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Open Orthodoxy to Sue Gateshead Yeshiva

The cause of action is TheTorah.com.

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March 2, 2020

Open Orthodoxy to Sue Gateshead Yeshiva

The Jewish-ish Press, March 19, 2030 - פורים תש״צ

The brouhaha began at a fundraising dinner at a melaveh malka (post-Shabbat meal) last week when the Rosh Yeshiva of Gateshead, Rabbi Velvel Fedora, announced that the institution received a donation of five million dollars from twin-brother philanthropists from NY, in honor of the key role the yeshiva played in the founding of Project TABS and TheTorah.com. “We have always been proud of our star graduate, Rabbi Dov Dovid Steinberg,” said Rabbi Fedora, “and the nurturing relationship the mashgiach maintained with Dovid’l from the very beginning has borne fruit. Baruch Hashem, the whole world, Jews and non-Jews, reads TheTorah.com, spreading Toras Gateshead worldwide.”

Yeshivat Chovevei Torah-Maharat Rabbinical School is considering bringing a Din-Torah [a rabbinical court suit] against Gateshead, claiming that Gateshead has misrepresented their role in the founding of the project.

“Sure,” said Rabba Russie Simonovich, president of YCT, “now Gateshead wants to take credit for TABS, but they were never supportive of it at the beginning. YCT, on the other hand, is a different story. In the first months, when our graduate and the senior editor of the site, Zev Farber, was attacked, our president at the time offered significant hizzuq [words of encouragement], saying that Reb Zev was ‘on a journey to the outer boundaries of Orthodox thinking.’ Well, we sent him packing on that journey, literally, and look how well it turned out. Bottom line: TheTorah.com is Open Orthodox plain and simple, and Gateshead is cashing in on our message.”

Gateshead responded that they are unwilling to transfer the donation to YCT, proudly countering that Gateshead was involved in biblical criticism decades before YCT was even an idea in anyone’s head. “Haven’t you ever heard of We Have Reason to Believe by HaRav HaGaon, R. Louis Jacobs, zekher tzaddik leberakha?!” asked Rabbi Fedora. “This is the seifer (holy book) that introduced biblical criticism to the frum community, and it was published in 1957, 40 years before YCT was founded! And again, like Rav Dovid, Rav Louis, was a graduate of ours. Now if his Torah isn’t Toras Gateshead, I don’t know what is!”

Rabbi Fedora further pointed out that other talmidim [students] of Gateshead, such as Rav Norman Solomon, shlit”a, Rav Jeremy Rosen, shlit”a,  Rav Nathan Lopez Cardozo, shlit”a, and Hakham Isaac Sassoon, shlit”a, all universally recognized by the Yeshivish world as Gedolei Yisroel, have written for TheTorah.com, while no faculty member of YCT ever has.

But YCT has countered: “Rabbi Steinberg certainly was the visionary behind Project TABS, as well as its cofounder, and continues as its director,” said Rabba Simonovich, “but really, everyone knows that it was Zev Farber’s ‘Avraham Avinu Is My Father’ essay that put TheTorah.com on the map. Also, Reb Zev was the one who took most of the heat in the first few years, while Steinberg was hiding under his hat in Passaic. Farber has been the senior editor of the site from the beginning, so I think it is fair to say that TheTorah.com is his, and therefore our, project.”

Watching the developments carefully from Waltham, Massachusetts and Durham, North Carolina are the university counsels of Brandeis and Duke Universities, the former and current home of Professor Marc Zvi Brettler, cofounder of Project TABS. “We aren’t looking for money—five million dollars is peanuts for us,” said a spokesman for Duke, adding, “but our institution must be mentioned in conjunction with Brettler’s name. Although TABS is not the kind of project a university would support—too many people read TheTorah.com for it to be considered important—it was our scholar who gave the site legitimacy from the beginning. No one would have taken the project seriously without Professor Brettler’s involvement in those crucial early years.”

Neither Steinberg, Brettler, nor Farber could be reached for comment. They are too busy overseeing the construction of the new wing of their multimillion-dollar campus in Zikhron Yaakov. (Maggid Press will be printing a collection of essays from TheTorah.com in conjunction with the facility’s grand opening.)

The new campus will house a teacher training facility, which will open its doors next September, and will run alongside their already vibrant Rabbinical School, post-doc program to bring together the dozens of unemployed Bible Ph.D.s, publication house, center for archaeological tours of Israel and Jordan, and Jewish, Samaritan, and Karaite fine-dining cafeterias. The academic year will be unusually short, since the TABS yeshivah observes the holidays of all Jewish/Israelite denominations, including the various hypothetical Qumran calendars.