I had very low expectations for YU’s new (or newly resurrected) student magazine/blog, Kol Hamevaser, but Gilah Kletenik, the editor at Stern, did not disappoint. Despite a lackluster opening (complete with the word ‘masticating’), Kletenik hit a home run when she finally got down to the business of dealing with Noah Feldman. Here’s the very best paragraph I’ve read on this entire controversy:
Modern Orthodox day schools, while espousing a Torah U’Madda way of life, often fail to demonstrate to their students, who live in a secular world, precisely how to embody this principal. It’s only once we abandon the protective dalet amot of the Yeshiva classroom that we realize how ill prepared we are to confront the secular world around us. Ready we may be to rattle off proofs from Maimonides in support of studying the sciences or such blanket Talmudic statements as “chochma bagoyim ta’amin,” we are often left without the tools to effectively interact with non-Orthodox Jews, let alone non-Jews. No doubt this stems from the fact that we have our own schools, camps and youth groups, as such, there is seldom an opportunity for profound interaction with anyone outside of our closed community. This is a show of our intense insularity, which stems from our innate insecurity – an unhealthy, if well-founded sense of insecurity, justified not the least by decisions such as Feldman’s to intermarry.
This is precisely the disconnect I’ve been talking about! Modern Orthodoxy preaches interaction with the modern world from within the high walls of its own ghettos. Science should be studied, but its conclusions should be rejected if they differ from those that we’ve been taught to accept as Torah. Dignity should be afforded to all types of Jews, but that dignity best not extend to sharing our community institutions with them.
Kletenik puts her finger on the problem in the same spot where I’ve placed mine (I can only hope that if our fingers are touching, it’s not derech chiba) – on our lack of confidence. On our fear that if Orthodox Judaism had to compete openly in the marketplace of ideas, it would lose as badly today is it did in Europe of the 18th and 19th centuries, when some 90% of Jews turned away from traditional Judaism