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Shlomo Riskin

Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Riskin
Position Founding rabbi
Synagogue Lincoln Square Synagogue
Position founder and Chancellor
Organisation Ohr Torah Stone
Created Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik
Personal details
Birth name Steven Riskin
Born May 28, 1940
Brooklyn, New York
Nationality Israel, USA
Denomination Orthodox
Residence Efrat, West Bank
Spouse Victoria Pollins Riskin
Children 4[1]
Occupation Founding Chief Rabbi of Efrat, Author, Chancellor
Semicha Yeshiva University

Shlomo Riskin (born May 28, 1940) is the founding rabbi of Lincoln Square Synagogue on the Upper West Side of New York City, which he led for 20 years;[2][3][4] founding chief rabbi of the Israeli settlement of Efrat in the West Bank; dean of Manhattan Day School in New York City; and founder and Chancellor of the Ohr Torah Stone Institutions, a network of high schools, colleges, and graduate Programs in the United States and Israel. He belongs to the Modern Orthodox stream of Judaism.[1]


  • Early career 1
  • Aliyah to Israel and after 2
  • Controversy 3
  • Bibliography 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Early career

Shlomo Riskin was born on May 28, 1940 in Brooklyn, New York. He attended the Yeshiva of Brooklyn, and graduated valedictorian, summa cum laude from Yeshiva University in 1960, where he received rabbinic ordination under the guidance of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik.[5] In 1963, Riskin received his Masters Degree in Jewish history, and he completed a Ph.D from New York University in 1982. From 1963 until 1977, he lectured and served as an Associate Professor of Tanakh and Talmud at Yeshiva University in New York City.[1][6]

At the age of 23, Riskin became the founding rabbi of Lincoln Square Synagogue in New York City and served in that position until 1983. With the full backing of his mentor, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Rabbi Riskin transformed a fledgling Conservative minyan into one of New York's most innovative and dynamic Orthodox communities. The synagogue became particularly well known for its pioneering outreach programs which inspired many secular people to become religiously observant Orthodox Jews.[7]

During the 1960s and 1970s, he became a leader of the movement to allow free, unfettered emigration for persecuted Soviet Jews and made several trips to visit and strengthen the Jewish communities in then USSR. He was the chairman of Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, the first American national movement to free Russian Jews.[8]

Aliyah to Israel and after

In 1983, Riskin gave up his U.S. citizenship to immigrate to Efrat with his family, where he became the founding Chief Rabbi, a position he still holds.[9] Over the years, he was joined by many former members of his New York congregation. In Israel, Riskin has established a network of high schools, colleges, graduate programs, seminaries and rabbinical schools under the name Ohr Torah Stone Institutions with a total student enrollment numbering in the thousands.

Riskin has dedicated himself to training a new generation of leaders for the Orthodox Jewish world. To this end, he established a Rabbinical Seminary and Practical Rabbinics Program to prepare young men with the scholarship and practical skills to become effective spiritual leaders, teachers and spokesmen for Orthodox Judaism. Riskin now has hundreds of former students serving as rabbis and educators in Israel and throughout the world.

He has also pioneered the rights of women in the world of Orthodox Judaism. He broadened women's participation in public religious practices, and declared that women could hold their own celebration of Simhat Torah.[10] He co-founded a women's college, Midreshet Lindenbaum (originally named Michlelet Bruria), a prominent seminary for Orthodox women. Parallel to these institutions, Riskin also established the first ever programs for young men and women from the Diaspora with severe learning and developmental difficulties to spend a year studying Torah in Israel while also gaining vocational training. In 2014, the first ever book of halachic decisions written by women who were ordained to serve as poskim (Idit Bartov and Anat Novoselsky) was published.[11] The women were ordained by Riskin, after completing Midreshet Lindenbaum women’s college’s five-year ordination course in advanced studies in Jewish law, as well as passing examinations equivalent to the rabbinate’s requirement for men.[11]

In 1991, Riskin issued a challenge in Israel's High Court to the laws which prevented women from serving as Toanot - advocates in the Rabbinic Courts. Riskin won the case and established the first program for the training of women advocates in the religious courts. Graduates of the program now defend the rights of Agunot (women whose husbands refuse to grant them a divorce) in the religious courts, helping them to secure a Get (bill of religious divorce). Riskin is an advocate of the Prenuptial agreement idea as a solution for the problem of recalcitrant husbands.[12]

Riskin is a forceful spokesperson for Jews and Israel against anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. As an advocate of religious and cultural tolerance, he has worked to promote good relations with the leaders of the Palestinian villages surrounding the Efrat settlement.


Rabbi Riskin was accused of comparing U.S. President Barack Obama to the antagonist of the Book of Esther, Haman, in a March 28, 2015 speech in the Grand Synagogue in Jerusalem.[13] Rabbi Riskin's term as Chief Rabbi of Efrat was extended by five years on June 28, 2015 after a month-long controversy in which the Chief Rabbinate was allegedly planning to retire him at age 75 because of his moderate religious views.[14]


  • Community study, "The binding of Isaac," at the 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Avenue, New York, New York. 92nd Street Y. 1981.  (with Alan W. Miller and Sheldon Zimmerman)
  • Yad L'Isha: A Halakhic Perspective on Women and Divorce (in Hebrew). Maggid Books. 1989. 
  • Around the family table: A comprehensive "bencher" and companion for Shabbat and festival meals and other family occasions. Urim. 2005.  
  • The Passover Haggadah with a traditional and contemporary commentary. Ktav Publishing. 1984.  
  • Torah Lights: Bereshit: Confronting Life, Love & Family. Maggid Books. 2009.  
  • Torah Lights: Exodus defines the birth of a nation. Ohr Torah Stone. 2009.  
  • Torah Lights: Vayikra Sacrifice, Sanctity and Silence. Maggid Books. 2009.  
  • Si'ach Shulchan: A Birkon with Insights & Commentary (in Hebrew). Maggid Books. 2009. 
  • Listening to God: Inspirational stories for my grandchildren. Maggid Books. 2010.  

See also


  1. ^ a b c Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Riskin, Rabbinical Council of America. Nov 9, 2007
  2. ^ Abramson, Edward (2008). A Circle in the Square: Rabbi Shlomo Riskin reinvents the synagogue. Urim Publications.  
  3. ^ Sanua, Marianne Rachel. Let Us Prove Strong: The American Jewish Committee, 1945-2006. p. 268. 
  4. ^ Lincoln Square Synagogue - History
  5. ^ Urim Publications: Shlomo Riskin
  6. ^ For a student’s recollection of Riskin’s impact as a teacher in a 1965 Talmud class, see Douglas Wertheimer, "You Are What You Know," Chicago Jewish Star, April 22, 2005, p. 7.
  7. ^ Rabbi Shlomo Riskin. New York Magazine. 22 Jan 1979.
  8. ^ Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry (SSSJ). Encyclopaedia Judaica. 2009
  9. ^ Ohr Torah Stone - Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Riskin
  10. ^ Hasia R. Diner. The Jews of the United States, 1654 to 2000. 2006. Page 353.
  11. ^ a b
  12. ^ Jewish religious law: a progressive perspective. John D. Rayner. p. 176
  13. ^ . March 30, 2015.The Jerusalem PostAmerican-Israeli Rabbi compares Obama to Haman'
  14. ^ . June 29, 2015.The Jerusalem PostRabbi Riskin's Term extended After Rabbinate Had Thrown Doubt on His Continued Tenure'

External links

  • Ohr Torah Stone biography of Shlomo Riskin
  • Urim Publications biography of Shlomo Riskin
  • Ohr Torah Stone
  • Lincoln Square Synagogue
  • Koren Publishers Jerusalem
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