Feldman’s Bad Faith

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79 Responses

  1. Steve Brizel says:

    WADR, this piece is flawed by its attack on the premises of MO that one can indeed be a college educated professional and be able to be a Torah observant Jew who is textually literate at the highest possible level. IMO,both this piece and Feldman’s article ironically ignore what RYBS maintained is the responsibility of a committed MO Jew-to live a Torah committed life with the full benefit of a college and post graduate education and to concomitantly recognize that sometimes one must live with doubts as opposed to ersatz solutions on difficult hashkafic and halachic issues. Obviously, Feldman’s animus towards Shmiras HaMitzvos reflects an inability to do so. However,it is patently incorrect to say that the same reflects a problem in MO education any more so than kids going off the derech reflect a problem in Charedi education or as stated by R D N Lamm that the Unabomber was a paradigm of his educational environment. FWIW, many of the finest Talmidie Chachamim of our generation , both within RIETS and the Charedi world, attended coeducational schools that were not all that different than Maimonides.

  2. Pinchas Giller says:

    I regret adding to the wearisome storm of comment on this matter, but I have one observation, and I regret the generalizations herein. It seems characteristic of Modern Orthodoxy that secular achievement validates the existence of the community. In my limited experience, I have observed that communities that consider themselves Modern Orthodox will point to their socially prominent members, applaud acceptances to professional schools during the shul announcements and generally take open pride in their MD’s, lawyers, judges, professionals, screenwriters (here in LA), authors and even professors, sometimes. Coming from any other Jewish religious milieu, this emphasis on professional achievement is striking. I have observed that in the liberal movements, social conscience and philanthropy is honored, while on the right, gemilut chasadim, learning and even personal humility and probity are publicly venerated. In the middle, the pursuit of personal achievement is seen as a validation of the community’s mores. In such an environment, it is not hard to imagine that this young man, by achieving success in his field, subliminally assumed that he was “yotzei chovato” in the mind of the community.

  3. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Jonathan Rosenblum: 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.

    Ori: What level of secular knowledge would you consider good? The minimum level required to hold a good job for those of us who aren’t competent to be Torah scholars or business people?

  4. YoelB says:

    A more intellectually honest man than Feldman might have said to himself:

    I heard this rabbi talking about the halacha of violating Shabbat to save a non-Jew. I didn’t like what he said. I’m going to do some research on it, and consult significant poskim from MO, chassidic and Litvish charedi, and Sephardi circles. Then once I know whether my own pained recollection comports with the full picture I’ll publish my piece, rewritten if necessary.

    I doubt that he would welcome a similarly one-sided, slipshod secular legal analysis presented by a student at Harvard Law.

    Anyway, this is hardly the first time that a brilliant, ambitious man has turned his back on his Orthodox upbringing for secular success, and they didn’t all come from non MO backgrounds.
    Some of them have done much worse things than Feldman. We survived them, and we’ll survive him.

  5. Baruch Horowitz 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.”

    There has already been discussion among Modern Orthodox educators in wake of the Feldman piece. Someone has said, for example, that the Feldman essay may be a call for cheshbon hanefesh, and a subject for an AMODS conference(American Association of Modern Orthodox Day Schools). In truth, I don’t see why Modern Orthodoxy can’t continue to adopt some of the positive aspects of charedi education that generate passionate Torah study. While certain aspects of Modern Orthodox ideology are difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile with the specific means and methods which generate passion in Charedi education, there could be, for example, a greater emphasis on boundaries and transcendence of Torah over Maddah.

    However, problems of dissatisfaction and defection are issues in the Haredi world as well. If Modern Orthodox ideology is in danger of erring towards the extreme that blurs the difference between Torah and Maddah, there is room to critique the other extreme of insularity. No one knows what the future will be, but it is certainly possible that even the Israeli charedi system will have to adopt to a more balanced shvil hazahav, and provide options for different types of people(one Charedi spokesperson was quoted in the Forward about larger numbers of Israeli Charedim joining the army and workforce with the blessing and guidance of Gedolim, should the need arise). It is also possible that the tactic of banning and issuing blanket prohibitions(sometimes with harsh consequences) that seek to limit engagement with secular culture, will be reevaluated for effectiveness, as more of charedi leadership become aware of the negative fall out.

    The Feldman essay has indirect relevance for the Charedi community in two other ways. Hilell Halkin, writing in the New York Sun, referred to the Feldman essay as ” a shande far di goyim”, and concluded that “the fact of Jewish particularity will remain and will need to be addressed anew in every generation by Orthodox Jewish thinkers”. As I wrote on Rabbi Adlerstein’s posting, on a radio symposium(Zev Brenner Show) three years ago, both a member of Agudah and RIETS agreed that there needs to be internal dialogue about the issue; this will have continued relevance to the Charedi community.

    Feldman’s essay, could also be seen as part of the culture of blogs, where people post what’s on their minds; this is relevant to the Haredi community as well. On the above-mentioned radio series, sociologist Hella Winston commented that she views long internet postings by Hasidic “rebels” as an attempt to tell community leaders what’s on their mind, but said that it’s poignant that no one apperas to be listening to them. The Feldman essay therefore demonstrates a need to have forums for discussion in the Haredi community, so people will not satisfy that need in negative ways.

  6. lawrence kaplan says:

    For the thousanth time, Mendelssohn NEVER said ”Be a Jew at home and a man abroad.” That was Yalag(Y. L. Gordon). Speaking about the need for fact checkers!

