Rabbi Norman Lamm and Henry Ford: A Tribute to One of Rabbi Lamm’s Hidden Accomplishments as He Enters his Ninth Decade

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9 Responses

  1. I’m not convinced. The mere fact that a transition took place during the lifetime of Rabbi Lamm does not mean that he was a significant factor in bringing about that transition. I was a yeshiva bochur during roughly the same period that Rabbi Lamm was president of YU, and, from my observation, the increasing openness towards college in the Litvishe world was rooted primarily in the chareidi community’s increasing confidence in its ability to interact with American society on its own terms.

    The change was not reflective of any fundamental change in attitudes towards secular college, per se, in the chareidi community. To this day, the overwhelmingly dominant attitude towards secular college is entirely utilitarian. One attends college for the purpose of learning a profession or trade; an approach that has the explicit approval of no less a figure than Rav Elchonon Wasserman zt”l.

  2. Ben Bradley says:

    Similarly not convinced. Association is not the same as causation, to apply a phrase from clinical research. The factors of changing American sociology and American Jewish sociology, the growth of the knowledge economy in general etc., all make it to complex to attribute wide-ranging changes to one man’s thought. Although it’s probably true that the influence of his Torah umaddah theory is well beyond the readership of his book.

  3. Shades of Gray says:

    There is a  YU/Touro connection through Dr. Lander, as R. Adlerstein wrote in 2010(“Bernard Lander, ז”ל”):

    “To me, one of his most admirable traits was concentrating so much of his energy on people who did not even affiliate with his world. Dr. Lander identified primarily with the Centrist Orthodox community, and served as an office of the OU for decades. (His son, however, the Rosh Yeshiva of Ohr HaChaim, learned in Brisk.) Yet the most important beneficiary of his vision is the American charedi world.”

    The Yeshivah world went through cycles regarding college and appears to have found a balance. In New York, it was usual to attend CUNY institutions(even for some roshei yeshivah).  R. Aharon Kotler influenced people towards the “Torah Only” model, and in addition,  there was a need for a  “kosher college”, which avoided issues with CUNY. However, when Touro wanted to open a branch in Monsey in the 1990s, there was fierce opposition. Even regarding the Flatbush campus(it was originally in a rented building), a  Rav(someone I consider moderate) who spoke to  a relative of mine was privately unhappy that the  new building was prominently in the center of Flatbush as it  might entice yeshiva students(he was okay with it for women, or with a building in a different part of the city).

    Today, however, there are ads in Mishpacha for the very same Flatbush institution for both men and women. Furthermore, Dr. Lander’s vision is helping Chasidim as well through Machon L’parnasa in Boro Park. Interestingly, YU has just launched a two-year associate degree program  to “expand opportunities for a broader range of students to take advantage of the University’s unique undergraduate educational experience”.

  4. joel rich says:

    Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik [The Rav זצ”ל] was a Lamborghini — a rare and one of a kind car, hand made by unique craftsmen, who could be admired but not imitated or competed with.


    1.  R’ Lamm did great work and I have no opinion on the impact outside of YU

    2. While the quote above is not the main thrust of the post, it is a topic which has bothered me for quite some time when I hear the proposition that MO/TUM (or whatever) is only for the intellectually gifted/wealthy (or whatever).  I greatly fear that this proposition may reflect some reality on the ground but I think this is a shame.  We practice imitato dei/mah hu af atah even though HKB”H is not truly knowable…..    My intellect/abilities doesn’t hold a candle to R’YBS but I “compete” with him on a daily basis because I try to follow his example knowing HKB”H grades on a curve.


    • mycroft says:

      Re 1 Rabbi Lamm is responsible for the term centrist. It may well have been a marketing decision as President of YU to attempt to attract students who were not followers of Modern Orthodoxy. The net effect has been that the term Centrist has taken off which in some respects is a much less self confident term than Modern Orthodoxy. To some extent it is an interesting historical accident because Rabbi Lamm certainly by the early 60s wrote some of the most positive statements of the importance of secular studies.

    • mycroft says:

      Re your number 2 I believe that you are essentially correct without the Rav intellectual MO would not exist in North America. That does not necessarily mean that the Rav would agree with every position of different MO organizations but he gave the intellectual justification for MO. One can see how important he was for MO, that after he stopped being active there is no major belief in leading RIETS RY in MO. A n obvious difference, there are at least a few talmidim who were encouraged by the Rav to study for a Phd. I am not aware of that being the case today of current leadership encouraging students to receive PhDs  if not leparnassah.

    • dr. bill says:

      Joel, there have been a number of articles discussing the decline in the study of various academic disciplines for a variety of reasons including the current orientation of university professors, the explosion of more skills oriented curricula, etc. all having a negative impact on classical torah u’maddah.  Whether this is a passing phase or a more permanent shift remains to be seen.  But one point those supporting the philosophy of TuM repeatedly stress – without a (strong) grounding in Maddah, some areas of both theoretical Torah and practical halakha are simply not accessible.  One aspect of the Rav ztl’s uniqueness was his ability to master all areas of Torah and most areas of Maddah.  For the rest of us, a (small) subset of both is a lifelong task.

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