In a Wednesday, June 12, letter to congregants, Rabbi Adam Starr and synagogue president Marc Sokol said: “At this time, we are pleased to assume our shul’s Hebrew name, Kehillat Ohr Hatorah, which reflects our mission of spreading the light and beauty of the Torah to all who wish to learn and grow with us, a mission that has resonated in Atlanta and beyond. After deliberation and through an open and inclusive process, our members have decided to no longer affiliate with the National Council of Young Israel due to our organizations not being a strong fit for one another.”
The congregation will continue its affiliation with the Orthodox Union, one of the largest Orthodox Jewish organizations in the country.
Emory University professor Deborah Lipstadt, who had resigned from YITH to disassociate herself from the national movement, told the Atlanta Jewish Times that she was “Delighted to have already rejoined,” having done so “as soon as I heard results of the vote” by congregants.
As of Wednesday night, there was no response from NCYI.
The dispute began Feb. 25, when NCYI’s president endorsed Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bringing into his electoral coalition a party that included followers of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane.
Several days later, 22 congregations sent a letter asking NCYI “to immediately cease making all political pronouncements.”
The turmoil resulted from a March 4 Twitter post by Yechzkel Moskowitz, then president of NCYI’s advocacy division (but who is no longer on its board), reading: “Everyone of the Rabbis on this list from reconstructionist lover @RabbiStarrYITH to tree hugger Barry Kornblau should be ashamed of themselves joining with liberal progressive groups like @IfNotNowOrg in attacking @NCYIYoungIsrael for defending Israels democracy. #NotMyJudaism”
The “reconstructionist lover” remark referred to a gathering on Nov. 2 last year, the first Shabbat after the massacre of 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Members of YITH and Congregation Bet Haverim met in the street between their synagogues for prayers, psalms, and songs, led by Starr and Rabbi Joshua Lesser of CBH, a Reconstructionist congregation.
Check back as AJT uncovers more details and developments.