Index to TRADITION Symposia and Special Issues

Over the decades TRADITION has published a number of special issues and symposia exploring an array of topics facing Orthodoxy and involving some of the leading writers and thinkers in our community. This index, prepared by Yitzchak Blau, summarizes the topics and voices which have been featured.

The Religious Meaning of the Six Day War (Summer 1968)

This dialogue, conducted soon after the euphoric victory of the Six Day War, includes five thinkers: Rabbis Walter Wurzburger, Norman Lamm, Shear Yashuv Cohen, Dr. Michael Wyschogrod, and Prof. Pinchas Peli. A striking difference emerges between the Americans and the Israelis. While the two Israelis were comfortable asserting that the messianic era had been ushered in, the Americans were much less confident about this, and wary about the dangers of false messianism.

Regarding other issues, Wyschogrod served as the maverick, considering the possibility that the Jewish people might relinquish statehood to save Jewish lives. Other participants refused to consider such an eventuality and some articulated as a matter of simple faith that the Jewish State is here to stay. Wyschogrod also stated that, absent the prophetic word, we cannot definitively say that a historical event was an act of God since the non-believer can always provide a naturalistic explanation. Peli, in contrast, saw the events of the twentieth century (the Holocaust and the birth of the Jewish State) as the clear realization of biblical prophecies.

Interestingly, questions about the legitimacy of messianism and the role of more pragmatic thinking, debates that have influenced Zionist thought for the last fifty years, were already in motion in this symposium the year after the war.

The Jewish Day School: A Symposium (Summer 1972)

The seven Jewish educators participating in this symposium included leading American jewish educators of the time: Rabbis Saul Berman, David Eliach, Joseph Kaminetsky, Haskel Lookstein, Steven (Shlomo) Riskin, Abraham Zuroff, and Dr. Alvin Schiff. They discuss a curriculum with better integration between Judaic and secular studies, a syllabus that would extend beyond Gemara and stress values and not just information, attracting qualified educators and engaging in more teacher training, incorporating informal elements into Jewish education, financial limitations in the day schools, and the challenge of less committed parents.

Bicentennial Symposium: The Jew in America (Fall 1976)

Rabbis Emanuel Feldman, David Glicksman, Shubert Spero, and Israel Tabak explored various aspects of Jewish life in America. Among the issues are the relationship between Jewish values and American values, the challenge of aliya to Israel, Orthodoxy as a minority, and the contemporary role of the rabbinate.

The State of Orthodoxy (Spring 1981)

Twenty-one respondents address the contemporary state of Orthodoxy. There is a strong consensus that Orthodoxy’s greatest success has been the remarkable growth in Torah education after World War II. In terms of our greatest failure, some (Rabbis Reuven Bulka, Emanuel Feldman, Hillel Goldberg, Bernard Poupko) point to the internal bickering and divisions. Others (Dr. David Berger, R. Joseph Grunblatt) express concern about a Modern Orthodoxy that is more a product of weak compromise than ideological fervor. Dr. Joel Wolowelsky contends that Modern Orthodoxy may be a sociological compromise but it is philosophically more of an ideal than the Haredi world view. He further writes that we have not confronted the “Women and Judaism” question adequately.

R. Aharon Lichtenstein bemoaned an Orthodoxy concerned primarily with the kashrut of tuna fish but one lacking a sweeping vision. R. Emanuel Rackman demanded an honest confrontation with modernity. R. Shlomo Riskin worried about “inverted Marranos” who keep all the externals of Judaism while devoid of a robust religious inner world. Finally, R. Marc Angel criticized an Orthodox leadership lacking in courage.

Divided and Distinguished Worlds (Winter 1992)

In this symposium, guest edited by Dr. Rivkah T. Blau, ten respondents confront questions about kiruv, Jewish unity, and modern Jewish women. Several writers focus on questions of yichus related to marriage, divorce, conversion, and proving Jewish identify. Dr. David Berger suggests that Israel adopt a form of civil marriage. R. Michael Rosensweig writes that issues of lineage demand rabbinic consensus.

