The Forward: Eisen to be JTS Chancellor

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51 Responses

  1. mycroft says:

    Aren’t they following YU who picked a non Rabbi-Richard Joel-to be its head?

  2. Joel Shurkin says:

    Well, then, you shouldn’t. Eisen and Cohen reported the data from the survey, the largest ever made. They were not asserting a position. I might add, I knew him from my time at Stanford and he is one of my son’s mentors there. He is very bright, probably the world’s leading expert on the state of American Jewry, and a decent guy. He is observant Conservative (kosher and shomer shabbos). I think he was chosen despite not being a rabbi because he has not taken a stand on any of the issues that are currently roiling Conservative Judaism, particularly the issue of gay unions and rabbis, which makes him less controversial. He is also a good choice for facing the conflicts in the movement and declining membership.

    j

  3. Yaakov Menken says:

    Mycroft,

    It’s very different. YU is a university, not a Rabbinical School. It contains Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchok Elchonon, aka the Rabbi Isaac Elchonon Theological Seminary (RIETS), which would be parallel. Do you think they’ll hire a non-Rabbi to take over when Rabbi Schachter retires?

  4. Jewish Observer says:

    “It’s very different”

    Mycroft has quite a valid point. YU’s selection is a dramatic departure from their previous 3 presidents. Rabbi Revel was a huge talmid chochom. Dr. Belkin was a talmid of R’ Shimon Shkop and a known ilui. Dr. Lamm was also a lamdan and talmid chochom. Obviously, YU did see itself as an institution that was both a Yesiva and a University (that may explain the name). I think writing it off as a University is a clever way to shtoch while defending.

  5. Jewish Observer says:

    “So a non-Rabbi, who….”

    I’d like to invite the other CC contributors to express your feelings regarding the scoffing tone Rabbi Menken takes toward Conservative. Are you OK with it or does it make you ashamed by association? I will assume shtika k’hoda’ah…

  6. mycroft says:

    “It’s very different. YU is a university, not a Rabbinical School. It contains Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchok Elchonon, aka the Rabbi Isaac Elchonon Theological Seminary (RIETS), which would be parallel. Do you think they’ll hire a non-Rabbi to take over when Rabbi Schachter retires?

    Comment by Yaakov Menken — ”

    There are parallels-JTS I believealso offers non-“Rabbinic” courses-
    joint program with Columbia etc. Rabbi Schachter is not the head of RIETS-he is a leading talmid chacham. According to many-he is not the leading person at RIETS. Many will say R. M. Rosensweig.
    R. M. Twersky also has his proponents. RYBS was not the head of RIETS-he was unquestinably the leading RY during his time there. It is just not the way RIETS has been structured.

    Thanks Jewish Observor-a minor point I am not an expert-I thought R. Belkin was from Radin-
    note that the son-in-law of the Chafetz Chaim –
    R.Mendel Zacks was the bochen at RIETS during that time period.

  7. Yaakov Menken says:

    JO, my intent was no more to “shtuch” YU than it was to “scoff” at the entire Conservative movement. Perhaps it takes one raised and educated in the Conservative movement to get the irony here. But as they say, “some of my best friends are …” — one of whom already commented in this thread!

    Not to belabor the point, but RIETS is “an affiliate of Yeshiva University,” and is not YU. I agree that RIETS has several Roshei Yeshiva, but my brother-in-law (who is a third-generation musmach of YU) would have a better-informed opinion of which voice might be leading.

    JTS offers Jewish studies’ programs, etc., but as an academically-structured Rabbinic school. YU has medical and law schools as the flagship of Torah U’Madda, Torah and general knowledge.

    JTS, along with the entire Conservative movement, is currently grappling with acceptance of homosexual marriage. Chancellor Schorsch is, in fact, one of the leading opponents. YU, by contrast, accepted the existence of homosexual clubs within its medical and law schools a generation ago. Why? It had to — because it operates a non-sectarian university program. This was Norman Lamm’s own statement, though Rav Mordechai Gifter zt”l railed against it, talking about the disgrace that had come to his alma mater, RIETS, via its association with Yeshiva University.

  8. Jewish Observer says:

    “Perhaps it takes one raised and educated in the Conservative movement to get the irony here”

    you don’t have this over me … I am well aware … I think you take theem too seriously …

  9. mycroft says:

