July 19, 2019

If Only Yentl Were Here to See This Yeshiva

“Labels are a necessary evil when talking about Judaism. Orthodox, Conservative, Reform denote different religious streams, but they are simply primary colours which hardly do justice to the kaleidoscopic variety of the modern Jewish landscape.

Orthodox may cover everything from uncompromising Satmar Chasidut to partnership minyanees. Even in the UK, there is not a single Progressive body but two, Reform and Liberal. And the USA has movements that we do not have, Reconstructionist and the more recently formed Renewal.

American Jewry has been energised too over the past couple of decades by the emergence of some 100 independent minyanim and groupings, which resist easy categorisation. One of the most influential is Yeshivat Hadar which opened in New York in 2006, whose founding dean Rabbi Shai Held is coming to speak in London this weekend.

Eschewing denominational affiliation, Hadar “made a conscious choice that we did not want to carve out an ideological slice of the Jewish community,” Rabbi Held says.
Its ethos of “observant egalitarian Judaism” is apparent in a teaching faculty, listed online, of four male and five female rabbis. It operates in a “fully egalitarian” way, he explains — differentiating it from what he calls the “semi-egalitarian” model of the partnership minyan.”

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