An Orthodox Island

Summoned: Identification and Religious Life in a Jewish Neighborhood by iddo tavory chicago, 224 pages, $27.50 In a clear plastic Ikea storage bin that my wife and I have been hauling across North America every time I take a new academic job, I recently found an old Christmas card. The card says . . . . Continue Reading »

The Mantle of Elijah

Many think of Modern Orthodoxy as a tepid compromise, Orthodoxy Lite, an accommodation with the values of bourgeois culture, satisfied with mediocrity in the study of Torah and half-hearted about the demand for single-minded commitment to God and His commandments. From the 1930s through the 1980s Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik represented the alternative: an Orthodoxy centered on the service of God even while engaged with and concerned for the rest of humanity, deeply, almost obsessively devoted to the traditional study of Torah even while confronting and learning from the liberal arts. Until this week his son-in-law, Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, was the most prominent exponent of that ideology in Israel, where he was Dean of Har-Etzion Yeshiva, and in the United States, where he frequently lectured and exercised influence via his many disciples. For all his admiration and faithfulness to his masters, R. Aharon fashioned his own distinctive intellectual agenda, while conducting his life with rigorous piety and an ethical sensitivity that had to be seen to be believed. I was a student of both, and now they are both gone. (Link: http://haretzion.org/about-us/rav-aharon-lichtenstein-ztl) Continue Reading »

Realigning Jewish Peoplehood

On July 22, 2007, the New York Times ran an article by Harvard law professor Noah Feldman on the repercussions of his marrying outside his Jewish faith. The article, entitled “Orthodox Paradox,” details how Feldman, a Yeshiva day-school graduate, Rhodes scholar, and all-around Jewish wunderkind . . . . Continue Reading »

We Are Many

A People Divided: Judaism in Contemporary America by jack wertheimer basic books, 267 pages, $25 The slogan of the United Jewish Appeal, the most successful of all of America’s philanthropies in terms of fund-raising, is “We Are One.” The UJA’s success is due to the deep emotional ties of . . . . Continue Reading »

The Unmodern Jew

I “I would like to have an answer. . . . If someone will be good enough to provide the answer I will gladly take his change of garments to the bathhouse for him.” The bit about the change of garments and the bathhouse is talmudic phraseology from tractate Eruvin (27b), indicating a matter . . . . Continue Reading »