    “Not to belabor the point, but RIETS is “an affiliate of Yeshiva University,” and is not YU.”
    However,they always acted in tandem. In fact the RIETS Board believed they had an agreement with the YU Board that no one would be appointed Prez without consent of the other. Of course, the professional schools were adamant not to have a Rabbi. Who won-Richard Joel-an MTA graduate who did not go to YU-instead NYU got the job.
    I was in YU when the debate demonstations etc about becoming non-sectarian took place and remember the famous public disagreement between RYBS and R. Belkin about the change. The Rav’s response to R. Belkin-what you don’t trust me. The Rav said I do-but all men are mortals….worried about after you. There is no doubt in hindsight that the Rav was right. A warning to all who think they can change formal structure for money and not change the essence later.
    ” by contrast, accepted the existence of homosexual clubs within its medical and law schools a generation ago. Why? It had to—because it operates a non-sectarian university program. This was Norman Lamm’s own statement, though Rav Mordechai Gifter zt”l railed against it, talking about the disgrace” It didn’t require a Rav Gifter to recognize the disgrace. The real disgrace YU didn’t even litigate the position-at least they could have said they were forced to do it. Reliable rumors had it-that Lamm gave in because of pressure of some wealthy people on the YU BOard. Of course, there is an ultimate paradox, R. Lamm in the 60’s wrote a lemghty article how Yahadus can’t accept homosexuality as valid. Really the first one to confront the acceptance of homosexual head on.

  10. Ori Pomerantz says:

    So a non-Rabbi, who, as an expert on Jewish identity, thinks that Rabbis are becoming less and less relevant, is going to be in charge of creating the next generation of Conservative Rabbis.

    So, they’re going to put a person who researched what Conservative Jews actually do, and found out that Rabbis are becoming less relevant, in charge of creating the next generation of Conservative Rabbis. There are plenty of Rabbis teaching at JTS, so to head it they chose somebody who has an idea of what’s wrong, and maybe how to fix it.

    Unless they’re going to give up on the whole movement, and decide to become either Orthodox or Reform (guess where most Conservative Jews will go), it seems like a good choice.

  11. mycroft says:

    ” Perhaps it takes one raised and educated in the Conservative movement to get the irony here. But as they say, “some of my best friends are …”—one of whom already commented in this thread!”
    Rabbi Menken — thus you are the best reason not to bash Conservative Judaism. Most “baalei tshuva” come from that background–very few from a totally secular background.

  12. Steve Brizel says:

    Mycroft presents an excellent depiction and description of the issues involved in the relationship between RIETS and YU. R D Lamm’s article on condemning the sin, but not the sinner is still a very important position and shows how distant Judaism is from the other faith communities on this issue. One can question whether R d Lamm was correct in avoiding litigation over the gay clubs at AECOM and CSL. That may have been a First Amendment issue upon which YU stood zero probability of prevailing in the State or Federal courts. OTOH, R D Lamm refused to allow the libraries at CSL to open on Shabbos despite the fact that AECOM is wide open on Shabbos.

  13. Charles B. Hall says:

    I am a member of the faculty of one of YU’s professional schools. I never heard anyone express opposition to having a rabbi as President. However, I think Richard Joel was an excellent choice. (Full disclosure: We belong to the same shul in the Bronx, where he served as an outstanding baal musaf for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.)

    Regarding gay clubs, we also have Catholic and “Christian” clubs. (Don’t ask me why the second doesn’t include the first.) And YU lost a court case a few years back about a partner of a gay student who wanted to live in the dorm. The real reason is that the institution takes government money. And if you take government money, you have to follow government rules. Today it would be impossible to run a graduate or professional program without government funds. I don’t even know if it would be possible to run an undergraduate program.

    We should remember these things as we aggressively seek government funding for our day schools.

  14. Steve Brizel says:

    CJ long ago lost most of its traditionalists to Orthodoxy . Its modernists have moved further and further away from any pretenses of “halachic norms.” Professor Gilman was merely stating the obvious in this regard. One can argue that who runs JTS will and should be utterly irrelevant to Orthodoxy-as long as the world famous treasure chest of manuscripts known as the JTS library remains intact and available for anyone who is interested in writing a world class-sefer. AFAIK, you can find Bnei Torah from across the spectrum of Torah checking out Kisvei Yad, etc at the JTS library on a daily basis.

  15. Jewish Observer says:

    “you are the best reason not to bash Conservative Judaism”

    I was steeped in that same background. I gives me less, not more, of desire to bash them. As I said before, bashing (which only makes sense if you have high expectations) gives them too much credit. For all their fancy (if well meaning) philosophies, I don’t give them any more credit (from a Jewish academic point of view) than to any other tinok shenishba.

    Let it go! Thank g-d you have moved on. Why persist in looking back as if to to convince yourself how far you have come?

  16. mycroft says:

    “One can question whether R d Lamm was correct in avoiding litigation over the gay clubs at AECOM and CSL. That may have been a First Amendment issue upon which YU stood zero probability of prevailing in the State or Federal courts”

    My point is not what YU’s chance was succeeding in court=it was that requiring a court order would show that you did under duress,were not in favor of the action etc.

  17. mycroft says:

    “I am a member of the faculty of one of YU’s professional schools. I never heard anyone express opposition to having a rabbi as President.”

