Saturday, February 12, 2005

Modern Orthodoxy Redux: After a Week's Travel Coast to Coast

This past week I've found myself travelling from Florida to Montreal-Toronto-Losangeles-New Jersey. Everywhere I went I found wonderful Modern Orthodox communities, struggling to sustain themselves ideologically and institutionally. Warmed by the dedication of the people I met, I became further convinced that our community absolutely must redefine its priorities. It is time to do a number of things and let the chips fall where they may.
1) We have to stop chewing ideology and recast the curricula of our schools to reflect our ideals. We need to include spirituality and thinking into the schools (especially the high schools).
2) We have to reach deeper into our pockets and cultivate educators and rabbis to teach a torah curriculum that matches our values. We have to validate Hinnukh/Rabbonus as careers and pay their salaries as to what they're worth to us. What kind of message do we send when we chintz on educators and pay fortunes to other professionals. God doesn't do miracles for those who don't try.
3) We need to take a long look at ourselves and say: Torah UMadda includes Baba Qamma, not just sophisticated conversation about the implications of Peter Berger's writings for religion. It is Torah that carries Madda, not vice versa.
4) There is an enormous Orthodox and Traditional population that is thirsty for non-Haredi Orthodoxy. I meet them literally everywhere I travel. We are duty-bound to meet their needs. We will have a serious price to pay and serious answers to the Divine Tribunal if we do not.


sambor_un-rebbi said...


I fully agree with what you write here. For much too long, the Modern Orthodox community has relied on the Lakewood / Chareidi community in America to supply the Lemudei Kodesh teachers for at least the elementary portion of the education system. Why should it surprise anyone that the most serious students of the modern orthodox are becoming members of the Chareidi camp, if the modern orthodox cannot provide adequate role models for their own young.

A second, related, comment is that for a long time, while there are wonderfull Modern Orthodox communities out here, and they do a great job of setting up Scholar in Residence weekends, when it comes to the average member just spending time in serious learning, that is far and few between. I think that might be changing, and I think it is critical for it to change if Modern Orthodoxy is to succeed. Children pick up very accurately what the values of the adults around them are. If the results of the football games (since we just finished that series of weeks recently) is more important than say discussing the various opinions of the meforshim on the parsha, then that message goes out clearly to the children.

I think there is a significant way to go, till the priorities of the community are properly aligned.

Menachem Butler said...

and your upcoming lecture at YU!

Anonymous said...

Agree with most of your post. But don't talk about the poor salaries of chinuch. My son's MO school has a couple of people earning over 250K.
I know a pre-law advisor who advises his students that chinuch is a more lucrative field than law.
As far as the chareidi world in chinuch certainly for a non-college educated person chinuch pays well.

Shmarya said...

You should start an internet 'kollel' based on the Shema Yisrael Shulkhan Arukh model. But strcture it a different levels so it has a wider reach. Rabbanim could use the cirriculum in their own communities. MO needs it's own Daf-Yomi-style learning that everyone does together in order to truly mold a community. That would work miracles.

Jeffrey said...

That is an excellent idea! I'm going to raise it at the Orthdox Caucus Plenum today.

Uri said...

We also have be willing to contend with the fact that the major initiatives to bring Torah to the people come from Chareidi sources. In addition to Daf Yomi and the internet learning, there are community kollels, upon whose bandwagon YU has been trying to jump, and various other projects.
How do we explain that we almost always arrive on the scene post facto, often to counteract the eefects of Chofetz Chaim or Ohr Somayach in otherwise MO neighborhoods?

Anonymous said...

I think you missed what is by far the most important point of all.

In many MO communities Shmiras Hamitzvos and Yirat Shamayim is lacking. If the MO communities showed equalt commitment to Shmiras Hamitzvos, then perspectives on secular education would not be such a hindrance to those who do not feel comfortable there.

Jeffrey said...

I wouldn't go that far. However, there is a serious lack of spirituality in the MO community seriously undermines our claim for legitimacy.

Anonymous said...

By MO usually tacitly accepting a Torah lite approach from its benefactors it has created a problem for itself. I believe the Orthodox Caucus? has printed an article that refers to the lack of seriousness being a problem . The old question is Modern a noun or an adjective in MO?

Anonymous said...

Hmm. Modern-Orthodox style Daf-Yomi? So we'd do half a daf Talmud a month, plus all relevant rishonim (reading notes to be posted in adavnce on the OC web-site), plus a page of Halachic Man a day, plus Shakepeare yomi (how long would the canon take to complete - Yitzi Blau/Will Lee please help here), plus a bit of Science magazine each day (not real Mada - but not everyone is into litertature and philosophy, so it's good for those who pretend it's what Mada is or for the common folk.....) How long would the shiur go on for?