    On the educational issue, I am in agreement with Steve Brizel. Shabbat shalom.

  7. Moshe P. Mann says:

    I strongly condemn Rabbi Rosenblum’s taking the sad case of Noah Feldman and using it as a springboard to attack Modern Orthodoxy. Is he not award that the Maimonides school is headed by the Talner Rebbe shli”ta, someone whom even the “Torah only” school has great respect for? Besides, going off the derech is a phenomenon which occurs across the Orthodox spectrum, as witnessed by the affair in South Fallsburg just two weeks ago.

    Rabbi Rosenblum has also made a grievous error in claiming that the “desire to inhabit multiple worlds simultaneously and to defy contradiction with coexistence” is found solely among the Modern Orthodox. I can attest that the black hat Yeshiva high school that I attended emphasized pretty much the same thing, with all of their AP courses and science fairs above and beyond the state requirements. Shame on him for promoting schisms among Jewish groups when, tachlis, there isn’t really that much difference.

  8. Melanie says:

    Mr. Rosenblum, such pot-shots are beneath you. You carefully detail how this guy has spurned modern orthodoxy, and then promptly slap the movement in the face.

    If you want to discuss modern orthodoxy’s shortcomings, then do it. But with analysis! (Certainly you learn some of that in the gemara-only Charedi education…..)

  9. Nachum Lamm says:

    “His piece serves as a warning against the easy assumption that the best in secular learning can be readily reconciled with passionate Torah study.”

    I don’t think anyone’s ever claimed that Feldman ever engaged in “passionate Torah study.”

    “Maimonides has produced hundreds of Ivy League graduates, but few distinguished Torah scholars.”

    You know this to be a fact, Mr. Rosenblum? I know quite a few graduates of Maimonidies who are quite learned. If you’re looking for “distinguished Torah scholars,” well, show me any institution (post-1940) that’s produced any more than a “few.”

    I have a theory, by the way, that if anything, the Times editors and their ilk are probably more disturbed by Modern Orthodoxy than it’s more right-wing siblings. Chassidim, in their mind (which would include anyone in hats and dark clothes, Chassid or not), are quaint anachronisms, easily dismissed and/or romanticized as the mood strikes them. More modern Orthodox Jews are more of a “threat” to their way of thinking, or their ability to rationalize their own non-observance. Comes Feldman with the gift of “proving” that they are just as “medieval” as the Charedim, and they lap it up.

  10. Steven Pudell 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.”

    Rosenblum appear to take some solace that while Orthodoxy was attacked — at least it was “modern orthodoxy.” When a “chasid” or “charedi” person was hauled off in handcuffs on the evening news or front page of the local newspaper, would he be quick to conclude that there is a flawed assumption that passionate Torah Study can be easily reconciled with moral behavior. Furthermore, while I do not know about Maimonides — certainly orthodox shul after orthodox shul, day school after day school, and kiruv organization after organization is staffed and lead by rabbis who are graduates of schools similar to Maimonides. Of course, Mr. Feldman’s article begs the question. Were Maimonides or other schools like it cease to exist — would those students leave their home towns to fill the halls of Lakewood Yeshiva High Schools, Mir, Chaim Berlin? I would guess probably not. To use the spiritual tragedy of Noah Feldman as an opportunity to take aim at the Modern Orthodox community at large, while not suprising, is certainly regrettable.

  11. Robert Lebovits says:

    It is three weeks since the NY Times published the Feldman piece, yet it continues to generate reactions from thoughtful people about the state of ….what exactly? It doesn’t take a mental health professional to identify the egotism and self-serving character of Feldman’s sophistry. Given his obvious narcissism, I have no doubt he is keenly aware of the agitation his essay has stirred and he’s relishing every minute of it.
    So why ARE we so taken up by his complaints? They are so easily refuted by any thoughtful analysis, it can’t be because we are stmied by them. Could it be that we have unwittingly allowed ourselves to be duped into falling for the distorted worldview that he so cleverly contrives? Noah Feldman tells us what an exceptional person he is: Maimonides valedictorian; Harvard alumnus; Harvard Law professor; thinker and legal scholar. His CV is echoed by the Times and other writers who tell us “I knew him when…and he was extraordinary”. So now we should listen to him when he lectures the Orthodox world on its foibles? Is he Tevye saying “When you’re rich they think you really know?” The sum total of his JEWISH scholarship is his high school education – hardly a credible data base no matter how good Maimonides may be. If he were not a Harvard professor we wouldn’t give his comments any consideration at all. His secular/academic credentials ought not give him any greater standing to critique the Jewish world – unless we buy into the false premise that secular knowledge is the equivalent of Torah knowledge and therefore his words deserve a response. In giving Feldman’s article so much thought we have been coopted to accept a vision of the world that is antithetical to yiddishkeit.
    A man wrote a piece on his Jewish experiences and it has become an inkblot test upon which we have projected whatever conflicts we may have living in two worlds. That really is an achievement, though likely not the one he may think he achieved.

  12. joel rich 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.

    Please expand – are you suggesting we provide poor secular learning so as to be able to reconcile with passionate torah study? What exactly do you mean by reconcile? Is it the information (i.e. keep our folks shielded from facts because they may be inconvenient) or time (i.e make sure a journalist spends as little time on her articles as possible so she can be passionately studying torah)

    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.

    I assume you have spoken to the administration at Maimo or done an empirical study to determine their emphasis or are these 2 sentences unrelated? Can you provide your definition of distinguished torah scholars? Can you provide ratings for other yeshivot as well?

