Recent Letters to the Editor by leaders of the Open Orthodox movement (April 15) argue that there is a need for PORAT, the new organization presenting itself as Modern Orthodox, due to the exclusion of PORAT’s projected constituency from institutional Modern Orthodoxy, as represented by the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) and other organs. These letters criticize the RCA for denying admittance to some people based on their institutional affiliations (i.e., the rabbinical schools they attended), and they castigate the RCA for not catering to those who have identified with groups that have adopted certain religious innovations.
This criticism is extremely unfair. The RCA has and continues to maintain halachic standards as articulated by the most preeminent rabbinic leaders of the generation, such as Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik of the past generation and Rabbis Hershel Schachter and Mordechai Willig of the present generation. The fact that certain groupings around the Orthodox orbit have parted ways with the norm and innovated new and controversial halachic practices, such as the ordination of women rabbis and modified conversion standards, does not mean that the RCA or any organ within normative Orthodoxy must sanction this and reform its contours to meet the demands of those who introduced these changes.
The complaints by these letter writers should instead be directed to the groupings that they represent, which have created a new movement that rejects many of the values and practices of normative Orthodoxy, yet insist on full representation at the organs which that new movement has rejected.
Orthodoxy must be inclusive, but not at the expense of its core teachings and core practices, and not by rejecting the traditions passed down and articulated by its most scholarly and prominent rabbinic leaders.
(Although I am a member of the RCA Executive Committee, I do not speak for the RCA; my letter represents my opinion only.)