudath Israel of America have both come down strongly against the ordination of women. The RCA said in a statement on May 17, 2013:

    ” We cannot accept either the ordination of women or the recognition of women as members of the Orthodox rabbinate, regardless of the title. The RCA views this event as a violation of our mesorah (tradition).”

    I am just the messenger.

    Just for your information, at the recent Maharat graduation, Rabbi Avi Weiss, founder of Yeshivat Maharat, said there was nothing in halacha (Jewish law) that prevents the ordination of women. Why then were there adult women singing at the graduation when it is explicitly forbidden by halacha for men to hear the singing voice of women? So much for adhering to halacha!

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