    KT
    Joel Rich

  13. David N. Friedman says:

    “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,”…..
    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,…”

    News coverage of the Jewish world is painfully negative and the best answer to Jonathan Rosenblum’s question is that there is a great deal of animus against Judaism in the eyes of secular Jews. I have encountered literally dozens of horrible features which attempt to convince the liberal readers of the magazine or newspaper that all things Orthodox are to be avoided. The punchline is that it is surely best to stay secular since a noble person should never join the path of a supposedly backward, bigoted and strange people who oppress members and act like a cult.

    This article exists since it suits the editorial policy of the NYT–just as other articles bashing religious Jews have been penned in so many other popular papers and magazines.

  14. alex glasenberg says:

    Congratulations you have done it again,I am surprised you have not blamed Yeshivat Keren B’yavneh and Bar Ilan for producing Amir and YU for Goldstein..It is obvious that the situation in Poniewiz, Ramat Bet Shemesh and Neturei Karta must also be blamed on their secular influences: We Jews have a history of Jewish enemies and misfits..but you seem to find them only in the Modern Orthodox world..all others are Tzaddikim. Rabbi Wein said it best: do not confuse Jewish religion and values with Jews.

  15. Menachem Lipkin 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.”

    This is utter nonsense. Rosenblum spends the majority of his piece pointing out that Feldman is an aberration to orthodoxy and then perversly tries to hold Feldman up as a poster boy for his own, at best, misguided image of modern Orthodoxy.

    Up to that point, Rosenblum had a terrific article excoriating and exposing Feldman. In summation of the article Rosenblum had a unique opportunity to take the high road and show a unified Orthodox front against Feldman’s brand of anti-Orthodox bile which, let’s face it, all orthodox camps are facing on an increasing basis. And yet, he chose the low road of illogically, and inaccurately attacking modern Orthodoxy bring him down several notches in this readers eyes and I’m sure in the eyes of many others who had previously held him in high esteem as a passionate yet moderate voice of reason in the Chareidi world.

    What a shame.

  16. mycroft says:

    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.

    Not true-many Rabbonim who are graduates of Maim-including but not limited to obvious talmedei chachamim-Rabbi Chaim soloveitchik, Meir Twersky, Moshe Twersky.

    many of the finest Talmidie Chachamim of our generation , both within RIETS and the Charedi world, attended coeducational schools that were not all that different than Maimonides.

    while we are at it-name the American born talmeidei chachamim of the past century-how many spent some time in Public Schools!!!

  17. Mark says:

    Steve,
    “WADR, this piece is flawed by its attack on the premises of MO that one can indeed be a college educated professional and be able to be a Torah observant Jew who is textually literate at the highest possible level.”

    Perhaps I misread JR’s words but I didn’t hear that assertion in his article. He didn’t say that one cannot become what you describe. Rather, he highlighted the fact that placing secular education on par with Torah accomplishment CAN easily lead to this sort of distortion. I don’t believe you’ve disproven this assertion.

    FWIW – if you read Dr. Lamm’s open letter to NF it provided an excellent example of precisely this sort of confusion and I was surprised that few commented upon it. He closed by expressing his deep dissapointment in NF’s article and how he had followed his career until now and had derived “so much nachas” from it. Really? Did Dr. Lamm really derive nachas from Noah Feldman who rejected his entire religious upbringing, proudly married a non-Jewish woman, and fought against the Tenafly Eruv? What exactly gave him nachas? If this doesn’t strike you as confusing, then there’s not much more to discuss. It’s a sad but telling distortion of the the concept of Torah UMadah IMHO.

  18. Jewish Observer says:

    is it not gratuitous to act so surprised at RJR’s swipe at MO?

  19. dr. william gewirtz says:

    You write:

    “His piece serves as a warning against the easy assumption that the best in secular learning can be readily reconciled with passionate Torah study”

    readily – obviously not. passion leaves little time for anything else.

    You write:

    “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.”

    All Torah learnings are not even “fully compatible”; we do have a notion of eilu v’eilu. this is hardly the place for a discussion of multiple truths.

    “Not suprising” – perhaps you define suprising differently.

    Feldman has selected the “savory bits”, I suspect your desire to dramatize overcame your ability to write clearly. I doubt you meant that, even jokingly it is in poor taste.

    in some sense your attack on MO is much more bothersome to me than Feldman’s given its multiplicative effect on many within our community who find your insights not just acceptable, but perceptive.

    Why the need to attack?

  20. Eliyahu says:

    It is true that very often, may be more often than not, torah u’madda becomes torah and entertainment (as discussed in the Jewish Action article in an issue celebrating R’ Aharon Lichtenstein’s 70th birthday), or sometimes just entertainment. Complex messages are hard to transmit, many people only get a part of the picture. Still, what was the point of writing this piece? To start yet another round of mutual recrimination? Will some good really come of this, and if it will, does it justify giving a guy like feldman additional time in the limelight?

  21. Steven Pudell says:

    So upset, I was at R. Rosenblums, earlier attacks on modern orthodoxy, I let the worst one slip by:

    “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.”

    This statement is so ridiculous as to be meaningless.
    First, Professor Feldman is not modern orthodox. He married a non Jew, is not Sabbath Observant and takes up causes against the orthodox community. Is Rabbi Sxhachter-Shalomi Lubavitch? Are other unnamed, graduates of black hat yeshivas who deviated from their teachings — also blots upon their yeshiva’s record.

    Second, who in modern orthodoxy requires such a bifurcated life? Not RYBS? Not Rav Schachter? NOt Rabbi Lamm? This argument is the worst of straw men.

    Third, which Modern Orthodox schools ask for such a bifurcated life. Does YU — where many of its students learn from 9-3 and others from 9-1. Where there are no secular studies in the morning? Where does a good or very good secular education necessarily weaken Judaism?
    The argument has been long since discredited — but R Rosenblum figures — its still viable and worth a twirl.

  22. Ahron says:

    Could Jonathan Rosenblum please detail for us which elements of “secular learning” cannot be reconciled with the Torah? Does it include studies in constituional law? Western legal thought? The interplay of religion with civil law? Philosophy? Those are the areas in which Feldman excelled (and today specializes), and during which studies he is said by people who know him to have been a practicing Orthodox Jew. He reportedly discontinued his Orthodox Jewish lifestyle while at Yale Law School, after his earlier studies at Harvard and Oxford Universities.

    Is there something in the Yale Law School curriculum that is irreconcilable with the Torah? What do Orthodox lawyers and graduates of Yale say? I had, until just now, learned that there is no element of worldly knowledge that is not included within the Torah’s breadth and vision. Is this wrong? Is the Torah in fact weaker and narrower than we thought? Narrower than the Sages insist?

    Or perhaps Jonathan Rosenblum is turning over the wrong rocks.

  23. Nachum Lamm says:

    Mark, anyone who read that article and knows R’ Lamm even only from his writings knows that he was being overly polite when he wrote that. Obviously he didn’t get nachas from all those things.

  24. Ari says:

    As a journalism enthusiast, I quite agreed with the Mr. Rosenblum’s question as to why the New York Times would print something that didn’t even make an attempt to broaden the particular to the universal. Was Feldman’s experience representative of a broader problem in other religions? Feldman was either too lazy or angry to even try to extrapolate. Hence, an article that served no purpose but to inflame.

    I was with you, Mr. Rosenblum. But then, unfortunately, you veered into an ad hominem attack on modern Orthodoxy. To me, this seemed richly ironic, because my impression is that Rosenblum is, himself, a product of a modern orthodox yeshiva (Chicago Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, chartered in 1922 as one of the first Modern Orthodox Jewish institutions of higher education in America.)

    As it happens, one of Feldman’s classmates shown in the famous reunion newsletter picture is rav-caliber, and is considerably more learned than me, who had a yeshivish background. As JR certainly knows, modern orthodox schools do not preach secular superiority or even secular and religious equivalency; rather, the religious colors and informs the secular. Not vicer versa.

    I will allow that the probability of manufacturing talmidei chachachim is probably lower in a Maimonides type of school, but a) I’m not so sure it’s a stastically-significant difference and b) who cares? Yissucher needs Zevulun, and vice versa.

    I am proud of the readership’s spirited, correct and respectful response to JR’s post, whose perfectly good thesis took a hard right and careened into a puzzling polemic against his co-religionists.

  25. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    The message is that whenever there is a Jew who is on one hand bright and successful and on the other hand dissatisfied with Judaism, the enemies of the Jewish people and Torah values will jump at the metziah and make them members of the Council on Foreign Relations or whatever. What made that particular Jew go that particular way is probably idiosyncratic to that person and I would be wary of drawing conclusions about the particular school, shul, youth movement or other institution he or she attended. The rest of the people in the picture were, after all, not like NF.

  26. Joe Fisher says:

    Menachem Lipkin, can you please name all the Torah giants who also got graduate degrees from Ivy League universities?

  27. Pinchas Giller says:

    Re #15: Rav Twersky, the Talner, went to Boston Latin! That’s one.

  28. David F. says:

    Both Feldman and Rosenblum labor under the impression that it is necessary to be printed in, and respond to, the New York Times. The Agudah spends far too much time worrying about what is written about them in this paper, and actually sends out quarterly reports to its members and ex members (I fall within one of the latter two categories) calling attention to the fact that it has written a letter to the Times. These folks are showing their age. The paper doesnt matter anymore, if it ever did. It has been balkanized by its politics. The 35 and under generation doesnt even read newspapers anymore, period, regardless of politcal affiliation.

    And I fully agree that it was both erroneous and undignified of JR to attack Maimonides and, by implication, all of Modern Orthodoxy as he did.

  29. ben yisachar says:

    i kind of thought that this sort of article was beneath Yonasson Rosenblum.

    menachem

  30. Mark says:

    Nachum,

    “Mark, anyone who read that article and knows R’ Lamm even only from his writings knows that he was being overly polite when he wrote that. Obviously he didn’t get nachas from all those things.”

    I grant you that and thank you for bringing it to my attention. I must confess however, that it’s still troubling. Why say it at all? If he didn’t want to call him an outright embarrassment [which he is] I can understand. But why pretend that he was a Nachas? What message does that send to his readers who revere him as a prominent voice on the MO scene?

    You’re free to disagree, but to me, there’s a definite level of confusion on this point and if the MO world is smart, they’d use this opportunity to clarify their views on this point and make it clear that they don’t countenance any such behavior. It would be more than just a good PR move, it’s essential for the constituents to be as clear about this as humanly possible. Right now, I’m not sure it is in the minds of many.

    For those who have trouble following my logic consider the regular Chareidi bashing posts that highlight the financial improprieties of an individual and claim that Chareidim are not sufficiently sensitive to how wrong this is because the Rabbanom don’t condemn it in strong enough terms….This is not much different if at all. Instead of huffing and puffing about the disingenuity of JR – stop and think about his message for a moment. It’s the same one I hear all the time from the likes of NL, ML, JO, SM, JR and many other board regulars.

