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Report on Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals--Activities in Israel

#000000">Shalom uvrakha. I hope you have been having a good summer.

We recently returned from a 3 week stay in Jerusalem. I spent a lot of time
meeting with like-minded individuals and organizational leaders, in
order to foster cooperative relationships between our Institute and
Israeli modern Orthodoxy. Below is a report on activities we have
already undertaken, and that we are expanding in the coming years.

Mathematics and Other Problems for Orthodox Schools

New ideas about the teaching and learning of mathematics present challenges for Orthodox schools. In part, these ideas about the teaching and learning of mathematics are challenging to any schools: teachers lack content knowledge in the subject because they have had insufficient opportunities to learn themselves; teachers are strained pedagogically to teach a subject that they learned differently as students; ambitious aims for subject matter learning compete with a whole host of educational issues that need no enumeration here. For Orthodox schools, new understandings about cognition and learning are particularly fraught.

Who Is (and Is Not) teaching in "Modern Orthodox" Schools: A View from Israel

During the past several years as an educator in the fields of Tanakh and Jewish studies, I have come across a prevalent and disturbing phenomenon: most of the religiously observant student teachers whom I have met are not at all interested in teaching in the mamlakhti-dati school system (the religious public school system in Israel). When the time comes for them to decide on a professional placement, they apply to secular schools, or to the new model of specialized dati-hiloni schools (religious/secular schools), or to pluralistic religious schools.

Rabbi Joseph Messas

Orthodox Jews like to claim that they adhere to an unchanging tradition of laws and beliefs. Based on this understanding, it becomes possible to decide who "is in" and who "is out;" that is, who is part of the Orthodox camp and who must be placed in a different denomination. The term "Orthodox" itself, which is not part of traditional Jewish vocabulary but actually comes from the Christian lexicon, was adopted in order to distinguish different types of Jews. Yet what exactly defines so-called Orthodoxy is not so easy to pin down.

Sounds of Silence

(The title and section headings of this article are taken from the lyrics of "The Sound of Silence", a song written by Paul Simon in 1964, and performed by him and Art Garfunkel.)

1. Hello darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again

"Can you point me to rabbis or other leadership figures in the Orthodox Jewish community who have spoken or written about the moral aspects of the financial crash and the economic crisis? Is there a specifically Jewish ethical and moral response to what happened, relating also to the prominent role of Jews, including and perhaps especially observant Jews?"

Halakha and Diversity

Anyone who is even partially involved in the life of a traditional synagogue becomes aware, sooner or later, that there is diversity within halakha. This becomes even more obvious after one has occasion to participate in activities at several synagogues: it would be rare to find two congregations that follow identical praxis. Traveling abroad, the differences seem all the more salient. Yet most people I know seem to live comfortably with such diversity. Isn't this strange? After all, if there is one God who gave us one Torah, shouldn't there be one norm for all observant Jews?

The Leadership and Traditions of the Sephardi Sages in the Modern Era

One of the special characteristics of the Torah is its dual nature: on the one hand, religious, faith based, and personal; and on the other hand social, political, and national. It guides not only the individual but also the nation. It charges us not only with faith and personal commandments in interpersonal relationships and toward God, but also with establishing a complete society built on its principles: "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Shemot 19, 6), that is, a complete society based on principles of ethics and justice that are "straight and good in the eyes of God." According to the Torah, only in this way can the individual develop his spiritual aspirations.

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik on the Teen Tallit: A Window into the Real Religion of Official Orthodox Judaism

With the exception of Orthodox Jews whose background and heritage traces to Eastern Europe, observant males wear the tallit, or prayer shawl, upon reaching their religious majority, after reaching the age of thirteen years and one day.

After asking teens to wear the tallit upon reaching religious majority, I was told
• it is not our family tradition. The father comes to the synagogue with a hat, the children wear suits and no tallit. [tallis in their pronunciation of Hebrew]
• we do not want to be different
• my parents object and I am required to honor their requests

Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik and Coeducational Jewish Education

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik and Coeducational Jewish Education

By Shaul (Seth) Farber

(Rabbi Farber is founder and director of Itim, an organization in Israel that helps people deal with the rabbinic bureaucracy for life cycle events and matters of establishing Jewish identity. He is the author of "An American Orthodox Dreamer", a book about Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik's work to establish the Maimonides school in Boston.)

On the Nature and Future of Halakha in Relation to Autonomous Religiosity


It is with great hesitation and trepidation that I write this essay. I do not want to be misunderstood. I am in love with Judaism, rabbinic tradition, and halakha. I regard them as holy, and they are at the very core of my existence. Nonetheless, I am concerned about the future of Judaism and its impact on our young people.

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