Austritt a la Washington Heights


In a short booklet published by Rabbi Dr. Eric Zimmer covering his close to ten years as Rabbi of Congregation Ahavas Torah (covered extensively on the YouTube channel) he writes about an idea put forth by Rabbi Rappaport z’l of the Beth Medrash Hagadol of 175th street.


Rabbi Rappoport wanted to make a “Shomrei Shabbos” society uniting the orthodox rabbis in the neighborhood under one banner. This group would also publish a list of businesses that are Sabbath observant in order to steer people towards supporting them. With time this would incentivize more observance in the workplace.


Zimmer writes that Rav Breuer did not agree to join and the idea was aborted. (Comrade Y.S.Strauss poitns out that Rev. Neuhuas as well as Rabbi Bieberfeld and Breslauer are absent here- pointing to an actual network of Austritters. He mentions that these three rabonim were called the “three B’s- Breuer, Breslauer, Bieberfeld. Rev. Neuhaus probably took the cue from Rabbi Breuer.)


While the Hirschian “Austritt Gemeinde” principle would not have procluded such an umbrella organization (as there was no connection to Reform practices or instituions, there likely were two other reasons for Rav Breuer to decline his invitation.


  1. “The Hungarian Demand”. This term refers to a demand from Hungarian Rabonim upon the founding of the Agudah in the nineteen-teens that in order for them to join, Rabonim who were not “Austrit” would have to be barred. This was a form of second-stage Austritt, in which you Austritt yourself not only from reform, but from Non-austritt Orthodox. The Agudah did not capitulate to this demand.


2)    Kavod Hatorah. Some of the neighborhood Rabonim were not ordained Rabbis. It was common for graduates of any of the teacher training seminaries in Germany to take rabinic positions.  Some took the title of Reverend, and with time the title was sometimes replaced with Rabbi (perhaps upon seeing the free usage of this title on these American shores?) The Rav might have seen it as inappropriate to sit on such a committee.


Finally, it should be noted that I don’t think Rav Breuer even agreed to be included in the Agudas Yisroel of America in an official capacity- though he considered his shul part of their network and had various Agudah programs such as pirchei ni the kehilla. He did not attend the national functions, but later sent Rav Schwab. (He was very careful not to be associated with anything theologically adverse to the principles he guarded so carefully, the national events sometimes included delegates of the Israeli Agudah and perhaps he didn’t agree with their inclusion in Israeli government.) We must remember that he was truly a remnant of a different era.


See the list of Rabonim from the mid 1960s signed on to this board. I bet there are a few you haven’t heard of!


Rabbis: Isaac Fried, Sol Friedman (Dr.) [Young Isr.], Shlomo Kahn [Beth Israel],Abraham D. Kraus [Sharei Tik.], Jacob M. Lesin, David Lifshitz, Murray S. Penkower (Mt. Sinai), Abraham Rappoport (BMH], S. Rosenbaum [B’er Mayim Chayim], Naftali Rubin [Deberechin?], Eliezer Tarsis, Joel Turnauer [Noda Byhuda], Irving Weinberg [WHC], Joseph Weiss [Anshei Sefard], Maurice Wohlgelerenter (Dr.) [IJC}, Eric Zimmer [Ahavath Torah].

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