  31. Ari says:

    The Lubavitch Rebbe went to the Sorbonne. In some ways, I am more impressed with someone who engaged the outside world and not only emerged intact, but whose faith was actually strengthened. I am not recommending it for everyone, but for those who can do it, more power to them.

  32. HILLEL says:

    THE FATAL FLAW IN MODERN ORTHODOXY…
    …is its admiration of the gentile culture and its definition of success (in the gentile culture).

    You become what you admire–it’s human nature!

    (NOTE: When I speak of MO, I’m not talking about a Jew who makes Torah living his primary goal, while working in a professional field. I’m talking about a person who defines sucessful living as being a “cultured professional,” who may or may not spend some minimal time on “religious pursuits.”)

    Inevitably, there will be more MO Noah Feldman’s who aspire to the pinnacles of “success,” as defined by Modern Orthodoxy.

    To those in the MO community who stay loyal to Torah, I wiah you all success. But, I would be remiss if I didn’t warn you that you’re in a dangerous position, and your children are at risk.

  33. steven Pudell says:

    “Menachem Lipkin, can you please name all the Torah giants who also got graduate degrees from Ivy League universities?”

    I am not sure what that question seeks to clarify. I think we can agree that Harvard and Yale do not produce, on the whole, “Torah Giants.”

    But then again, it is like asking how many neuro-surgeons has the Mir Yerushalayim produced. I am assuming not very many — but that too is a ridiculous question.

    The question was how many Torah Scholars has Maimonidies or schools like Maimonidies produced. I would like to believe the answer is many. Certainly, Maimonidies and other like schools have produced many rabbis and leaders in the modern orthodox community. I suppose to be a “Torah Giant” everyone has to accept you as one. Even RYBS — while held to be one by the centrist community — may get some support in the Yeshiva world to hold that “title” — but only begrudgingly. To be a totally accepted Torah Giant — by the entire “world” — one has to leave (more or less) his affiliation with the Centrist community. Rav Hershel Schachter is considered the pre-eminent poske in the Centrist community — but its not like his picutre is in the “Week in Review” in the HaModia.

    Rabbi Rosenblum’s conclusion, unmasks his agenda at attacking (or at least taking pot shots at) the Centrist community

    “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.”

    Of course, Noah Feldman does not even demonstrate the dictum brought by R. Rosenblum. Noah Feldman married a non jew, supported the Borough of Tenafly in its fight against Orthodoxy Jews and is no longer Sabbath observant. I am pretty sure that Maimo neither preaches or encourages such a “bifurcated existence.” How does Rabbi Rosebblum conclude that Maimonides encourages such a thing? Does he believe that YU advocates the same thing? How does he know? Im sure that he does not want to point to Noah Feldman as the proof — because that game is too painful to play.

  34. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    “while we are at it-name the American born talmeidei chachamim of the past century-how many spent some time in Public Schools” Rav Gifter went to public elementary schools in Baltimore. (He also did graduate study in history at Yale, but left before getting a degree.) Rav Chaim Dov Keller went to NYC public schools until he went to YU.

  35. Joe Fisher says:

    Lovely! The Talner just signed the much-maligned-on-this-site psak forbidding all arvei shira.

    If the MO want to claim him, then they better forget about all those loooovely evenings of song.

  36. Shmuel says:

    RJR says When equal emphasis is placed on the curriculum of the dominant secular society and Torah learning, the former will trump the latter even if this were a correct statement, (which the number of MO rabbis and scholars will readily demonstrate is not the case) he seems to be implying that there is something deficient with Torah (chas v’shalom) otherwise why would a student opt for a secular academic (ofen poorly compensated monetarily) position rather than becoming a Torah scholar of distinction?

  37. Baruch Horowitz says:

    For the third(or second) Shabbos, we were discussing the Feldman article. Someone noted that Slabodka and Volozhin also had their share of Maskilim, and that a well-known individual in the Conservative Movement went to a Brooklyn Haredi yeshivah.

    Any improvement in MO education will need to come from internal reflection, which is more effective than external critiques. The haredi world can use the Feldman article as a springboard for discussion about the opposite extreme of insularity as an effective or ineffective means of protecting against secular culture and the effectiveness or lack thereof of bans; particularism versus universalism; and the need for forums for open discussion to prevent negative public airings of issues(such as happened in the Noah Feldman case and in other situations).

    There is room for a analysis and fair comparison of the strengths and weaknesses of Modern Orthodox versus charedi education, and there is no reason why each can’t learn from the other certain positive aspects. If Jonathan Rosenblum’s article can stimulate a discussion of strengths and weaknesses on both sides, then I see it as beneficial.

  38. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “Off the Derech” is a universal phenomenon. To quote Dr. Aharon Hersh Fried in the recent Hakirah Journal(“Are Our Children Too Worldly?”):

    “To different degrees the problem of “children at risk” or “children alienated from, or just cold and indifferent to, Yiddishkeit” exists about equally in every segment of the frum community, from the very chassidic, through the yeshivish, to the Modern Orthodox. I don’t really see any fundamental differences between the fences built by Torah Vodaath, Chaim Berlin, and the Mir and the fences built by Satmar, Skver, Bobov, and Gur, certainly not in the past 10-15 years. My experience is that even the more “Modern Orthodox” have similar, though lower, fences, accompanied by similar problems and conflicts. Thus each group at its level ought to look at what it is doing”

    Also, while I agree that one needs to demonstrate the point, it is not only Modern Orthodox who have argued that a lack of greater emphasis on TIDE in the current Haredi milieu is a negative factor, but Hirschians as well; this is the opposite extreme of certain expressions of Modern Orthodox ideology that appear to blur the distinctions between Torah and Maddah, which Jonathan Rosenblum focused on.

