Principal at Jewish School Fired for Exploring Interest in Taoism

June 10, 2005

Source: The Forward

On June 10, 2005 The Forward reported, "academic politics are often esoteric and never pretty. But in what appears to be a first, the fate of a middle-school principal in West Orange, N.J., was determined by a rabbinic debate over the definition of 'who is a Taoist.' For months, Aaron Kriegel, a pulpit rabbi in West Essex, N.J., has urged officials at Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union to fire its middle school principal, Arthur Yavelberg. Kriegel pointed to Yavelberg's participation in an Internet discussion group about the ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism as an argument that the principal was unfit for duty at a school that preaches singular devotion to rabbinic law. In response, Yavelberg insisted that his interest in Taoism was strictly academic — and a three-member rabbinic advisory panel recently ruled in his favor. The panel, made up of local rabbis, agreed that in theory it would be inappropriate for someone who claimed to be a Jew and a Taoist to serve in Yavelberg's position. The rabbis, however, rejected the argument that Yavelberg's Internet writings demonstrated a rejection of Judaism or a devotion to another religion."