Friday, January 21, 2022

Last week, Rabbi Yair Hoffman, in an article for the Five Towns Jewish Times, reported that Rabbi Eytan Feiner of the White Shul in Far Rockway, Queens, had issued remarks condemning the much-publicized act of wishing official mazel tovs (in shul publications and from the bimah) to people celebrating same-sex unions, a practice that has taken place at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale. In his Shabbat drasha, according to multiple reports, Rabbi Feiner said that if the OU did not move on the matter he would have no choice but to reconsider the White Shul’s affiliation with the OU.

The complex, nuanced issue of whether to issue celebratory statements for non-halachically sanctioned acts or celebrations in Orthodox Union institutions is not new, but what happened next was. Rabbi Hoffman asked the Orthodox Union for comment, and Allen Fagin, the organization’s CEO issued the following statement: “It is the OU’s unequivocal position that support for, or celebration of, halachically proscribed conduct is fundamentally inappropriate. Accordingly, the institutional endorsement or encouragement (implicit or explicit) of any conduct that is contrary to halacha is activity that no Orthodox synagogue should allow. With this principle in mind, we are currently in the process of reviewing our synagogue standards to determine whether further comment, or other action, is appropriate.”

In an interview Tuesday in response to a request for information on this policy, Fagin told The Jewish Link that the matter has been settled, with HIR agreeing not to issue such announcements in the future. “The OU has been in touch with Hebrew Institute of Riverdale to discuss the OU’s recent policy statement. The discussions have been respectful, with the exchange of differing perspectives. The OU is pleased that the issue has been resolved in accordance with the OU’s policies, as set forth in its statement, as HIR has agreed to refrain from the practice we addressed."

“HIR has requested that we note that it was not their intention to create a public discussion or controversy," said Fagin.

HIR’s Rabbi Steven Exler confirmed the validity of the OU statement, but did not make further comment.


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