    Charlie Hall: I stand by comments in no. 9 above.

  18. Nachum says:

    “Do you think they’ll hire a non-Rabbi to take over when Rabbi Schachter retires?”

    It amazes me that someone who wishes to hold himself out as an expert on current Jewish affairs can write a sentence like this. The President of YU has always been the head of RIETS as well, and Richard Joel is no different, although he’s known as “CEO” of RIETS, I believe, and R’ Lamm is still “Rosh HaYeshiva” of RIETS and Chancellor of both. Nu, every Yeshiva in the world has a layperson as chairman of the board, or administrator, or the like. I don’t see how this is a club against JTS, or YU. Joel, of course, has become famous for his efforts to spread Torah, pleasantly surprising many of his erstwhile opponents.

    R’ Belkin was a talmid of the Chofetz Chaim, as it happens. He was a professor of Greek, not a Rosh Yeshiva, when he was selected. R’ Revel was running the family oil business even after he took over. R’ Lamm was most noted as a synagogue rabbi and philosopher. This is not to say, of course, that they were (are) not great talmidei chachamim- they are.

    “There is no doubt in hindsight that the Rav was right.”

    Mycroft, “there is no doubt” implies that no one argues with you. I, as well as many who have attended YU and the many gedolim who continue to teach there, would disagree with you. Thus, there is “doubt.” The rest of your “reliable rumors” and things you’ve heard are not worth addressing.

    That said, it would be nice if YU would take a more active stance, although Charlie is, of course, right. There are a few schools in the US who accept no government money, loans for students, and so on, but they are small liberal arts colleges who appeal to a right-wing base to get funds. (Hillsdale College in Michigan is the most notable.) By the way, the same holds true of any “right-wing” yeshiva that accepts government money. If someone wanted to set up a homosexual club, they’d probably have to allow it. The nature of the places is such that it doesn’t come up.

  19. Tal Benschar says:

    “My point is not what YU’s chance was succeeding in court=it was that requiring a court order would show that you did under duress,were not in favor of the action etc”

    Why should YU waste money litigating what was almost sure to be a loser? R. Lamm could make the same point by publicly announcing “Our lawyers tell us we have virtually no chance of challenging this, so under duress of having our funds cut off, we are acceeding to a govt. decree.” (Which is more or less what he did.) Such an announcement makes the action as much “under duress” than litigating a case and losing, and it’s a lot cheaper. (Plenty of things in life are like that. Most people pay their taxes because they have to, not because they want to. Most people don’t bother fighting it in court. It’s only the nut cases who try to litigate the Constitutionality of the income tax.)

  20. Jewish Observer says:

    “the same holds true of any “right-wing” yeshiva that accepts government money. If someone wanted to set up a homosexual club, they’d probably have to allow it”

    there is no evidence that they are not compliant with this

  21. Yaakov Menken says:

    “Do you think they’ll hire a non-Rabbi to take over when Rabbi Schachter retires?”

    It amazes me that someone who wishes to hold himself out as an expert on current Jewish affairs can write a sentence like this.

    Nachum, it’s a pity the irony was lost on you, but I was being sarcastic. Whatever Richard Joel’s official title may be, he has about as much sway over the RIETS vision of Halacha as you or I. He happens to be an excellent administrator, manager, and fundraiser, but he has no standing as far as the seminary. Not so, the chancellor of JTS.

  22. Nachum says:

    R’ Menken: Ah! I see where you were going. Good point, then. Yes, indeed the JTS chancellor has that authority. I guess as an Orthodox Jew who doesn’t look to Conservative rabbis for halakhic guidance, I don’t have quite the disconnect that a Conservative Jew might upon learning that a non-rabbi is taking the position. From their point of view, I can see it, a bit.

    By the way, to Tal’s point: I went to Cardozo Law School, and I remember professors (rather left-wing, like law professors everywhere, I suppose) bemoaning what a conservative, religious institution YU was. And that was after they’d gotten all they wanted! I guess I’d have been happier had they been less happy, but one thanks G-d for little favors.

  23. Steve Brizel says:

    R Menken- R D Belkin ZTL and Yivadleinu L CHaim R D Lamm botb served as Presidents of YU . Neither had any major following within RIETS. Ditto for President Joel. He knows his strengths, is open to dealing with students and how to avoid controversies, as opposed to R D Lamm. The chancellor of JTS has always been perceived as a spokesman for JTS. I think that one could say that JTS is a far cry from the days when its faculty included some educated refugees from the yeshiva world.

