Feldman’s Bad Faith


Harvard Professor Noah Feldman’s lengthy whine in the July 22 New York Times Magazine about the failure of Boston’s modern Orthodox Maimonides School to acknowledge his marriage to a Korean-American fellow professor and the subsequent birth of two children in its alumni Mazel Tov bulletins triggered a panic attack in certain Orthodox quarters. It shouldn’t have — or at least not for the reasons it did.

Why did the Times choose to publish an essay about an event that took place nearly a decade ago, and which has no evident “news hook,” especially when both Feldman and the Times knew two weeks before publication that the essay’s opening vignette and emotional core had never occurred? The picture of Feldman and his then girlfriend had not been deliberately excised from a tenth high school reunion picture. They had simply been cut off, along with 16 others, by the photographer’s lack of a sufficiently wide-angle lens.

The answer, I suspect, is that the Times’ owners, with their Jewish last names, but whose religious affiliation tends towards the Episcopalian today, have been spooked by the growing ascendancy of Orthodoxy in Jewish communal life, just as their German Jewish forbears were spooked by the arrival in America of poor and often religious Jews from Eastern Europe.

In this reading, the Times’ publication of Feldman’s piece is a reflection of Orthodoxy’s surprising rebirth in America. (Monday’s Jerusalem Post noted that three-quarters of Jewish births in the UK are haredi, and pointed to similar trends around the world.)

FELDMAN ADOPTS the pose of one more sinned against than sinning. He informs us that he does not view himself as having “rejected my upbringing,” even if others imagine him to have done so by virtue of his intermarriage.

That pose, however, conceals a malevolent agenda: Feldman has decided to “out” Modern Orthodoxy and to undermine the claim with which he was raised that Orthodox Jews are “reasonable, mainstream people, not fanatics or cult members.” To that end, he slings whatever comes to hand, no matter how far removed from any coherent argument – everything from Jewish dietary laws, to sniggering about puritanical attitudes of even modern Orthodox educators towards premarital sex, to Baruch Goldstein and Yigal Amir.

(Along the way, Feldman claims falsely that Dr. Goldstein refused to treat Palestinian patients because he viewed them as descendants of the Biblical Amalekites – a claim the Times’ fact-checkers could have easily ascertained to be false. In any event, neither Amir nor Goldstein’s strain of national religious thought had anything to American Modern Orthodoxy.)

Feldman notes that when Joseph Lieberman ran for vice-president in 2000 he was not subjected to dark hints that his religion is in some basic sense “weird” like those that the Mormon Mitt Romney faces today. He does not want Americans to make the same mistake again. To that end, he points out that Orthodox Jewish men, like Mormons, also wear a unique undergarment, and claims (absurdly) that the leather straps on the phylacteries that Jewish men don every morning call to mind instruments of torture employed by the villains in The DaVinci Code.

It is the Orthodox “imperative to define boundaries,” such as that between Jew and non-Jew, that ultimately renders them not fully modern in Feldman’s view. Orthodox Jews not only insist on eating kosher food, he maintains, but view anyone who does not as somehow non-kosher. He cites rabbinic restrictions on the wine and bread of gentiles in this regard, without noting the irony (for him) that these restrictions were designed as a protection against intermarriage.

But the clearest evidence of Feldman’s animus for modern Orthodoxy is absent from his piece: his pro bono representation of the city of Tenafly , New Jersey in its efforts to prevent the construction of an eruv. Feldman knew full well that the absence of an eruv allowing the wheeling of baby carriages on Shabbat would effectively prevent modern Orthodox Jews, like his former classmates, from being able to move to the suburbs, and that the Tenafly litigation would serve as a precedent for many similar battles raging around the country.

In defending Tenafly’s opposition to an eruv, Feldman asserted that the local ordinance forbidding hanging anything on telephone polls was neutral on its face and therefore was worthy of enforcement. Surely someone as committed as Feldman to the strict enforcement of facially neutral statutes against hanging anything on utility polls should have had no trouble with the Jewish community using the means at its disposal to reinforce the far more significant halachic ban on intermarriage. (The Third Circuit Court of Appeals, incidentally, found that Tenafly had not enforced its ordinance neutrally, but had discriminated against Orthodox Jews.)

