Religion & Beliefs

Young Israel Is So Passe

A while back Soccer suggested I write about the Young Israel decision to ban converts and women from being presidents of their congregations. They also prohibited any of the shuls under their umbrella from having women’s tefillah groups, or even … Read More

By / January 9, 2008

A while back Soccer suggested I write about the Young Israel decision to ban converts and women from being presidents of their congregations. They also prohibited any of the shuls under their umbrella from having women’s tefillah groups, or even women-only megillah readings. And they have new legislation saying that all rabbis hired for Young Israel shuls have to be approved by the National Council, which has been seen as a way to screen for rabbis ordained at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, who are apparently not frum enough for Young Israel. Normally, I wouldn’t pay much attention to any of this. I don’t go to a YI shul, nor does any of their rhetoric carry much weight for me under the best of conditions, so if they want to be sexist, and elitist and frummer-than-thou that’s really none of my business. But then I read a really great post on another blog about how the National Council of Young Israel has become obsolete and it pretty much convinced me. Here’s the post:

How bad does the National Council of Young Israel suck?


This month's YU magazine has a pretty damning article on the NCYI. Basically, NCYI member shuls are fed up with the NCYI for the following reasons:

  • NCYI's overall move to the 'right'
  • New legislation saying that NCYI must approve shul Rabbis (aimed at YCT)
  • Ban against women and converts being shul presidents (repugnant says one pres)
  • Ban against women's tefilah groups and even women's megilah lainings
  • They offer nothing of value to their members
  • They exist to expand their own power and prestige
  • They 'lock in' member shuls by threatening to take hold of all their assets if they leave

I belong to a NCYI shul, and I can validate that my shul has most of the above issues with NCYI. In fact, at repeated conversations over multiple Shabbatim, everyone I spoke to agreed we should leave NCYI. Also I read the NCYI Viewpoint magazine every issue, it's always the same junk – endless pictures of Lerner or Moztofsky meeting with some notable or another. A complete waste of time. I went to the NCYI site to see which services they offer, because I personally haven't seen anything useful from them. According to their site: “Did you know that the Department of Synagogue Services of the National Council of Young Israel can be a tremendous resource to your synagogue? Here are some of the types of programs and services available to our Young Israel branches:” Sounds great! So what is the list?

  1. Branch Consultations
  2. The Suggestion Box
  3. NCYI Program Bank
  4. Synagogue Lay Leadership Day
  5. Sisterhood Services Day
  6. Shabbat Shalom Yerushalayim

So let's go through these one by one and see if there's anything useful in there. Branch Consultations Broken link, nothing there. The Suggestion Box This is a series of short articles about how to do fund raising. Ssince all the articles are freely available on the web to anyone, I don't see how joining the NCYI is much of a benefit here. Program Bank 'This one looks useful – a catalog of programming options, but the list is pathetic, e.g. a Barbeque-a-thon. Wow! I could never have thought of that on my own. Another example – 'Rubber Duck Races to pay synagogue bills'. Wow, I really would never have thought of that. And then there's the Pre-Pesach Stress Buster Program, where they suggest that the shul sends women to a spa for a few hours. Why not give the women of the community some time off to escape and recharge by arranging for a few hours in a spa? Schedule an evening close to Pesach that your synagogue can take over a spa for women only: offer an evening of total relaxation. In addition, have a speaker discuss reducing stress during stressful times. Yes, it really is that stupid. Any synagogue worth it's salt can figure out programming ideas, surely. At least ideas of this pathetic caliber. And what kind of programming materials will the NCYI send out for the stress buster program?! I'm friendly with our programming director, maybe I should ask her to ask NCYI about this. Synagogue Lay Leadership Day Broken link. Sounds boring anyway. Sisterhood Services Day Ditto Shabbat Shalom Yerushalayim This is a special weekend around Yom Yerushalayim to impress on people the importance of Yerushalayim. I've never seen this, though my shul does it's own Yom Yerushalayim thing. Anyway, the web site says: “By targeting every Orthodox synagogue in America, "Shabbat Shalom Yerushalayim" brings together Jews from across the United States through local synagogue programming.” So if they target every OJ shul in the US, how is this a benefit of belonging to NCYI? And that's it. Based on their web site and my own experience, I have to agree with the YU article. The NCYI provides nothing for it's members except for the name. And going forward, that name might just be an embarrassment.


Far be it from me to tell NCYI how to run their organization that I never really liked to begin with, but when you’ve become irrelevant to your membership, and actively distance yourself from anything labeled “modern” how do you expect to retain any kind of standing in the Jewish world? If FaithHacker is a guide to practical spirituality, it seems like Young Israel has become a home for impractical and disconnected spirituality.