NEW YORK (VINnews) — As reported by VINnews, Rabbi Aharon Feldman – the Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Yisroel of Baltimore – had vehemently opposed voting in the WZO elections and threatened to leave the Moetzes if Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky did not retract his support for voting. Subsequently, we reported that in a phone conversation with noted journalist Rabbi Yitzchok Hisiger of Lakewood, Rabbi Feldman said that he would defer to the ruling of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, which was to vote.
Not long after, emails threads with Rabbi Feldman started circulating, in which Rabbi Feldman emailed that he has not changed his mind, and still considers voting in the WZO elections to be forbidden.
To shed some light on these events, VINnews has obtained an exclusive letter from Rabbi Yitzchok Hisiger which clarifies his phone conversation with Rabbi Feldman.
In addition, we will present an open letter from Rabbi Feldman on this topic.
PLEASE NOTE: VINNEWS DID NOT RECEIVE THIS LETTER DIRECTLY FROM RABBI HISIGER
The letter from Rabbi Hisiger reads as follows:
The following provides some context to my conversation with Rav Aharon Feldman, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel.
Prior to our conversation, I had seen letters signed by Rav Feldman disseminated across Lakewood. One of the letters stated that Rav Elya Brudny withdrew his opinion regarding the WZO issue. I knew that Rav Brudny had never changed his position, which was why I reached out to Rav Feldman for clarification.
I tried to read Rav Feldman several times, but was unsuccessful. On Monday morning, when I called his house, his rebbetzin directed me to reach out to the rosh yeshiva at his office in the yeshiva. Indeed, I was able to reach the rosh yeshiva, who gave me of his time graciously and generously. I introduced myself and explained that I was calling to clarify what I had seen written in a letter ostensibly authored by him, stating that Rav Elya Brudny had withdrawn his opinion on voting in the WZO. I told the rosh yeshiva that I knew for a fact that Rav Brudny had never changed his opinion at any point, which was not consistent with what the letter had stated.
Rav Feldman responded that he did write the letter, and that what he stated in the letter was referring to a period in time when Rav Brudny had asked Rabbi Pesach Lerner to cease using his name in advertising for the cause. I did not press the issue further, but simply made clear that Rav Brudny had never changed his opinion on the matter, and that these letters were still being distributed and disseminated. Rav Feldman responded that there’s not much that can be done once a letter is out there.
At that point, I asked the rosh yeshiva if, once I was speaking to him, I could ask his opinion on the WZO matter following the publicizing of the opinion of Rav Chaim Kanievsky. He responded, “Who can argue with Rav Chaim Kanievsky…if that’s what he said.”
I commented that it sounded like the rosh yeshiva wasn’t certain that Rav Chaim had said what he was being quoted as having said. I continued by relating what is now widely known, namely, that in a letter to Rav Chaim Kanievsky – a letter whose contents I had personally confirmed – Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky laid out a case for not voting in the WZO, citing a number of issues, including the fact that voting in the WZO is not consistent with the mesorah of gedolei Yisroel, and the fact that in order to vote, one must become a member of the WZO and express affirmation of all that the organization stands for. Rav Chaim responded to Rav Shmuel, writing, “Nechonim hadevorim. Kedai meod lehatzbia.”
At this point, Rav Feldman told me, “I am mevatel my daas to Rav Chaim.”
We spoke further briefly, and he repeated, “I am mevatel my daas to Rav Chaim.”
[I must point out that at least one online news source picked up this quote that Rav Feldman told me and reported it without verifying it. They got the actual quote right, but that news outlet also stated that Rav Feldman “retracted” his opinion. That is not true. Rav Feldman did not retract his opinion in my conversation with him. He said unequivocally that he was mevatel his daas to Rav Chaim. There is a distinction between the two, and stating that Rav Aharon said anything other than what he actually told me is a misrepresentation. It was clear that despite Rav Feldman’s feelings to the contrary, he deferred to Rav Chaim on this matter.]
ח’ אדר תש”פ
The open letter from Rabbi Feldman is below: