Liberal Orthodox Yeshiva Says It Will Not Ordain Gay Student
Signaling a red line on how far Modern Orthodoxy is prepared to bend to adjust to societal changes, a liberal seminary in Riverdale will not ordain an openly gay student who is engaged to be married and completing his fourth year of rabbinical studies this spring, The Jewish Week has learned.
In a statement to The Jewish Week, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (YCT) student Daniel Atwood, Quote: : “Four years ago I came out as gay during my first year at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School, and it was decided that I would receive semicha [ordination] as their first openly gay student. After four years of study and my completing almost all of the program’s requirements, YCT decided not to give me semicha, news delivered to me only a few weeks ago, three months before my graduation, without any prior conversation on the matter.”
Atwood’s statement continued: “I always knew that being in the position that I am in would be a difficult process. I was always willing to navigate those challenges and work with YCT throughout this process. And I have always been fully committed to living my life according to Orthodox halacha. At the same time, I refuse to live anything but a dignified life, something I was always transparent about, including not being closeted or secret about my Torah, my identity, my beliefs, or my relationship. … Most importantly, I am grateful for all the support my immediate family and my partner, Judah Gavant, have given me over my years in rabbinical school.”
He stated that he is pursuing an independent ordination.
In an email to The Jewish Week, Rabbi Dov Linzer, YCT’s president and rosh yeshiva, declined to comment on the specifics of the case. “We accept all students regardless of sexual orientation, provided that they are fully committed to Orthodox halachic observance,” he wrote. “There have been students in the past that did not receive semicha, each one for reasons specific to his case. Out of respect for all our students, the yeshiva does not discuss particular students and why any student may or may not be receiving semicha,” the rabbi wrote, adding that “the yeshiva could have handled the process of informing Daniel, and coming to a timely decision, in a much better manner, and we are sorry for the hurt that was caused as a result.”
The decision marks a turning point for the rabbinical school, which has served for nearly 20 years as the flagship institution for a subgroup of Modern Orthodoxy often dubbed “Open Orthodoxy.” Founded by Rabbi Avi Weiss as an alternative to the more right-leaning Yeshiva University, the school ordained its first class in 2004 and has since ordained more than 100 rabbis.
Since its founding, the yeshiva has sought to balance its Orthodox credentials with its progressive values. This decision is being perceived by some as an attempt by the yeshiva to more firmly ground itself in the traditional Orthodox world, which maintains that Jewish law prohibits homosexual relations. While there has been a significant increase in empathy for LGBT Jews in recent years within the community, inclusion has rarely reached the level of communal leadership.
“I’ve never been more disappointed in Modern Orthodoxy and its institutions,” Rabbi Asher Lopatin, the previous president of YCT, said of the decision to deny Atwood ordination. “We are supposed to stand for an unfearing loyalty to halacha, and it seems to me that there are so many who are acting out of fear and not who they really believe halachically can be a rabbi. We’re supposed to fear God alone, we’re not supposed to fear what other Jews are going to say about it.”
“So it’s a real shameful moment,” Rabbi Lopatin continued. “I hope that there will be dozens of Orthodox rabbis that step forward and say that we want to give this student semicha and not dozens that are cowering behind closed doors.”
Seminarians at YCT interviewed for reactions to the Atwood situation said they were pained by the decision.
“The last few weeks have been a very challenging and painful time to be a student at YCT,” one student, who asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the situation, wrote in an emailed statement. “We feel upset and angered about the process that led to this decision. When Daniel got engaged, I was excited because I thought YCT would affirm his choice and still grant him semicha. It was deeply saddening for me to learn that they wouldn’t.”
Alumni of the school say they were informed that Atwood would not be ordained last month in a conference call. Several described feeling distraught at the news, having felt hopeful that Atwood’s ordination would set a path for future gay students.
Several graduates of the school say alumni are divided over the school’s handling of this decision.
If the leadership at Chovevei can’t find a way to make space for gay Orthodox rabbis, that sends a pretty devastating message to that community…
“People look to Chovevei to be a beacon for people who are trying to stay committed to the Orthodox world and at the same time not have to compromise their moral values,” said Rabbi Aaron Potek, an alumnus of YCT and the rabbi of GatherDC in Washington, D.C. “If the leadership at Chovevei can’t find a way to make space for gay Orthodox rabbis, that sends a pretty devastating message to that community and to the broader Orthodox community about what is and is not possible to be included in that world.”
Rabbi Avram Mlotek, founder of Base Hillel and a graduate of YCT, said he felt “heartbroken” for Atwood and his family.