  24. mycroft says:

    “R’ Belkin was a talmid of the Chofetz Chaim, as it happens. He was a professor of Greek, not a Rosh Yeshiva”
    Nachum:
    Rabbi Dr. Samuel Belkin besides being a Greek scholar was a Rosh Yeshiva in YU. In fact, he was a Rosh Yeshiva before the Rav came to YU as a Rosh Yeshiva. A lot of the Ravs early close students went from Dr. Belkins shiur to the Ravs shiur.Dr. Belkin recognized greatness and encouraged his better students to leave him and go to the Ravs shiur when the Rav came to YU. Unfortunately later he gave up his shiur when becoming a President of YU took too much time.

    “The rest of your “reliable rumors” and things you’ve heard are not worth addressing.”
    I stand by my previous comments. My comments about Dr. Belkin having been a real RoshYeshiva before being selected as President are verifiable.

  25. mycroft says:

    ” Whatever Richard Joel’s official title may be, he has about as much sway over the RIETS vision of Halacha as you or I”

    He has for better or worse influence-think of the think tanks and Centers he has started. JJ Schachter and Kenny Brander will get publicity for their views-which they wouldn’t have had with a different prez.

  26. Baruch Lipinsk says:

    If Professor Eisen believes that Rabbis are going to become less and less relevent as people craft their own practices and rituials, without Rabbinic consultation, he is clearly a hypocrite for accepting this position. Thus, if Rabbis become less and less relevent, they will become redundant, and hence, there will be no need for institutions like JTS!

  27. DovBear says:

    So a non-Rabbi, who, as an expert on Jewish identity, thinks that Rabbis are becoming less and less relevant

    Does the article you cite say that Eisen was happy that Rabis are becoming less-relevant and that he is hopeful that the trend might continue? Or does it say merely that he observed the trend?

  28. mycroft says:

    ” R D Belkin ZTL and Yivadleinu L CHaim R D Lamm botb served as Presidents of YU . Neither had any major following within RIETS.”
    Obviously true, despite any PR written about them while they were Presidents. Dr. Belkin had a closer dealings with the RY–he was one of them–and there was more mutual respect. Nevertheless, certainly after Dr. Belkin stopped giving his shiur I doubt you had anyone in YU who looked to Belkin for hashkafic guidance.

    Ditto for President Joel. He knows his strengths, is open to dealing with students and how to avoid controversies,
    Joel can’t even have chalomot of being able to argue with Roshei Yeshiva

    as opposed to R D Lamm-knows enough and has his own hashkafa to have such chalomot

  29. Toby Katz says:

    #5 Jewish Observer wrote: “I’d like to invite the other CC contributors to express your feelings regarding the scoffing tone Rabbi Menken takes toward Conservative. Are you OK with it or does it make you ashamed by association? I will assume shtika k’hoda’ah…”

    I don’t think R’ Menken mocks them as much as they deserve, considering what havoc they have wreaked with Yiddishkeit in America — they and the Reform movement. Also considering what an incredible chillul Hashem the Conform movements perpetrate every time they stick their noses into American politics — i.e., every day.

    However in this particular instance his mockery was misplaced because, as the example of YU shows, it doesn’t make any difference whether the head of a theological seminary is a rabbi or not. IRC the founder of Yeshiva Torah VeDaas, R’ Shraga Feivel Mendelowitz, insisted on being called “Mr.”

    #7 Yakov Menken wrote: “Not to belabor the point, but RIETS is “an affiliate of Yeshiva University,” and is not YU. ”

    That is the factor that makes YU a strange hybrid, “ohr vechosech mishtamshim be’irbuvya” “a mishmash of light and darkness” to translate idiomatically. As a yeshiva, YU is fatally compromised by its university aspect. Yes, yes, I know that the Yeshiva fights manfully and with a great deal of success against the University — but the institution as a whole is hopelessly schizophrenic. (Full disclosure: my father was a musmach of REITS and had a great deal of affection and respect for his rebbeim there — as well as feelings of intense frustration and disappointment with YU)

    #11 mycroft wrote:
    “Rabbi Menken—thus you are the best reason not to bash Conservative Judaism. Most “baalei tshuva” come from that background—very few from a totally secular background.”

    It is difficult to determine the background of “most” baalei teshuva, but the C movement has probably prevented a hundred people from becoming BTs for every one it led towards teshuva. Having had intimate experience with a “community” school in Tennessee that was de facto Conservative (and experience with dozens if not hundreds of BTs over the years), I can tell you that many such schools fill the kids’ heads with so much cynicism and heresy that it’s an uphill battle to get their heads straight afterwards. (For example, teaching the kids that Sinai was an allegory, or that Rivka and Yakov were conniving, dishonest people etc)

    Certainly anyone who sends his children to a Solomon Schechter school instead of an Orthodox school virtually guarantees that his kids will be secular Jews, with a better than fifty-fifty chance of marrying out.

    #12 Steve Brizel wrote: “R’ Dr. Lamm’s article on condemning the sin, but not the sinner is still a very important position and shows how distant Judaism is from the other faith communities on this issue.”

    I’m not sure who he has in mind when he mentions “other faith communities.” It was the Christian churches (Catholic and Protestant) that formulated that phrase “hate the sin, not the sinner.” — it certainly did not originate with R’ Dr Lamm — although it IS a fair statement of the way Torah Jews generally view this issue as well.

    If by “other faith communities” he means C and R versions of Judaism, well, they of course love both the sin and the sinner. The R movement considers belief in the Torah to be a sin — the sin of bigotry. The C movement is still polling its members, they will decide in December whether homosexuality is a sin.

    #13 Charles Hall wrote: “The real reason is that the institution takes government money. And if you take government money, you have to follow government rules….We should remember these things as we aggressively seek government funding for our day schools.” He is absolutely correct, and for that reason I am very wary of any voucher system and would prefer to see tuition tax credits for yeshiva parents.

    #18 Nachum wrote: “There are a few schools in the US who accept no government money, loans for students, and so on, but they are small liberal arts colleges who appeal to a right-wing base to get funds. (Hillsdale College in Michigan is the most notable.)”

    I have long had a wish and a fantasy that all the Orthodox students who flock to the Ivies would instead go to Hillsdale — where they would get a far superior education to what the Ivies offer.

  30. mycroft says:

    “the same holds true of any “right-wing” yeshiva that accepts government money. If someone wanted to set up a homosexual club, they’d probably have to allow it”

    there is no evidence that they are not compliant with this

    Comment by Jewish Observer — April 9, 2006 @ 3:26 pm ”

    At one time-minyan attendance was taken in the YU dorms_I do not believe that to be the case today-someone correct me if I’m wrong. Don’t know how one can make minyan attendance compulsary0when one receives Government money for building. Some 1st Amendment lawyer contradict me. One sees many religious institutions advertising admit wo regards to race..etc. Thus they probably couldn’t enforce such restrictions either. Practically less of a problem-how many people will spend 6 months studying migu if not committed to halacha?

  31. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Rabbi Yaakov Menken: Whatever Richard Joel’s official title may be, he has about as much sway over the RIETS vision of Halacha as you or I. He happens to be an excellent administrator, manager, and fundraiser, but he has no standing as far as the seminary. Not so, the chancellor of JTS.

    Or at least, historically not so for the chancellor of JTS. Not being a Rabbi, it’s quite possible that Eisen will not participate in the Halachic decision making side of the JTS.

    If he believes that Conservative Jews tend to ignore the Halachic decisions anyway, he might not even this that is very important. He might focus on giving young Rabbis the skills that will make them more likely to be listened to instead.

  32. Bob Miller says:

    Having gone round and round so many times about strange new developments in the Conservative movement, we ought to put this all on the back burner. This stuff is not so entertaining that we have to dwell on it. Whatever strategy is best to attract to Torah the thoughtful people from that movement, I have come to doubt it can be implemented through a blog.

    The other issue raised above is troubling. How long will it be before laws or court decisions protecting immoral behavior, backed by financial and other penalties for noncompliance, threaten all Orthodox Jewish communities and institutions in America? How do we insulate ourselves from the general society’s slide into decadence? Can we as a small minority do anything to repeal those laws or to reverse those decisions or that slide? This is not a problem for our “right wing” only.

  33. AL says:

    Let me get this straight. You take one sentence from the Forward, reporting on a book that Eisen published that used survey data in order to analyze contemporary Jewish attitudes among the “moderately affiliated” (that was their chosen focus), to malign his intellectual and moral integrity? Did it ever occur to you that descriptive analysis of what people think and feel (empirical research) is not the same as advocating those positions? “You couldn’t make this up if you tried,” you write. Allow me to share with you what someone else might not be able to make up if he tried: the knee-jerk know-nothing anti-intellectualism of the frum world.

    How about actually finding out what Eisen stands for? How about actually reading some of his work, plenty of which is available in one form or another on the web? He happens to be among the most impressive scholars and theorists of modern Judaism out there. His 2000 book “The Jew Within” is not at the heart of his scholarly work, in my view; read “Rethinking Modern Judaism” instead, or even better, read “Taking Hold of Torah,” a personal meditation on the meaning of Judaism that I (and many of my students) find inspiring.

    Btw, the more interesting comparison is not to Richard Joel but to David Ellenson, the still-relatively-new head of HUC, who is also a very serious mensch, also a very serious observant Jew, and also a very serious scholar of modern Judaism. With all due respect to President Joel, he is two of these but not the third.

  34. Larry says:

    In no. 29, above, Toby Katz wrote: “Certainly anyone who sends his children to a Solomon Schechter school instead of an Orthodox school virtually guarantees that his kids will be secular Jews, with a better than fifty-fifty chance of marrying out.”

    I realize that a concern for factual accuracy is accorded a relatively low priority in the game of interdenominational bashing that has become so normative and unattractive on this site. But can you point to any studies on the religious behavior and marriage choices of Solomon Schecter graduates that support this ostensibly “certain” point?

  35. Charles B. Hall, PhD says:

    ‘I am very wary of any voucher system and would prefer to see tuition
    tax credits for yeshiva parents.’

    In principle there is nothing preventing the same kinds of strings to be attached to tax credits, although in practice there is probably much less likelihood of the kind of intrusive supervision that we receive here by our choosing to accept government grants.

    ‘How do we insulate ourselves from the general society’s slide into decadence?’

    I’m not so sure society is in such a decline. I am old enough to remember racially segregated schools and swimming pools, and neighborhoods where Jews could not live. Teen pregnancy rates peaked in the 1950s and have been declining (somewhat unevenly) ever since. There were a few years back in the 1910s when syphillis was one of the top ten causes of DEATH in the United States. A hundred years ago, robber baron capitalists could exploit workers, bribe government officials, pollute the environment, and even scam their investors with impunity. I could go on and on. What is different today is that we are more AWARE of things that don’t conform to our value system. But they’ve always been there.

    ‘How long will it be before laws or court decisions protecting immoral behavior, backed by financial and other penalties for noncompliance, threaten all Orthodox Jewish communities and institutions in America?’

    There is really no danger to any Orthodox institution that does not accept government funds. The New Jersey Boy Scout case pretty much settled that. As I’ve said, though, if you take government funds, you follow whatever rules the government requires. It is certainly possible for the government to give money away with few or no strings attached — this happens in parts of Europe, even in such a staunchly secular country as France. But that is not the tradition in the United States –taxpayers jealously guard their hard earned money and don’t want it misspent.

  36. Bob Miller says:

    There is a sound intellectual argument that “modern Judaism” is not Judaism, supported by analyses in Rav S. R. Hirsch’s Collected Works and elsewhere. The seriousness with which false opinions about Judaism are held and followed does not make them any truer.

  37. Nachum says:

    mycroft, I’m not sure what you mean by reference to R’ Belkin’s “shiur.” I’m pretty sure he never had one. As to minyan, YU actually manages to ensure religiousness in the dorms. Of course, we may well wonder whether expelling students (especially at that age) because they, say, don’t go to minyan is really such a good idea. And, as you point out, people not that interested in religion- again, at that age- will most likely go somewhere else to start.

    Toby, you’re judging YU by your standards, not their’s. When you refer to “ohr” and “choshech,” you’re assuming that YU sees secular studies as something negative, which it does not. By speaking of the Yeshiva “fighting” against the University, you’re assuming that they are two separate institutions, which they are not. For the most part, the two coexist quite nicely together. “Fatally” is a pretty strong word to use for something alive and well. (Of course, we can all wish that YU’s professors were more conservative. But that’s the world.)

    And, of course, it was Bruriah who first thought of loving the sinner.

    Finally, as to Conservatism: Let’s be honest. Conservativism doesn’t “prevent” ba’alei teshuva. Jews who are Conservative would probably have an equal or, more likely, lesser degree of Yahadus if the movement did not exist.

  38. Bob Miller says:

    Charles B. Hall,

    You said, “There is really no danger to any Orthodox institution that does not accept government funds. The New Jersey Boy Scout case pretty much settled that.”

    That is today’s reality, not necessarily tomorrow’s.

    You also said, “What is different today is that we are more AWARE of things that don’t conform to our value system. But they’ve always been there.”

    By what non-financial measure is today’s American family life better than it was in the late 1950’s?

  39. Toby Katz says:

    Nachum writes:

    “Toby you’re judging YU by your standards, not theirs. When you refer to “ohr” and “choshech,” you’re assuming that YU sees secular studies as something negative, which it does not.”

    I do NOT see secular studies as something negative — I believe in Torah Im Derech Eretz and have enjoyed the benefits of an advanced secular education myself. Nor do I imagine that YU (or the Y part of YU) sees secular studies as something negative — they trumpet their slogan of Torah U’Maddah, after all.

    The war between the Y and the U has to do with hashkafos, philosophy, values and outlook. In theory their secular studies are supposed to be informed by and judged according to the values of Torah (which is the theory of TIDE I subscribe to). In practice Torah U’Maddah means the students receive a thoroughly confusing and intellectually incoherent education. In the morning they learn in a pretty straight yeshiva. In the afternoon most of their professors are the same politically and religiously leftist and secular professors to be found on any other college campus. The art professor shows nude slides, the biology professor mocks the very idea of “intelligent design,” etc etc etc.

    And what goes on in the graduate schools — well, they are an utter embarrassment to any institution with the word “yeshiva” in its name.

    “By speaking of the Yeshiva “fighting” against the University, you’re assuming that they are two separate institutions, which they are not.”

    No, they are not separate — they are bound together like a family — like fraternal twins — like Yakov and Esav!

    ” ‘Fatally’ is a pretty strong word to use for something alive and well.”

    Alive — in the sense that it exists. Well? Read the Commentator and you be the judge of that. The Bais Medrash turns out wonderful students, talmidei chachamim of the highest caliber. YU as a whole turns out — a hodgepodge of people, many of whom are profoundly secular in their attitudes and mindset while remaining outwardly observant to a minimal level. Within YU there is a struggle going on every day. This is also true within the Modern Orthodox communities that have largely been created by YU grads.

    It is “fatally” flawed in the sense that there is no longer a possibility of creating out of the shards of YU the original synthesis ideal.

    “And, of course, it was Bruriah who first thought of loving the sinner.”
    Yes, that is true. But “hate the sin, love the sinner” is not unique to Judaism.

    “Finally, as to Conservatism: Let’s be honest. Conservatism doesn’t “prevent” ba’alei teshuva. Jews who are Conservative would probably have an equal or, more likely, lesser degree of Yahadus if the movement did not exist.”

    Most likely if the C movement did not exist the majority of its members would belong to Orthodox shuls, as is the case in South Africa — where there is no C movement. Most South African Jews are not very observant but they do belong to Orthodox shuls and when it comes to a bris, a bar mitzva, a wedding, a funeral, a Yom Tov — the shul they go to and the rabbi who officiates are Orthodox. They send their kids to Orthodox Sunday schools — where what little the kids are taught is at least taught by Torah-true teachers. There is a low rate of intermarriage and a very high rate of teshuva in South Africa. Ohr Somayach, for example, has had phenomenal success there.

    When the South Africans come to America they usually join Conservative congregations and begin a precipitous slide towards non-observance and non-affiliation.

  40. Edvallace says:

    Nachum,

    “Finally, as to Conservatism: Let’s be honest. Conservativism doesn’t “prevent” ba’alei teshuva. Jews who are Conservative would probably have an equal or, more likely, lesser degree of Yahadus if the movement did not exist.”

    I’m not sure you’re right on this point. I can’t say for certain and I don’t think there’s a hard and fast rule but many in kiruv will tell you that it’s easier to get an unnaffiliated Jews to look at Judaism than a Conservative Jew who thinks he already knows what it’s all about. This isn’t true for all.

    There are certainly some who will point to their Conservative upbringing and credit it for keeping their interest alive until they could move further but I have met many who became bt’s having never spent a day in hebrew school etc. My point is that there’s no evidence that a conservative background is a necessary prerequisite for a person to become observant later in life.

  41. Nachum says:

    Toby, I’d like to take another country with a similar situation as an example: The UK. Small non-Orthodox movements, most non-religious Jews (until recently) attending Orthodox synagogues. And in the last few decades, half of the Jewish population has disappeared. I’d say South African Jewry has certain factors (maven yavin) binding it together that don’t make it a good example.

    I’m not saying Conservative Judasim helps. But it certainly doesn’t hurt as much as you’d think.

    As to YU, well, you didn’t have my biology professors, to take one example, both well learned in Torah, reasearching scientists, with PhDs in biology and semicha. Neither thought it worthwhile to mention Intelligent Design, which doesn’t belong in science classes. And if you get your facts about any school from a student newspaper…”shards of YU”??? You speak as if it is an institution long dead with no ideals to live up to. You are, happily, quite incorrect.

  42. LAWRENCE KAPLAN says:

    Re mycroft: The professional schools of YU may have been adamantly oposed to appointing a rabbi as President of YU, but in point of fact David Shatz, who is an ordained rabbi and a distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Stern College, as well as an articulate spokesman for the ideology of Torah U-Madda, was OFFICIALLY offered the position of President, but, unfortunately in my view, turned it down. This is a matter of public record. QED

  43. mycroft says:

    “mycroft, I’m not sure what you mean by reference to R’ Belkin’s “shiur.” I’m pretty sure he never had one”

    Not only he had a shiur-he had ashiur before RYBS came to YU. One of the reasons for the relatively close relationship between the Rav and Dr. Belkin was that Dr. Belkin encouraged his better students to go to the Ravs shiur and leave his shiur when the Rav came to YU. There were at least a few Rabbonim who had that YU background -first Dr. Belkins shiur than the Ravs. Sadly, given the time elapsed most are in the Yeshiva shel maala already.
    I find it most interesting why that fact is not known-is it that Dr. Belkins successors at YU were not Roshei Yeshiva and neither wanted to emphasize the point. Note for a President who for better or worse is responsible for most of Present YU-except for Yeshiva College-founded by Dr. Revel-and was President for almost 35 years-there is nothing major named after him at YU.