FELDMAN HAS performed one valuable service: His piece serves as a warning against the easy assumption that the best in secular learning can be readily reconciled with passionate Torah study. When equal emphasis is placed on the curriculum of the dominant secular society and Torah learning, the former will trump the latter. Maimonides has produced hundreds of Ivy League graduates, but few distinguished Torah scholars.

No doubt Feldman is being disingenuous when he complains that his alma mater and former classmates should be able to make peace with his intermarriage and his “desire to inhabit multiple worlds simultaneously and to defy contradiction with coexistence.” But when secular knowledge and Torah learning are proclaimed to be fully compatible, even complementary visions of Truth, it is not surprising that some will treat them as a smorgasbord from which one can select the savory bits, as Feldman has done.

Tellingly (and wrongly), this “best and brightest” product of the combination of a New England prep school and a Lithuanian yeshiva characterizes modern Orthodoxy by Moses Mendelssohn’s dictum: “Be a Jew at home and a man abroad.” That is a recipe for a bifurcated life rather than one lived at all times and all places in the presence of G-d. Following that dictum, virtually all of Mendelssohn’s descendants and disciples had found their way to the baptismal fount within two generations.

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79 Responses

  1. Loberstein says:

    “FELDMAN HAS performed one valuable service: His piece serves as a warning against the easy assumption that the best in secular learning can be readily reconciled with passionate Torah study. When equal emphasis is placed on the curriculum of the dominant secular society and Torah learning, the former will trump the latter. Maimonides has produced hundreds of Ivy League graduates, but few distinguished Torah scholars.”
    Since Cross-Currents has posted 73 responses so far, Jonathan must have hit a nerve. However, I think that Heilman says much the same thing in his book “Sliding To The Right”. I have no dog in this fight. I find much to admire in both the MO and Yeshivish world and am happily iconoclastic . Fanaticism in any direction leads to errors in judgement. Luckily I don’t live in Lakewood or Teaneck so I can pick and choose which shul and which rav i want to listen to each Shabbos and am still welcome in all the shuls. I couldn’t stand to live in a one philosophy community.

  2. Steve Brizel says:

    FWIW, this week’s Jewish Week reported that the new dean of RIETS will be R Yonah Reiss, the Executive Director of the Beth Din of America. R Reiss has RIETS smicha, learned in RIETS’s Kollel Elyon and Wexner Kollel and practiced law for six years at a major NY law firm after graduating Yale LS. I think that it is an inspired appointment because it sends a clear message to any MO person who is contemplating the Klei Kodesh that he can forego a multi million dollar salary and work for Klal Yisrael.

  3. Baruch Horowitz says:

    Dr. Gewirtz,

    For the record, I respect Rabbi Lamm, whether or not I agree with all of his ideas; I certainly do not see how anyone can read any disrespect at all into my previous comment.

    If you compare my comment to that of your illustrious schul-mate on the recent Hirhurim thread, who also wondered about this point of Rabbi Lamm’s essay, you will see little difference between the thrust of both comments. I also doubt that Rabbi Lamm, or any one of his stature, would take offense at a mere suggestion that discussion should start from the basics, which was why I parenthetically made reference to two sources.

    Whether or not Rabbi Lamm chooses to clarify his remarks in an appropriate forum is admittedly not my concern, but there are members from all segments of the community who might legitimately wonder about that aspect of his essay, as was apparent on the Hirhurim thread, despite the fact that Rabbi Lamm had the difficult task of addressing a highly-sensitive matter in a public forum.

    My comments were in the spirit of the Ruach Chaim on Avos, which Rabbi Lamm has embraced in one of his public lectures, regarding the capacity to engage in vigorous question and answers on Torah matters:

    “…it is forbidden for a student to accept the words of his teacher, if he has difficulties…a person must not show anyone favor, but rather love the truth”.

  4. Leib Shmukler says:

    See Rav Elya Svei(he should have refua shleima bekorov through miracles of the modern science) drosha on AGUDA Convention in 1995 about current status of “Modern Orthodoxy”.

  5. Steve Brizel says:

    Dr Gewirtz-I stand by critique of this column and especially the version or girsa of the same that appeared in Yated Neeman. I see nothing praiseworthy of MO as a hashkafa in this column.

  6. Jewish Observer says:

    “Moshe, your comment that a Chareidi who fails to become a Talmid Chacham will simply become a drain on society is exactly the type of generalization ”

    agree. you don’t have to come on to such an immature response to find issue with JR’s swipe.