    See this Avodah post:
    http://www.aishdas.org/avodah/ vo…16n027.shtml#08

  39. SM says:

    The potshot at MO was entirely uncalled for. The hypothesis that schools which strive for a good secular education produce self-hating Jews who insist on doing whatever they like is produced like a rabbit out of a hat.

    In order to get the ‘message’ home it was necessary to characterise Feldmann as the ‘brightest and the best’. By whose criteria? That sort of false attribution makes one question the purpose of the entire article, especially given the number of Feldmann artisles already written.

    So why is it that it is felt acceptable to use a man everyone condemns as a prop for one section of orthodoxy to attack another? Where, forgive me, is the chinuch in that?

  40. Robert Lebovits says:

    Just to be clear, is it the contention of MO “ideology” that Torah study and secular study are equivalent enterprises? That is not the position of TIDE. Rav S.R. Hirsch clearly states that secular knowledge is the “handmaiden” to Torah knowledge which he refers to as “the queen” (M. Breuer, “The Torah im Derech Eretz of S. R. Hirsch”). In his worldview, the latter is an adjunct of the former and never its equal.
    Who does promote the idea of equivalence? If this is not the MO position, then how has RJR vilified MO?
    I have no doubt that the definition of MO is hardly monolithic among the commentators herein. Ari – if you think Skokie represents MO, you haven’t been there in quite some time! Virtually every rebbe and the Rosh Hayeshiva would self-identify as Chareidi or Center-Right at least, and certainly look the part. For that matter, the Chareidi characterization is blurry as well. Torah Vodaath is not Lakewood or Brisk. The elasticity of these terms is so great that it appears to mean exactly whatever someone wants it to mean.
    RJR gives Feldman more credit than he deserves by implying that given his education it’s no wonder he thought he could have it all. I doubt there are many other Maimonides grads who came to the same conclusion though they received the same teachings.

  41. Michael Atlas says:

    Rav Rosenblum,

    AGREEMENT: Although I agree that MO schools’ visions are confused, hashkafos aren’t created by schools. They are ceated by parents. Kids already have hashkafos when they are in 5th grade, even before a rebbe utters a word about the prominance of Torah.

    HOWEVER: You wrote “Maimonides has produced hundreds of Ivy League graduates, but few distinguished Torah scholars”. I’m not sure why those two are PARALLEL. Graduating from an Ivy league school doesn’t make one a “distinguished secular scholar”. “produced hudreds of Ivy League graduates” SHOULD HAVE been paired with talmidim who went to learn in Gush Etzion and other Yeshivot for two/three years of which THERE ARE hundreds. And, AGAIN, the schools don’t create the IVY league push, it’s the parents.

    DISAGREE: You wrote “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.” ALright, that’s not bring rayos from one guy. Poor scholarship. And by the way the MO are not losing more to intermarriage then the Yeshivish or Chassidishe velts.

    Although I agree that a school like Maimonides is way off base in terms of creating Bnei Torah, I think the focus should be more on the parents values then what the schools sets up (granted parents run the school, but my point is that if a Chareidi kid would for some reason would attend Maimonides I don’t think that he would end up with the same haskafos as the other children.

    Michael Atlas

    Michael Atlas

  42. Menachem Lipkin says:

    Joe Fisher asks:

    “…can you please name all the Torah giants who also got graduate degrees from Ivy League universities?”

    Firstly, America has produced relatively few “Torah giants” in general. Many great Torah scholars do have advanced degrees. Others are more qualified to enumerate them than me. mycroft provided a list of Torah giants who specifically graduated from Maimonides.

    Furthermore, your comment is not relevant to the attack Rosenblum was making. Which was that somehow the existence of a single “Noah Feldman” indicts the Hashkafa of Torah U’mada.

    The measure is not of Torah giants or “distinguished Torah scholars” but of good frum Jews in all walks of life. That fact that Rosenblum went to such lengths to show that Feldman is an aberration disproves his latter screed against modern Orthodoxy.

    Also, your question is at the college level while Rosenblum’s attack was at the high school level. A world of difference. It’s probably fair to say that someone choosing an Ivy League education is more likely to be headed for a secular profession. So what? What’s important is that as a graduate of a yeshiva high school, who probably spent a year or two learning in Israel, he’s most likely going to be a professional who also builds a bayis ne’eman b’yisroel. However, as mycroft’s examples illustrate, having attended a mondern Orthodox high school does not prevent one from becoming a Torah Scholar. (Not to mention the incredible number of professionals who are ALSO Torah scholars.)

  43. dr. william gewirtz says:

    #26 on your question to menachem lipkin:

    a number of gedolim in history had extensive secular knowledge (in some or many disciplines) though certainly not a formal degree; the list is quite rich. Formal phd’s are a relatively recent phenomena; in the previous generation RYHH ztl (who actually attended the Sorbonne), RYYW ztl and RYBS ztl come to mind and there are others not quite in their league IMHO. you can debate its value, but note the extent of commentary on parts of Mishneh Torah and other works.