  44. Nachum Lamm says:

    A good point! There are Belkin scholarships (I was a recepient of one), and there’s “Yad Shmuel Belkin” in the library, but that’s not so much. Only recently was the first book centering on him published, and it was more a memoir of the author than a biography. He awaits his Boswell.

  45. mycroft says:

    “but in point of fact David Shatz, who is an ordained rabbi and a distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Stern College, as well as an articulate spokesman for the ideology of Torah U-Madda, was OFFICIALLY offered the position of President, but, unfortunately in my view, turned it down”
    I certainly have never been related to David Shatz-and for a brief period was overjoyed that YU would have selected David as Prez. Full disclosure-although clearly I am not in David’s league-I like David and for close to 40 years have thought highly of him as a person. That is in addition to anyones reading of his works would think highly of the written works of Rabbi Dr. Shatz. Thus both the gavra of Shatz and the chephza of his works are superb.
    I obviously didn’t have the knowledge of Prof. Kaplan that Prof. Shatz was OFFICIALLY offered the position. I recall from the media that he was the front runner and rumors of his selection. Be that as it may Prof. Shatz was well suited for the position besides being a musmach and a scholar-he is a great speaker, personnable,a good sense of humor and a superb diplomat.
    The problem I have given all the above I can think of no logical reason why he would turn it down. His very worthwhile scholarship would have spread even more with the backing of YUPR he would have gotten some of the notice that he deserves. As President of YU he would have been more able to spread Torah Umaddah than being the very capable author that he is. Undoubtedly, as Pres. he could have concentrated if he so desired on the major themes-and get as much assistance as he desired to do the nitty gritty work that true scholarship demands. Thus even if there was an OFFICIAL offer I have a very difficult time understanding how he turned down the position if it were a viable offer.
    Although Prof. Shatz is a musmach, the Shatz story does not totally contradict my point. As Prof. Kaplan and others undoubtedly are aware there are those with Smicha who choose not to list themselves as Rabbi when not in either Chinuch or pulpit Rabbinate. Of interest in YU torah Online, in the list of teachers to choose is one of the few not listed as Rabbi but as Dr. Unlike Rabbi Lamm who was a pulpit Rabbi, and Dr. Belkin who was a Rosh Yeshiva, Shatz was known as a professor. Many professors who are musmachim do not use the title Rabbi.

  46. mycroft says:

    What I meant to write in my 1224 AM post starting in the 2nd last sentence is that “Of interest is that YU Torah Online Dr. David Shatz is listed as Dr. not Rabbi-one of the few to do so. Unlike Rabbi Lamm who was known for being a pulpit Rabbi and Dr. Belkin who was a Rosh Yeshiva-Shatz was known as a professor….”

  47. David N. Friedman says:

    I knew very little about Mr. Eisen but having now investigated, it appears the Conservative movement has chosen a decent man. At first blush, my initial comment is that it could have been far worse. He does not appear to be a liberal ideologue and he seems to have something at stake in not driving Conservative Jewry over the cliff.

    But it remains to be seen if the radical forces that are very real in the movement carry the day or will he be the kind of leader that keeps the top from blowing off the boiling kettle.

    Conservatives could have chosen many men far worse than this man. Time will tell if he is better than not a disaster.

  48. ralphie says:

    Eisen has taken a position on ordaining gay rabbis – he’s for it:

    http://www.upi.com/NewsTrack/view.php?StoryID=20060412-120509-5306r

    Note that he’s taking Gilman’s lead and not even pretending it has anything to do with halacha:

    “Professor Arnold M. Eisen, incoming chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary of Conservative Judaism in America, said his views aren’t based on Jewish law but by ‘knowing gay and lesbian people, friends, students, coworkers.'”

    Also of interest is UPI’s (or is it Ha’aretz’s?) characterization of outgoing chancellor Schorsch:

    “Ha’aretz reports Eisen replaces the anti-gay Rabbi Ismar Schorsch, who retires this July.”

    Anti-gay! I’m certain Rabbi Schorsch would object (as well he should).

  49. ralphie says:

    Looks like the original article, referenced by ha’aretz, which was then referenced by API, is here:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/11/nyregion/11seminary.html?_r=1&pagewanted=print&oref=slogin

    To be fair, in this article, Eisen states that while it’s his personal opinion that gays should be ordained, the decision should be the outcome of the existing process.

  50. Bob Miller says:

    Where there’s a non-halachic will, there’s a non-halachic way.

  51. David N. Friedman says:

    Now that more details are out on the table, Eisen appears to be a bad choice, although not a total disaster. The JTS needs someone to stop the bleeding and not open up the wounds further.

    At this point, it appears that the Conservative movement lacks the kind of leadership that will strengthen its strongest congregants and will instead, empower its most vocal political members. The result will be that the Conservatove movement will grope further towards Reform and many Conservative congregants will continue to revolt and seek Orthodox shuls to support with our feet and our dollars.

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