  7. Menachem Lipkin says:

    The following letter from Rabbi Julius Berman was published in Friday’s Jerusalem Post.


    Sir, – After writing an excellent critique of both The New York Times in publishing, and Noah Feldman in authoring the article “Orthodox paradox” (“Feldman’s bad faith,” August 10), Jonathan Rosenblum veers off to conclude his piece with an appreciation of Feldman’s “valuable service” in attacking modern Orthodoxy.

    He first sets up a straw man by suggesting that modern Orthodoxy places “equal emphasis… on the curriculum of the dominant secular society and Torah learning,” then knocks him down by claiming that, under such circumstances, Torah will necessarily lose out – witness Noah Feldman.

    Rosenblum is dead wrong! The modern Orthodox Jew is not a bifurcated human being composed of half-secular and half-holy parts. Indeed, that seems to be Feldman’s thesis, the only difference being that he wants to adjust the borders between the two parts so as to include intermarriage within the secular part, thus making it acceptable.

    On the contrary, the modern Orthodox Jew is a whole, undivided, non-conflicted being. While he is prepared to integrate the best of the modern world, he does so through the prism of the Torah. He adheres to the same Shulhan Aruch as the haredi Jew; he studies the same Torah and Talmud. The same Rambam and numerous other commentaries are studied in the beit midrash of the modern Orthodox yeshiva.

    In short, the cacophony of debate and discussion emblematic of a traditional yeshiva remains the same in a modern Orthodox yeshiva.

    As to the alleged paucity of “distinguished Torah scholars” in the modern Orthodox world, I invite Rosenblum to visit Yeshiva University in New York and Israel and audit the Torah lessons given by the Torah scholars who are the yeshiva heads. Each of them is a college graduate, many with advanced academic degrees, including PhDs.

    JULIUS BERMAN, Chairman
    Rabbi Isaac Elchanan
    Theological Seminary of
    Yeshiva University
    New York and Jerusalem

  8. Menachem Lipkin says:

    From Chaim Wolfson:

    “Feldman doesn’t subscribe to MO philosophy, either, of course, but what should ring alarm bells is that he was able to convince himself that he does.”

    Really? We have to worry about every lone yahoo who falsely claims the mantle of this or that “ism”? I think not. But if you think so, then you and Rosenblum have your work cut out for you in your own glass house.

  9. lawrence kaplan says:

    Chaim Wolfson: Thank you for your thoughtful reply. It is one thing, however, for someone who is MO and who essentially takes its validity for granted to engage in an internal critique and focus on iis more problematic elements. It is quite another thing for Jonathan Rosenblum (JR) who is an unfriendly outsider to do so as a way of calling into question its fundamental ideology. I further fail to find in any of JR’s articles the type of serious internal criticism of the Haredi conmunity that one finds of the MO Community by its internal critics. Until that time, JR should not be suprised if he is dismissed –and rightfully so — by the MO as a mere apologist.

  10. Joel Shurkin says:

    R. Rosenblum’s assertion that the incident with the photograph “never occurred” is factually incorrect. Feldman never said he was cropped out of the picture. He said he and his fiancee didn’t appear. That is true, the photographer excluded them. There are two ways to edit a photo. One is the crop it, which no said happened here. The other is to make sure the person or the thing you want excluded isn’t in it. Professional photographers do it all the time. Rosenblum made an assertion that made him happy, I suppose. It should not go unchallenged.


  11. dr. william gewirtz says:

    #60 – Eliyahu, Let me simplify: refering to Dr. Kolbrenner’s well reasoned point about the reality of current culture at many modern univerisities versus Rav Lichtenstein’s old fashioned idealism as somehow “essentially the same as” the author’s post, requires no comment. Something about the devil quoting scripture.. comes to mind. Beyond that, the secular educational curriculum of schools like Maimonides has nothing to do with Dr. Kolbrenner’s point. I suggest you read Rav Lichtenstein’s article in “Judaism’s encounter with other cultures” and then re-read Dr. Kolbrenner.

  12. Chaim Wolfson says:

    Ari, I think the scenario you paint was a real problem 100 years ago in Eastern Europe, particularly in the Yeshiva world. I’m not sure if it is that much of a problem today. We don’t see Chareidi drop outs going on to university. There are other problems, to be sure; the facts on the ground speak for themselves. But I don’t think they are intellectual in nature. In any case, two problems do not equal one solution. Unless it can be demonstrated that the problems in the Chareidi camp point to a solution of Modern Orthodoxy’s version of the problem, I don’t see how it’s relevant to this discussion. Saying that the Chareidi educational model is also flawed doesn’t addres Jonathan’s point.

    Dr. Gewirtz, thank you for clarifying your intent. I see now that I misunderstood you; the dangers in MO hashkafa you refer to have nothing to do with the issue under discussion. But my obtuseness should not cloud Jonathan’s point. The question remains: The theory may be ideal and even pragmatic, as you say, but is the message getting accros to everyone the way it should? [I apologize for the quotation marks. I’m still new at this, and I am frequently guilty of not following proper literary standards. I did include a qualifier in parentheses. BTW, I share your belief that Torah can deal quite well with science, contemporary philosophy, etc. But my take on how that translates into the educational sphere differs from yours. I would love to exchange views with you on this issue, but I guess this is not the proper forum.]

    Mr. Kaplan, let me ask you a rhetorical question. Are the numerous MO blogs that discuss issue similar to the one raised by Jonathan being judgmental of MO, or are they pointing out a problem? So why accuse Jonathan of judging MO as a whole rather than pointing out its weak links? The only difference is that in this case it’s an “outsider” pointing them out. [And even if Jonathan did define MO by its weak links, there still would be no need for him to judge the Chareidi community the same way, because many of the commenters on this blog do an admirable job fulfilling that function.]

    Steve, I and no one else who frequents this blog would ever accuse you of advocating R’ Aharon’s position on college, or of calling MO a failure. If you read Jonathan’s article carefully, he doesn’t imply that either. And he doesn’t call for throwing out the baby either. Frankly, I’m surprised that someone as introspective as you did not make the distinction between a criticism of MO practice (with which you agree, at least to a certain extent) and an “attack” on MO theory as a whole.

    Boruch, you can debate the merits of a Chareidi writer discussing this topic in the Yated, but not the merits of posting his article on this blog. This is, after all, a discussion forum that boasts contributors from across the hashkafic spectrum, including many to whom these issues matter. Where better to discuss these issues than here?

    Nachum, “mea culpa”. Indeed I never read “Torah u’Madda”, and I got the quote from Artscroll’s biography of Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch. It is true that secondhand quotes lack the context of the original, and can be (and often are) made to say whatever the one citing them wants them to say (ellipses, especially, should raise a red flag). But my understanding of that quote was reinforced by R’ Lamm’s comments in the Forward article; I could find no other way to explain them. But rather than relying on secondhand sources, I will take your advice and get the book. In the meantime, though, I echo Mr. Reisman’s request to post the entire quote.

    Menachem, your analogy holds true only if you can demonstrate that the members of Neturei Karta were raised in “regular Chareidi” homes and attended “regular Chareidi” yeshivos and turned out the way they did. Is that the case? I don’t think so. In any case, Neturei Karta are their own people; they don’t subscribe to any philosophy but their own. Feldman doesn’t subscribe to MO philosophy, either, of course, but what should ring alarm bells is that he was able to convince himself that he does. And Jonathon’s post obviously doesn’t constitute “self-criticism”, but as I pointed out, many of the comments regarding Chareidim on this blog are hardly intended to be constructive either, if you know what (and who) I mean.

    Moshe, your comment that a Chareidi who fails to become a Talmid Chacham will simply become a drain on society is exactly the type of generalization that many commenters here accused Jonathan of making. I don’t live in Israel so I can’t comment on the situation there, but here in America that statement is patently false. Maybe I misunderstood you. If so, please clarify.

  13. L Oberstein says:

    “Can’t we all just get along?” Rodney King
    “Sliding To The Right” makes similar criticsms of Modern Orthodoxy, which he calls ” counterpuntalism”. Heilman, the author, is clearly pro-modern orthodox.
    I am glad that I live in a community where I can hang out with the chassidim one day, the sephardim the next, go to a kiddush at the Agudah and still be modern orthodox when I so desire. I was rasied to be a Jew, not a hyphenated Jew.
    As far as living in more than one world and trying to balance competing lifestyles, read Heilman’s book and see that he says it really can’t be done. One or the other has to give. So, let’s not all be so hyper-sensative to criticism, we are all one family.