    In terms of the current generation of ivy league (equivalent) PhD’s, there are a very limited number of PhD/Torah scholars in the academic world and at least one very notable Gadol who is a traditional rosh haYeshiva. While the number is small, the number of gedolim who have mastered all major parts of our Mesorah, regardless of their schooling, is also not all that extensive. How many gedolim have/had RYK ztl’s knowledge of tanach (and trop) regardless of whether they read the Biur? Talent across multiple disciplines, especially for a world-class scholar in any discipline is not common.

  44. lacosta says:

    in fairness to the large branch of O judaism which does believe in torah and modernity, one could look at http://www.hirhurim.blogspot.com for a level-headed fair minded critique of the position articulated in this article , attacking Maimonides type schooling….

  45. norm depalma says:

    Number 11, from robert lebovits is one of the only rational comments on this topic…the rest of you are blinded by degrees, degrees which have no relevance to Feldman’s knowledge of Judaism.
    As I have stated on this topic elsewhere, try judging Feldman on the content of his message—and you will see that he has a shallow and laughable understanding of Judaism…his boast of knowing the ‘better part of the Hebrew Bible, by heart, notwithstanding…
    The only reason to continue this seemingly endless discussion is to provoke action. To provoke the NYT to fire him—to prevent this preening popinjay from having a forum to continue his quest to become a combo Thomas Friedman/Clarence Thomas—a ‘Davka Lehachis’nik for the masses—who will continue to reduce complex problems to simplistic absurdities and who will reflexively contradict and combat those who raised him and supported him.

    It’s been 3 weeks since this started. To me, what has been even more astounding than Feldman’s article has been the resulting comments and articles. I would estimate that 95% have missed the point entirely. There has been hilarious amounts of brow-beating and soul-searching. Very little critical reasoning. Are all of you that stupid? Are the Yeshiva and Modern Orthodox schools so unable to educate its students?

  46. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    RE: Post No. 33 which states, “Lovely! The Talner just signed the much-maligned-on-this-site psak forbidding all arvei shira.” Wrong Talner. The one who went to Boston Latin was Yitzchak (Professor Isadore) Twersky who lived in Boston and died there about 13 years ago. The one who signed the ban had to be someone else, since dead rabbonim don’t sign bans. Also, how much of a rebbe Professor Twersky was is open to debate. He was the son of a rebbe, but he wasn’t very chassidic. He was more in the derech of his father in law, RYBS, and was very much in admiration of his predecessor at Harvard, Harry Wolfson.

  47. Chaim Wolfson says:

    Mark, more troubling, I think, than Rabbi Dr. Lamm writing that he “derived nachas” from Feldman’s accomplishments, is his “defense” against Feldman’s charge that halachah discriminates against non-Jews: “Why not admire scholars of Jewish law who use various legal technicalities to preserve the text of the original law in its essence, and yet make sure that appropriate changes would be made in accordance with new moral sensitivities?… This is a legitimate way for the Talmudic and post-Talmudic rabbis to protect the sacred Shabbat laws, and by appropriate halachic legislation enable us to live without violating our moral conscience.” What type of message does that send? That parts of the Torah are no longer relevant, so changes must be made to make it conform to contemporary “moral values”? 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. They apply in the twenty-first century to no lesser degree than they applied 3300 years ago. Adhering to those values doesn’t “violate our moral conscience”; on the contrary, they are meant to define our moral conscience. Of course, we cannot help but be influenced by the values of the secular society in which we live, and thus we often have difficulty in understanding the Torah’s position. But that does not mean that we need not accept it. We must view what we don’t properly understand as we would view any “shvere Rambam”. Rabbinic legislation based on “darkei shalom” and “eivah” does not reflect any recognition of a need to bring Torah in line with current “moral sensitivities”; it changes nothing on the theoretical level, only on the practical level.

    Much as I would like to believe that Rabbi Dr. Lamm was simply speaking to Feldman in a language he, Feldmam, could understand, I fear that his explanation does, in fact, represent what he believes. Given that Rabbi Dr. Lamm understands (as he writes in his book “Torah u’Madda” p. 236) that “Torah u’Madda” philosophy teaches that “Torah, faith, religious learning on the one side and madda, science, worldly knowledge on the other, together offer us a more over-arching and truer vision than either one set alone… both together present the possibility of a larger truth”, it is very understandable that he should feel that contemporary moral values (arguably a form of madda) should play a role in defining that “larger truth”. Rabbi Dr. Lamm has succeeded in reconciling such a position with a commitment to halachah. But can it be denied that this concept poses challenges and dangers to younger, less sophisticated minds than his, as may be found in, say, Maimonides High School?

  48. Chaim Wolfson says:

    In my earlier comment, I forgot to mention that the idea that Torah should shape our moral conscience cuts both ways. For an interesting application of this concept “l’kula”, see the first paragraph of “Igros Moshe, Even Ha’Ezer” vol. II #11. IMO, the sentiment Rav Moshe expresses there is worthy of being adopted as a guide for life.

