Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Eisen to JTS

I'm actually relieved that the new chancellor of JTS is an academic and not a rabbi. Arnold Eisen is a first rate academic, and his election as chancellor (which makes him the head of the rabbinical school) merely underscores what I've known for decades. The Conservative movement is not, and likely never was, an halakhic movement (though the Seminary tried for years to convince itself that it was. They were very unhappy when the late Marshall Sklare, who affiliated with the Conservative moveent, showed that the emperor had no clothes.)

Some are quick to equate Eisen's appointment with that of Richard Joel to the presidency of Yeshiva University. In the sense that the Yeshiva Board was thinking 'out of the box' in drafting President Joel, and thereby enlisted one of its most energetic resources to reinvigorate and extend the reach of Yeshiva's message, there is some room to make the analogy.

On another level, it is totally misplaced. President Joel is not the Rosh Yeshiva of RIETS (R. Nahum Lamm is). He is, in addition, a moqir rabbanan who is a deeply, check that: profoundly, committed shomer Torah u-mitzvot. That constitutes a critical difference from JTS' appointment.

It's also the reason that YU will go מחיל אל חיל, while the Conservative movement will continue being a judaization of what ever trends are popular among its members.

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