  14. Mark says:

    Moshe Brissman,

    “Whereas, to my sorrow, if a Charedi fails to become a talmid chacham, he will simply become a drain on society, and contibute nothing whatsoever.”

    I’ve read lots of outlandish claims in this site but this has got to be the winner by a long shot. Many of my fellow students and yeshivah mates didn’t develop into great talmidei chachamim and are extremely high functioning members of society contributing as much as anyone else I know. Among them are doctors, lawyers, accountants, small business owners of every kind etc…The point is so obvious it hardly needs to be said.

  15. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “The necessicity of making room in society for different kinds of people, and not just a section of the population is something that RJR has been writing about in regards to Charedi society as well. Judging by the feedback his article has received, it was a mistake to write this piece, since it only resulted in yet another round of pointless and divisive MO/charedi bickering. We should try to promote unity in klal yisrael, not the opposite”.

    I do not know of a solution to promoting unity on blogs, other than learning from experience, and seeing what works and what does not; at least for me, that’s an ongoing process.

    As far as JR’s article, perhaps it could have been improved by candidly discussing Charedi ideology’s strengths and weaknesses in the very same article, especially since the critique was coming from an outsider to Modern Orthodoxy. That way, it would have not been perceived as solely focusing on Modern Orthodox ideology’s weak points, and might not have prompted defensive reactions.

  16. dr. william gewirtz says:

    Mr. Reisman (#59) – you meant 55 and (#45) the tenth Yartzeit is coming up, I beleive and dead men tell no tales but they are easier to misquote.

    Now the real 54: First, you might be asking R. Lamm to violate an important edict of chazal: the modern day equivalent of “discuss maaseh berashit in pubic and, to boot, with those not properly prepared.” You are tossing around ideas and words in an area where angels fear to tread/blog. Second, when you ask someone of R. Lamm’s stature to discuss a topic, you do not give him even a partial, paltry list of your suggested Mareh Mekomot, he gives them to you.

  17. Moshe Brissman says:

    I thought Dr. Kaplan summed it up very nicely in his one sentence (to paraphrase): Jonathan Rosenblum judges Modern orthodoxy by its weak links, rather than the strong ones; does he do the same for charedim?

    I would add that if somone goes to a modern orthodx school and fails to be a talmid chacahm, he will still generally contribute to society generally and frum society specifically. Whereas, to my sorrow, if a Charedi fails to become a talmid chacham, he will simply become a drain on society, and contibute nothing whatsoever. If we stipulate that each system produces the same average of failures and successes – for stipulate we must, in the absence of proof – how can any one deny the modern system is better?

  18. Baruch Horowitz says:

    Lawrence Reismnan,

    See PDF linked below.

    On page 66, R. Schiller concedes that R. Lamm “could have found a clearer phrase to express his point” regarding ” different perspectives” and the primacy of Torah, but on page 67, points to an omitted sentence, which he says give a different understanding of R. Lamm, and explains why R. Lamm chose his wording.

    On Page 77, there was a subsequent defense written regarding R. Lamm’s intentions about the primacy of Torah, and a rejoinder, as mentioned by Dr. Kaplan. I guess one should read the original Torah Umaddah to draw one’s own conclusion if one is interested in this issue(I would link the Jewish Observer’s review, as well, if it was available online).


  19. Eliyahu says:

    It seems to me that R’ Rosenblum’s point was essentially the same as that made by Dr. William Kolbrenner in Jewish Action Spring 2004 issue (freely available online) Dr. Kolbrenner concludes his article by saying “Torah uMadda may be an ideal, even as R. Lichtenstein views it, requiring a balance between different realms, too difficult for the current generation to sustain.” In other words, the MO education system/ideal of the maimonides type is not easy to achieve and is not appropriate for many people. The necessicity of making room in society for different kinds of people, and not just a section of the population is something that RJR has been writing about in regards to Charedi society as well. Judging by the feedback his article has received, it was a mistake to write this piece, since it only resulted in yet another round of pointless and divisive MO/charedi bickering. We should try to promote unity in klal yisrael, not the opposite.

  20. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    Post No. 54 states that Chaim Wolfson, in quoting R’ Lamm “inserted ellipses in the same exact spot [as] the Jewish Observer and … they are a very dishonest set of ellipses.” If it’s not too long, could you please post the entire quote including the ellipsed portion?

