01: A recent controversy about women rabbis in Orthodox Judaism has helped create a new rabbinical council, known as the International Rabbinic Fellowship (IRF), and has fanned the flames of a reform movement in Orthodoxy.
The fellowship is one of part of a network of groups and yeshivas that seek to create a more egalitarian form of Orthodoxy that is open to the leadership of women, if not necessarily their ordination. The movement, known as “open Orthodoxy,” started several years ago, but has been reinvigorated by the conflict, which developed when an Orthodox synagogue in New York appointed a woman as a rabbi—the first women to be appointed to such a position in this branch of Judaism.
The appointment caused such a wave of opposition and controversy in most quarters of Orthodoxy that the woman’s title was changed to rabba, a less objectional feminine term used in Israel, and the offending rabbi, Avi Weiss, promised no further female ordinations. But the way in which the Rabbinic Council of America (RCA) reaffirmed its opposition to the ordination of women during the controversy and criticized dissenters has led synagogues and other groups open to such innovations to join the fellowship. Since its start last year, the group has gained 150 rabbis from around the world and permits RCA members in its ranks.
Jewish historian Jonathan Sarna sees the formation of the IRF as a step toward the establishment of a new Jewish denomination, with two separate movements using the term “Orthodox.” Critics of the RCA say it has moved toward centralization and bureaucracy and no longer upholds the ideals of modern Orthodoxy.
(Source: Moment, November/December)
02: The Take Back Yoga campaign represents an attempt by American Hindus to claim their trademark on an increasingly interfaith and generic spiritual practice.
Similar attempts at retrieval have been undertaken by Hasidic Jews seeking to reclaim the Kabbalah from alternative spiritual entrepreneurs and by American Indians critical of New Age appropriations of their practices and rituals. The campaign is the brainchild of the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), a small organization pressing for Hindu rights throughout the world.
It asks practitioners to acknowledge yoga’s debt to the faith’s ancient traditions. The campaign was started by an online debate between officials of the Minneapolis-based foundation and spiritual leader Deepak Chopra and other yoga leaders and enthusiasts, who argue that yoga is a universal spiritual practice that developed long before Hinduism became a religion. The HAF’s campaign has drawn the support of Hindu leaders, with one official saying that the campaign reflects the Americanization of the faith, as second- and third-generation Hindus are trying to reclaim their heritage.
(Source: New York Times, Nov. 28)