Others defended the school, noting the requirement for YCT students to be fully committed to Orthodox halacha, or Jewish law and Atwood’s engagement in the fall to his partner with whom he lives.
“We’re living at a time when people are trying to figure out how someone can be gay and keep halacha at the same time,” said Rabbi Chai Posner, associate rabbi of Beth Tfiloh Congregation in Baltimore and a graduate of YCT. “This would be the first time an Orthodox rabbi would be granted semicha while being openly gay, and fair or not, that reality carries with it a certain level of expectations” in terms of adherence to halacha. “The bar is certainly raised for someone who is going to be a rabbi.”
The bar is certainly raised for someone who is going to be a rabbi.
Rabbi Aviad Bodner, a graduate of YCT, is rabbi of Stanton Street Synagogue on the Lower East Side. He said close to one-third of his synagogue’s leadership is LGBT. “The Orthodox community must do more and can do more to be more welcoming to the LGBT community,” he asserted. “Without addressing this specific case,” Rabbi Bodner said that YCT “must ensure that every one of its musmachim [ordained rabbis] is observant and follows halacha.”
Several alumni emphasized the constant tension YCT deals with in navigating between the broader Jewish world and more traditional Orthodox elements.
“Chovevei is being pulled in two directions,” said Rabbi Potek. “There’s a group of alumni and students who want Chovevei to be taking these important steps toward greater inclusivity, and then there are alumni who are paranoid about what right-wing Orthodox Jews will think about their Orthodoxy.”
“We’ve come very far in Modern Orthodoxy, and I think Chovevei has been a leader in trying to create welcoming space for people of all orientations … but I understand that this, for many, will feel like a real blow,” said Rabbi Ari Hart, rabbi of Skokie Valley Agudath Jacob Synagogue in Chicago and a graduate of YCT. He said that controversy over this issue indicates that “we as a Modern Orthodox community have more work to do.”
Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, a graduate of YCT and founder and president of the Orthodox social justice organization Uri L’Tzedek, wrote in an email to The Jewish Week: “In response to the millennia of torture and abuse perpetrated against LGBTQ folks, I believe we need a real tikkun (spiritual repair) today” and a dramatic shift “toward radical inclusivity. There is a desperate need for Orthodox rabbinic leadership to gain moral clarity on its communal policies of inclusion.”
This is not the first time YCT’s actions have sparked debate among its alumni. In 2016, several YCT alumni wrote an open letter opposing the practice of “partnership minyanim,” traditional-style services in which women lead parts of the service and a practice embraced by several YTC alumni. “We, the undersigned musmachim of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah became rabbis because we felt and still feel a passionate love for Judaism, Torah and the Jewish people,” the rabbis wrote . “We love the beauty and vibrancy of Modern Orthodoxy and have no desire to start a new denomination or break away from our Orthodox community.”
In 2009, Rabbi Weiss privately ordained Rabba Sara Hurwitz in a controversial move that further alienated the movement from the mainstream Modern Orthodox community. Rabbi Weiss and Rabba Hurwitz subsequently founded Yeshivat Maharat to ordain women as Orthodox spiritual leaders.
Rabbi Linzer, who has been the rosh yeshiva of YCT since its founding and assumed the role of president last fall, has long been an advocate for acceptance of LGBT members of the Orthodox community.
In his email to The Jewish Week, he pointed out that YCT has been engaged since its inception in “what can be done for the LGBTQ members of our community.” He noted that the yeshiva “regularly brings in members of Eshel, JQY, and the LGBTQ community, as well as rabbis, poskim, and community leaders, so that we can best chart a path forward that is rooted in Torah, halacha, and responsible rabbinic leadership, and that honors the inherent dignity of every human being created in God’s image. We continue to grapple with this issue and are always learning in the process.”
In an online discussion organized by JOFA, Rabbi Linzer discussed the Jewish legal ramifications of two men living together and wrote that “our focus has to be not on halacha, but on communal acceptance and on making gay men and women, and their spouses or partners, as well as their children, fully welcome and fully a part of our communities, synagogues, and schools.” He continued: “On a communal level, we should be very wary of assuming that we know what goes on behind closed doors. It also is none of our business. We do not presume to know, or believe it our business to know, which family is or is not keeping the laws of niddah (ritual purity), and to judge them accordingly, and this should be no different.”