  21. Menachem Lipkin says:

    From Chaim Wolfson:

    “…so he is entirely justified in holding up Feldman as an example, an extreme one to be sure, of the inherent dangers of misinterpretation.”

    Then one would be equally justified in holding up Neturei Karta as an example of the inherent dangers of extremism in RW philosophy. Of course that’s not true. NK is a lunatic fringe and it would be unfair, at best, to use them to critique Chareidi ideology.

    “Was I not assured in this very forum (see Toby Katz’s “Nothing nice to say about Chareidim”) that Modern Orthodoxy engages in constant self-criticism and “cheshbon hanefesh” on its blogs?”

    Ill placed pot shots by a Chareidi PR man on a blog of mainly Chareidi authors hardly qualify as either “self-criticism” or “cheshbon hanefesh”.

  22. lawrence kaplan says:

    FTR, Rabbi Lamm in Torah u-Madda cleary, emphatically, repeatedly, and eloquently states that the study of Torah takes priority over the study of Madda. They are NOT equivalent enterprises. Torah is central. I cited two of these passages in a letter of mine which appeared in the JO responding to Rabbi Yaakov Perlow’s critique of Rabbi Lamm’s book. Rabbi Perlow basically and somewhat perplexingly simply refused to accept the passages I quoted at face value.

  23. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “But IMHO even he falls short when he points out that defections plague the Chareidi world as well. That is unfortunately true, but that’s not the point. I doubt any dropout from the Chareidi community ever cited Chareidi philosophy to justify himself the way Feldman argued that he was simply acting on the principles of Modern Orthodoxy he was taught in Maimonide”

    I agree to that difference, but my point was that the Haredi-Centrist debate should be an open, and a very rational one. To that end, one can not solely use an aberration in action to criticize elements of Modern Orthodox philosophy, but when it comes to Charedi issues and problems, only criticize a few individuals, but not to critically(but respectfully), analyze the philosophy, policies, and decisions of Haredi communal structure and leadership(see next paragraph), even as one defers as a matter of practice to the leadership of one’s community.

    The best model for a Charedi-Modern Orthodox discussion, would be Rav Shimon Schwab’s “These and Those”, which allows a respectful, but vigorous back and forth regarding the actual philosophies(“Torah Only vs. TIDE”); this same approach should be used for other matters of practical policy. I have also in the past quoted Jonathan Rosenblum’s Summer 2004 Jewish Action article, as a very rational and fair presentation, even as it made the case for the Israeli Charedi Kollel system(eg, “no one educational model can possibly satisfy the needs of all the children in a large community, and the attempt to force one model upon all can only result in many being lost altogether to the religious world”).

    One possible roadblock in having rational Centrist-Haredi discussions, is the asymmetry because of kavod haTorah issues. It is acceptable in the Haredi media to have a rational critique of Rabbi Lamm’s philosophy, but not a “These and Those” type discussion regarding a critical analysis of whether the Israeli banning process, and/or lack of vocational choices turns Haredim off, the same way elements of Centrist philosophy, theoretically, can lead to intermarriage or to other negative results. Apparently, some equate a critical discussion of a policy, with disrespect and undermining Gedolim’s authority, and that concern prevents the Haredi media from engaging in an even-handed Centrist-Haredi discussion which dispassionately analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of both sides for the purpose of learning from each other.

  24. Nachum Lamm says:

    Chaim Wolfson, you’re being dishonest. You’ve never read Torah UMadda. You know how I know? You quoted the same exact line that every Charedi attack on R’ Lamm (who you so snidely manage to insult every time you refer to him) uses, and you inserted ellipses in the same exact spot they do. It started with the Jewish Observer and even carried over into Artscroll’s biography of R’ Hirsch. And they are a very dishonest set of ellipses. Go, get the book, and see what they, and you, left out. And then maybe you’ll understand why Modern Orthodoxy is a little sensitive when it’s attacked by outsiders. Modern Orthodoxy has no problem examining itself. Jonathan Rosenblum is not the person to do it.

    I am glad you mentioned the bowdlerization, however. People on this blog should know that as much as they may be angry with this post, the original was much worse due to the addition of only a few extra words.

    Then again, with moderation policies here, they may never know.