    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 was glad that he did (albeit in somewhat bowdlerized form), because I expected it to engender a spirited debate of the issues. Unfortunately, that did not happen. The debate turned nasty rather quickly, with most respondents simply questioning Jonathan’s motives, attacking his integrity and credibility, or engaging in ad hominem attacks, all without actually addressing the issue he raised. Even those few who kept their comments to the world of ideas missed the point, IMHO. As I understand it, Jonathan’s point is not what MO theory is in its purest form, but how that theory is diluted by those who do not understand it properly but neverthless claim that it guides their lives. Neither Feldman nor Jonathan “ignore[d] what RYBS maintained is the responsibility of a committed MO Jew-to live a Torah committed life with the full benefit of a college and post graduate education and to concomitantly recognize that sometimes one must live with doubts as opposed to ersatz solutions on difficult hashkafic and halachic issues.” Feldman did not ignore it, because he never truly understood Modern Orthodoxy. Jonathan can’t be accused of ignoring it either, because his point precisely is that Feldman misinterpreted MO philosophy in so so monstrous a manner. Jonathan is not concerned with how Rav Soloveitchic defined Modern Orthodoxy, but with how John or Jane Doe does, so he is entirely justified in holding up Feldman as an example, an extreme one to be sure, of the inherent dangers of misinterpretation.

    Of all the comments, I think Boruch Horowitz’s came closest to the mark. 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 Maimonides. Is Feldman being disingenuous? Undoubtedly, as his attack on the mitzvos, which all segments of Orthodoxy hold dear, makes clear. But if he can twist Modern Orthodox teachings the way he did, does not the danger exist that others may as well, even if in less extreme fashion, and not deliberately but through ignorance?

    All in all I was very surprised that Jonathan’s post elicited such a negative response. 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? And has not the very problem Jonathan raised been discussed and debated – with civility – by the various contributors? Here is one qoute: “[The Feldman] article should and must serve as a wake up call for MO rabbis, educators and parents. Like it or not, one can be a class valectorian in an eminent MO yeshiva, runner up in the Chidon HaTanach, attend Harvard, Yale and Oxford and lose one’s faith committment rather easily if one does not have ample and thorough preparation in one’s home, community and school as to Torah, Mesorah, Halacha and Hashkafa. Not at all of us are Yechidei Sgulah who can emerge from such a milieu unscathed.” That was not R’ Aharaon Kotler writing, it was Steve Brizel (in “Feldman’s Folly”). And I recall Dr. Gewirtz commenting that “Modern Orthodoxy is the more dangerous, hence the more rewarding, ideology” (or something along those lines). So why jump all over Jonathen when he points out the dangers? Surely it can’t be because he had the temerity to point out a fault of a group with which he does not identify. After all, the threads of this blog are replete with criticisms of the faults – real and perceived – of Chareidim, written by many of the same respondents who take Jonathan to task on this thread, and who do not identify with the Chareidi school of Orthodoxy. And who, of course, never, ever generalize!

  49. Nachum says:

    Mark, I will concede all that in a heartbeat. That said, in this particular instance, I think it’s pretty clear R’ Lamm was, first, being polite, and, second, was describing “nachas” at Feldman’s accomplishments which didn’t contradict Orthodoxy (and likely predated any aveiros he did).

    Ari, the Lubavitcher Rebbe did not go to the Sorbonne, but you’re on the right track there. Move over to Berlin, you get a goldmine.

    Lawrence Reisman, Rav Gifter, of course, went on to what became YU, as did a number of gedolim (R’ Avigdor Miller, R’ Scheinberg, R’ Wachtfogel etc.), but that doesn’t prove much, considering the history.

    Joe Fisher, no one is “claiming” anyone. Just listing people who went to certain schools and wound up as gedolim. But hey, I’m willing to lose “Jewish music.”

  50. Ari says:

    Nachum, the Lubavitcher Rebbe did, in fact, attend the Sorbonne in France, where he studied math and science. Please see the Chabad Web site for more information on those years:

    http://www.chabad.org/global/about/article.asp?AID=244372

    I personally am friendly with someone whose father studied with the Rebbe at the Sorbonne during that time.

    Chaim: As to JR’s flippant dismissal of MO, it aroused ire in the readership because of its tone. (That very same tone has been used JR in other columns, where he has referred to talmidei chachachim by their last names. One of the readers of this blog has called him on it) That JR is, himself, a fine byproduct of an MO school makes his comment all the more perplexing.

    Chaim, you make a good point about the inherent risks of MO, but to be fair, there are equal risks by a monochromatic approach to daas. Just as someone can use MO to justify their non Jewish behavior (and I don’t believe Feldman was actually doing that), a disaffected yeshiva or chassidishe bochur can as easily fall into the trap of believing that appreciating secular knowledge invariably contradicts Judaism.

    He may believe that he needs to leave the fold completely to embrace secular culture and knowledge, because, after all, MO is a pale imitation of the real thing. Or, he may rebel against what he believes to be an intellectually stifling environment, chas v’shalom.

    By the way, one of the qualities I enjoy about this blog is the civil and reasoned trafficking of ideas, not the exchange of pejoratives and invective. So, thank you to fellow readers for making this forum a true intellectual beit medrash.

  51. 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.

  52. 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?

  53. 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.

  54. 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).”

    http://www.maimonides.org/pdf/AnnualOpPlan.pdf

  55. 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.

  56. 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.

  57. 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.

  58. 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.

  59. 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”.

  60. 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?

  61. 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.

  62. 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).

    http://www.yutorah.org/_shiurim/TU6_Schiller.pdf

  63. 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?

  64. 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.

  65. 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.

  66. 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.

  67. 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.

  68. 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.

  69. 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.

  70. 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.

    j

  71. 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.

  72. 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.

  73. Menachem Lipkin says:

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

    (http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?apage=2&cid=1186557463718&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull)

    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

  74. 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.

  75. 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.

  76. 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”.

  77. 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”.

  78. 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.

  79. 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.

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