The Next Generation of Modern Orthodoxy
(The Orthodox Forum)
Edited by Shmuel Hain
Yeshiva University Press, 2012, 359 pages
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - November 30, 2012
This book contains seventeen essays by male and female Modern Orthodox Jews, addressing six subjects: social justice, including Jewish/non-Jewish relationships; personal autonomy and religious authority; spirituality; perspectives on the identity of Orthodox Jews; the future of Orthodoxy's educational system; and the future of Modern Orthodoxy. The essays can be read as examples of gains by Modern Orthodoxy and as instances where the movement needs to accomplish more.
Meir Y. Soloveichik, for instance, offers many illustrations from the Bible and modern Jewish thinkers showing that Modern Orthodoxy must expand its interest to help people of all faiths.
Aharon Horwitz, in another essay, writes about young men and women from a "tightly structured childhood" who drifted toward "experimentation, searching, and identity creation." Rather than remaining in a closed religious community, they live, work, and enjoy a diverse social network, "shifting away from the values and identity taught in childhood and adolescence." Horwitz suggests how to solve this problem; some ideas have been implemented, others have not.
Esti Rosenberg, in another chapter, describes the remarkable swift advancement of female studies in Israel. Just a generation ago, women weren't allowed to be taught Talmud. Today there are female rabbinical court advocates with a strong foundation in Torah knowledge and a high proficiency in learning. Yet, she writes, these well-trained and intelligent women are still not accepted as equals and may not make decisions without the concurrence of their male rabbinic advisor.
Gil Student, to give a final example, tells about the decline and fall of local rabbinic authority. Rabbis are challenged on many sides, including Modern Orthodox Jews and Modern Orthodox rabbis themselves, accepting the view of Judaism's far right that Jews must seek and obey the decisions of the "great rabbis of this generation," even though many of these rabbis have extremist views and little knowledge of secular affairs.
In short, it is certainly good that Modern Orthodoxy is examining itself and improving, and reading these observations will hopefully inspire Modern Orthodox Jews to help produce additional improvements, especially in how women are treated.