Wednesday, July 27, 2016

YU's Next President and the Crisis of Modern Orthodoxy


Yeshiva University faces many challenges in the years to come: Financial, Structural,and Educational. I don't envy either those who are charged with choosing the new president, or the individual charged with charting the course that Yeshiva will adopt in the coming years.
I am, at the same time, concerned that Yeshiva's institutional self-concern will blind it to larger issues that attend to its future. Yeshiva is sui generis as both an educational institution and the formative leader of Modern Orthodoxy. As such, it is not enough to identify the person who can solve its structural woes. One must make sure that whoever assumes the reins also commits himself to identifying those who can advance Yeshiva in its broader, religious role. (In a sense, this was part of Dr. Belkin's genius in letting Rav Soloveitchik carve out his own intellectual bailiwick.)

Yeshiva, if it is to survive both institutionally and spiritually, has to put its mission as the sole specifically Modern Orthodox school in the World on an equal par with other concerns. It is not enough to produce rabbis or to provide an educational experience for MO Jews. Yeshiva's mandate is to chart the ideological waters of an ever more turbulent Western World. We require not only Poskim, Rabbis, Lawyers and Accountants. We require Orthodox intellectuals who can guide the community, all over the world, in courageously engaging, confronting, and criticizing Post-Modernism which has slowly eaten away at the inner sancta of the Modern Orthodox soul. Here, Yeshiva (and the community at large) have failed miserably, just when the need has never been greater. Since the passing of מורי ורבי Rav Soloveitchik זצ"ל and his leading students no significant effort has been invested in developing Modern Orthodox intellectual leaders who are both תלמידי ותלימדות חכמים and who can also engage pagan Post-Modernity on its own turf. The result is uncritical adoption of Post Modern babble by many on the Left and Jingoistic, Simplistic Heresy hunting on the Right. Both are expressions of the intellectual lassitude and flaccidity that has become the sad lot of Modern Orthodoxy. Spiritual and Intellectual Dry Rot will destroy our vision of Torah, and undermine the meticulous world of learning and observance that is at the center of Yeshiva's achievements.

If we are to survive, it is the sacred obligation of the Search Committee and the new President to place not only Yeshiva's body, but its soul as well, at the top of its agenda.
It is a matter of Spiritual Life or Death: Nothing Less.

1 comment:

Zachariah Kerner said...

How is this post met with no comments. Shame on you Rabbi Woolf for keeping your opinions on the down-low. You're among the absolute top minds in the English speaking world. Go out and publish a book on something relevant - we don't need more portraits of 11th century Ashkenazi Jewry (though the portrayal was fantastic).