Why the Orthodox Union’s Ruling on Female Clergy Won’t Change Anything

The Orthodox Union (OU)—Orthodox Jewry’s major American organization—recently issued an ultimatum to four congregations that had violated its policies by hiring female rabbis, giving them three years to find a way to comply or to face expulsion. Since then, vigorous debate about the question of whether women can be rabbis has re-erupted in Orthodox circles and in the pages of Jewish publications. But, argues Gil Student, the decisions of the OU, or the rulings of its rabbinic advisers, are not, in the end, what will determine the direction taken by Orthodox Jewry:

In past centuries, Jewish communal organizations ruled in a literal sense. They had governmental authority to set rules, levy taxes, and punish disobedient members. . . . If a pre-modern Jewish communal body disallowed a synagogue practice, all of the synagogues under its authority had to cease the practice immediately or face punishment. People would not dare set foot in a defiant synagogue. In those days, excommunication meant expulsion from the community. . . .

But the Jewish community is no longer organized in a fashion that allows for excommunication. If the OU expels a synagogue, will that synagogue operate any differently? Will people stop attending that synagogue? Not necessarily. People affiliate voluntarily. They can join whichever community they want, start their own communities, or choose to live a life without a formal religious community. People make their own decisions on how, or if, they observe their religion and which synagogue, if any, they attend. . . .

In sum, while the OU may revoke the organizational membership of a synagogue with women clergy, it cannot expel the synagogue from Orthodoxy. . . . [In this case, the threatened] expulsion, for all intents and purposes, already occurred before the OU’s announcement.

Read more at Jewish Press

More about: American Judaism, Modern Orthodoxy, Open Orthodoxy, Orthodox Union, Religion & Holidays


Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security