  25. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “If the Torah is the word of the Eternal G-d (and the good Rabbi Dr., I am sure, would stake his life on that, as so many others have throughout the ages), then the values it embodies, as reflected in halachah, are also eternal”

    I was troubled by this point in Rabbi Lamm’s otherwise excellent article, and believe that he should clarify the issue. The starting point for discussion, which is an entirely different subject than this post, should be the fundamentals of Mesorah and Halachic development(eg, the Rambam’s preface to Perush Hamishnayos, Doros Harishonim, and/or other authoritative sources), and then an application of the general principles to this specific, sensitive, halacha.

  26. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “As far as Jonathan’s article itself is concerned, when I came across it last week in a different medium, I wondered if he would have the courage of his convictions and post it on this blog.”

    I assume you are referring to the Yated version which was a more direct critique; I can understand the idea of writing the same message, but modifying parts of it based on the forum. I do agree that any change needs to come from within Modern Orthodoxy, and if so, one can debate the merits of a Charedi writer discussing this, since in any event, there is already ample cheshbon hanefesh within Modern Orthodox quarters.

    As an aside, I quote from Maimonides School’s “Annual Plan”, which I certainly wish them success in implementing.

    “Every minute of each day offers the privileged opportunity to serve God, to enrich our lives by reinforcing our abiding awareness of our loving relationship with Him, and to strengthen our conviction that He is supporting us and guiding our lives. Shlomo’s father, David ha-Melech (King David), already had said: “Shiviti Hashem lenegdi tamid; ki imini, bal emot,” “I am ever mindful of Hashem’s presence; He is at my right hand, I shall never falter (Tehillim [Psalms] 16:8).”


  27. Steve Brizel says:

    Chaim Wolfson-Yes, that was my earlier quote on the subject. I remain convinced that 1) neither Lakewood, YU and Harvard are for all students ,2) that every family must conduct due diligence on this issue as opposed to simply going along with the crowd and 3) that educators, parents and students have to work together, rather than at cross purposes. WADR, I don’t think that is the same as RAK’s views on college education. However, if you read it carefully, I certainly did not call MO a failure as was implied by the tone and text of this article. I merely called for some fine tuning and realizing that the college campuses of 2007 are not the same as their predecessors of 1957.

    Like it or not, the “off the derech” phenomeon knows no hashkafic boundaries because it is rooted in very identical root causes-dysfunctional families, schools that can’t reach out to kids who need help and communities that can’t deal with kids who can’t fit their mold. IOW, it is grossly irrelevant for these kids whether their school is mixed or separate gender, has all of “bells and whistles” in the classroom or in extracurricular activities that compare favorably to a secular school or is a pre Kollel feeder. If a kid and his or her family don’t realize that their kid is a social, intellectual and cultural misfit in a school and subject to the unrealistic expectations of a community where that child will not prosper, that child will not prosper-regardless of the hashkafic label attached to the school. OTOH, it is very important to realize neither a school nor educators can be blamed if a student walks away from a vision of Torah observance that was not inculcated at home. OTOH, we have two systems that are geared to producing the top students only-regardless of the hashkafic labels-and many students simply do not thrive or realize their fullest potential as Bnei and Bnos Torah therein. That being the case, although there are many problems in our schools across the hashkafic boundaries, I don’t think that we have to engage in rhetoric that basically works from the premise of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

  28. lawrence kaplan says:

    Chsim Wolfson: I see. JR judges MO not by it theory and not by its many fine exponents and practicioners, but by its, alas, many weak links. And does he use the same criteria for judging the Haredi community?

  29. dr. william gewirtz says:

    Chaim Wolfson, I could not explain R. Lamm to you on a blog, but he was being brutally honest for a reason that, if you think carefully, you can figure out. In the public domain read RYYW ztl’s letters (in the TMJ) and the footnotes including a conversation with RYBS ztl. How Poskim deal with the issues raised in those letters and conversations is another matter, that neither of those gedolim addressed. I suspect, that R. Lamm would/should not have either in so short an article, had he not judged the circumstance as requiring it.

    At a different level, your quote of me is befuddling. I do say things of that nature, although if you are not quoting please delete quotation marks. My point is that denying that Torah can deal with contemporary views of science, history, literary analysis, philosophy, etc. is likely, in the short term, less dangerous. But it is by MO hashkafa neither the ideal nor a pragmatic, long-term solution. How you take (might I say twist) that as defense for a poorly reasoned attack on the MO community is troubling.