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Riskin, Shlomo


RISKIN, SHLOMO (1940–), rabbi. Born in Brooklyn, New York, Riskin entered Yeshiva University in 1956. There he found a mentor in Rabbi Joseph B. *Soloveitchik (the Rav) and was impressed with his unique vision of Judaism, which proposed that halakhah (Jewish Law) actually deal with the most fundamental existential problems plaguing modern man.

Upon receiving his rabbinic ordination and graduating as valedictorian in 1960, Riskin was determined to open a new model of synagogue, one based on outreach and learning. This led to the opening of the renowned Lincoln Square Synagogue (lss), established in a small apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Attendance grew and a permanent structure was established on Amsterdam Avenue. By the end of the 1970s, lss had become one of the most vibrant centers for Judaism in New York and America. lss as well as other educational institutions established by Riskin were the locus of Jewish life for thousands of Jews.

By 1983, however, Riskin decided to move to Israel. Criticized by some congregants for the move, Riskin explained his view that Israel was the only place where a Jew could live his/her life in a complete fashion. The Diaspora, he said, would always be a footnote in Jewish history, while Israel would be the nexus. He felt that the future of Jewish leadership would be based in Israel and he wanted to be a part of it, as well as to participate in what he called "the greatest expression of reclaiming our own destiny since the leaving of Egypt."

In 1983 he moved to the new garden city of *Efrat near Jerusalem, which he founded together with Moshe Moskovitz. Guided by the idea of an open urban community between *Gush Etzyon and Jerusalem, Efrat would serve as a bridge between the bloc of Jewish settlements and Israel's capital.

As chief rabbi of Efrat, Riskin established an educational institution called Ohr Torah Stone (ots), comprised of yeshivah high schools and rabbinic and leadership training. ots has grown into an all-encompassing educational organization. Its educational philosophy promotes Riskin's vision of Judaism that is based on the teachings of his childhood and Rabbi Soloveitchik's message of ethical monotheism that the Jew must impart to the world. For Riskin, Judaism presents the most fundamental notions of freedom, universal morality, and a code of ethics to the world. The importance of compassion and sensitivity in the practical application of a religious lifestyle is one of Riskin's major doctrines. God's law and its realization must express that love and compassion, within halakhic parameters.

Riskin was also a pioneer in the field of women's Torah learning and halakhic rights, as reflected both in his writings as well as the make-up of his educational institutions. He holds a master's in Jewish history and was awarded his Ph.D. from New York University's department of Near Eastern languages and literature.

He is also the author of five books: The Rebellious Wife: Women and Jewish Divorce (1989); Yad L'isha (2004); The Passover Haggadah (1983); Around the Family Table (2005); and Torah LightsGenesis Confronts Life, Love and Family (2005).

His regular columns and articles appear weekly in the Jerusalem Post as well as in dozens of newspapers and magazines throughout the world.

[Edward Jacobs (2nd ed.)]

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