In an op-ed in the Forward from 2017, Rabbi Avram Mlotek Quote: d Rabbi Linzer’s speech at the school’s annual dinner that year. “‘And let it be that we all may know your name and study your Torah.’ Let us make sure that everyone — rich or poor; Orthodox, Reform or unaffiliated; straight or gay; cis- or transgender; those with disabilities and those without; white, black, or brown — that every Jew knows that the Torah is for him or her, and that he or she has a place in our schools, synagogues and communities.”
Editor’s Note: The article has been updated to more clearly reflect the fact that Atwood became engaged in the fall and is living with his partner.
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11 Artificial Intelligence Trends Every Business in 2019 Must Know – ReadWrite (21 visits)
Sohaib Khalid / 01 Apr 2019 / AI
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been a game changer for global businesses, opening doors to innumerable possibilities. With the integration of AI in businesses , the global economy is excepted to grow exponentially in the coming years. Although the introduction of AI into business strategies is considered a revolutionary idea, what most business executives struggle with is the proper application of AI throughout their organization in such a way that it generates maximum ROI and value.
This gives rise of several questions, “How do we educate our staff about AIs? How can we acquire AI-trained employees? What is the most suitable AI strategy for our business? How do we certify our AI is trustworthy? Will there be new privacy and cybersecurity threats to deal with?”. The answer to these questions is different for every company. Business administrators must step past their fear of unknown territories and take a leap of faith into the world of AI in order to keep up with the ever-evolving world of technology. It is imperative for business executives to focus their time and efforts on the following eleven crucial points while building their company’s AI strategy: Scale Your AI Operations
The first and foremost step for businesses is to scale their AI operations to boost decision-making and progressive intelligence for workers in every function and division. The key to building a solid AI strategy is having a diverse team, which includes individuals from the IT department, specialized AI experts as well as the business department.
AI models have the power of improving already existing processes. The beauty of their algorithms is that the same algorithms are capable of solving multiple business-related problems. Hence, businesses can start off by ensuring the success of smaller projects and work their way up to bigger, broader projects based on the blueprints from the original success. Recruitment and Support
Another major AI intervention of 2019 will be the growing deployment of smart, predictive and self-learning HR technologies. The introduction of smart human resource management AI’s has been increasing this year with outsourcing from some of the biggest names in HR such as Talendtoday, Maya Systems, Text Recruit, and Workey etc. These companies offer complete HR functions through AI recruitment, headhunting, supply chain, logistics, compliance, retention and termination services. AI in HR solutions is the perfect answer to cut costs, avoid legal complications, boost productivity and help the company overcome its administrative challenges that often arise when a new venture is formed. Managing Your Talent
With the accessibility of AI increasing year by year, AI has become a vital asset for businesses. However, the usability of artificial intelligence is complex, and errors are often made. The solution to this setback is creating three ranks of employees, each equipped with a specific skill set.
The first rank of employees will be of citizen users. Company employees will be trained to use AI-enhanced applications and practice good governance of data.
The second rank of employees will include business specialists who are trained to identify use cases and data sets. These citizen developers will work in close quarters with AI specialists and assist in building new AI applications.
The third and final rank will be of data scientists who will be responsible for creating, deploying and managing AI applications. Building Trust and Hierarchy
Whenever a business opts for a new stagey, naturally, apprehensions start to surface; same is the case with the integration of AI operations within businesses . Concerns about bias, privacy, cybersecurity, system ethics, governance over the AI and interpretability of how an AI can be trusted to make the right decisions arise. Accountability for each area must be established. For example, a web design company in Dubai, FME designs uses an AI desk to report tasks for clients and they take every possible means to make sure its templates are safe from infringement and its customer data is secure from any internal or external cyber-attacks. This requires robust management for allocating tasks and fail-proof security to keep them safe. Identify and Allocate Data
AI can interpret data and convert it into useful information. However, in order to fully gain an advantage from this feature, data must be properly labeled first. Identifying, standardizing and labeling data is of the utmost importance in order for AI to recognize patterns and use them to form helpful intuitions about the future. This aspect is crucial in managing risk, enhancing classification of documents, automating customer operations and assisting employees in making appropriate decisions. AI-Powered Voice Commands
Voice search assistants such as Siri, Cortana, and Alexa have been mainstreaming for quite some time. In the course of recent years, optimization of voice search assistants with AI has opened several new doors for business in every industry and sector. Businesses are now extensively using conversation AIs to recognize voice commands for their products. These AIs not only identify the user’s intent, but also provide relevant options based on the current status of the machine. With its rapid integration, 2019’s businesses will significantly benefit from its developing trends. Personalization Strategies
The major impact of AIs on the global economy is expected from the consumer side rather than the business side. With AI technologies, businesses can create and deploy personalized, data-oriented services and products. AI’s interpretation of consumer data and repetition of patterns enables it to help businesses create strategies and forecasts that will help in producing higher quality, audience targeted products. Evidentially, it helps businesses in adopting consumer-driven strategies that will not only improve personalization for customers but also increase their revenues as more customers will be enticed to trade money for their convenience. Using AI in Digital Marketing
Above everything else, Digital Marketing has been the biggest benefactor of AI development. Digital marketing has made leaps since the introduction of AI , transforming it from the primitive forms to a much refined and calculated source of content propagation. Google’s intensive investment into its AI algorithms has helped it automate all its online marketing protocols for organic as well as paid marketing. With the recent updates, Google AdWord manager will no longer require human run campaigns and will instead generate ads by itself and take it live automatically without any interference. This will further reduce management and QA costs and allow 2019’s businesses to easily create their digital footprint. Predictive Modeling
Predicting models through AI is not just limited digital marketing. Many of these models help understand peripheral on the other end of the spectrum such as buyer intent, customer engagement, conversion rate, and even cart abandonment. AI has served in building predictive models to eliminate many of these challenges merchants face in understanding buyer behaviors. Predictive models are predominantly used in persona creation which plays a crucial role in forecasting upcoming sales, designing products, rebuffing UX glitches and providing an ideal customer experience. With predictive modeling business, marketers can transform from reactive to proactive planners and seal their leakages effectively. Diversifying Revenue Sources
Aside from identifying and allocating data, AI has also proved its usefulness in generating new revenue streams. Using AI in daily transactions and customer activities help build big databases that most businesses in the industry need to design, deploy, market and sell their products. This allows the business to grow into a data source which its peers and new ventures can use to develop their marketing and sales strategies. Data-as-a-service is a sound proposition for diversifying revenues through AI while generating a value for their brand in the market. In 2019, many businesses are working on data building and some are already offering analytics for different industries and their sectors. Amplifying the Power of AI
The integration of AI with other technologies is a major development in enhancing data-driven business strategies. Converging AI with analytics, the Internet of Things (IoT), ERP, blockchain and quantum computing boosts the power of AI and results in smoother running operations. Although this convergence may prove to initially be a challenge for business executives, the benefits will outweigh any hurdles the company has to go through. Adopting DevOps techniques is one way of opening communication pathways between employees and in turn, successfully accomplishing the integration of AI with other technologies.
In this tech-savvy era, business strategies continuously evolve in accordance with new technologies and trends that come The use of AI in the world of business has been a significant advancement in the course of history as more and more businesses are choosing to reap its benefits. With AI being democratized so rapidly, its proper application along with well-trained employees has become more vital than ever. Tags:
ShopVCS.com – For Vets, their families & employees
Posted in Health , Inside Veterans Health by VAntage Point Contributor 8k views
VA’s Veterans Canteen Service (VCS) is excited to announce a new benefit for Veterans and VA employees. Last November, VCS launched ShopVCS.com, an online shopping site exclusively available to Veterans enrolled in VA, their families, and VA employees.
This shopping experience offers thousands of products from hundreds of name brands with the ability to easily and securely shop from any device including desktop, smartphone or tablet.
ShopVCS.com features products ranging from sportswear, jewelry, home décor, appliances, electronics, military items, health and beauty, Made-in-USA brands, Veteran-Owned brands, and much more.
ShopVCS.com serves as an expanded catalog of items not offered in Patriot Stores, the retail shops located in the VA hospitals and clinics. Ticketing and travel services are also available which include deals for: hotels, theme parks, movie tickets, concert tickets and much more.
Registration is free and Veterans enrolled in VA, their family members and VA employees are eligible to register at ShopVCS.com as authorized customers.
Proceeds from your purchases are given back to the Veteran community in support of VA programs such as: National Rehabilitation Adaptive Sports Games, Vets Crisis Suicide Prevention, Fisher House, Women Veteran Programs, National Disaster Relief, Homeless Veterans programs, and much more.
Veteran Canteen Service operates as a self-sustaining entity. Sales and income are used to sustain the operation with the goal of “giving back” to the VA community in support of programs or initiatives that serve to enhance the quality of life for Veterans, their families and those who provide for their care.
Veterans, their families, and VA employees can sign up to shop at ShopVCS.com .
Chelsea Anderson is a Public Relations Specialist with the Veterans Canteen Service.
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