Jacob J. Schacter provides sources endorsing kiruv efforts and R. Irving (Yitzchak) Breitowitz sketches out guidelines for the kiruv endeavor. Dr. Judith Bleich opines that we should not categorize people as “FFB or BT.” R. David Ebner contends that the material and ritual successes of contemporary Orthodoxy have obscured the lack of heart and soul in our religious lives.

Authors emphasize very different notes regarding Jewish unity. While R. Mattis Greenblatt writes about taking the positive from different communities, R. Mayer Schiller argues that the hashkafic differences between communities are quite serious and should not be minimized.

In the discussion of women’s education R. Moshe Eisemann held up Rambam’s account of a wife relating to her husband as “an officer and king” as a model for emulation. R. Schiller writes of the “assault on the traditional role of women” as a passing fad that will historically be limited to the post-WWII West.

The Fall 1993 issue included several letters strongly disagreeing with these approaches to women and Judaism. See the correspondence of Esther Krauss, R. David Mescheloff, R. Mordechai Spieglman, and Dr. Joel Wolowelsky, and the response of R. Eisemann.

Isaac Breuer Symposium (Winter 1992)

This symposium studied the thought of R. Isaac Breuer, an important German neo-Orthodox leader and the first president of Poalei Agudat Yisrael. R. Israel Wohlgelernter paints a general picture of Breuer’s intellectual biography. R. Walter Wurzburger shows how Breuer employs Kantian thought to bolster Judaism. Dr. Rivka Horowitz uses comparisons to Franz Rosenzweig and to Rav Kook in order to fully understand Breuer’s approach. Dr. Mordechai Eliav provides background into German neo-Orthodoxy by comparing the thought of R. Samson Raphael Hirsch with that of R. Ezriel Hildesheimer.

Reflections on the Six Day War After a Quarter Century (Summer 1992)

Profs. David Berger, David Singer, Michael Wyschogrod, and Rabbis Immanuel Jakobovits, Sol Roth, Mayer Schiller, and Walter Wurzburger reflect back on the Six Day War. Many of the authors are wary of messianic thinking. Prof. Wyshogrod would like to see a messianism more rooted in avoiding violence than in territorial expansion. Rabbi Roth thinks we cannot theologically interpret single events but can identify a larger redemptive process. Rabbi Schiller is the most sympathetic to non-Zionist viewpoints. In contrast, Dr. Berger notes the irony of seeing the divine hand in the Holocaust but not in the founding of the Jewish State. Dr. Singer is highly critical of the unimpressive response of all segments of Jewry to an event of such great magnitude.

Women and Jewish Education (Spring 1994)

This symposium posed questions to twelve respondents about educational opportunities, leadership roles, and tzniut. One question raised concern about secular feminist influences. Several contributors (Dr. David Bernstein, Dr. Beverly Gribetz, R. David Silber) asserted that positive ideas come from the outside world as well. Rabbanit Malka Bina even sees secular feminist concerns as the “guiding hand of providence.”

The different responses to the tzniut question are quite fascinating. R. Avrohom Oppen chose to only focus on that question while R. Silber wondered why this issue should be brought up at all in a discussion about women. Some wondered about Haredi women being pushed into the workforce (R. Bina) while others questioned the propriety of men running women’s schools (Dr. Rivkah Blau). Rabbanit Chana Henkin noted that few women are less reclusive than the eshet hayil of Mishlei.

Some (Rabbanit Nurit Fried, Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller) favored a different curriculum for women while others (Dr. Gribetz, R. Silber) disagreed. Interestingly, two respondents (Dr. Bernstein, Ms. Soro Yehudis Fishman) took the opportunity to suggest that men’s curriculum are too Gemara heavy.

Rabbi Herschel Grossman defended a very strong demarcation of the different roles for men and women, but most of the contributors were not sympathetic to his approach.

Religious Zionism Revisited (Summer 1994)

Following Baruch Goldstein’s murder of twenty-nine Arabs, Tradition asked fifteen respondents about the differences between Kahanism and Religious Zionism, about the non-Zionist critique of Religious Zionism, and about the general viability of the movement. R. Aharon Feldman writes that the Religious Zionist world should simply admit that the haredim were correct about the emptiness of the secular Zionist project. On the other hand, R. Louis Bernstein notes how the haredim have de facto recognized the State, and R. Reuven Bulka emphasizes how the critics of Israel benefit tremendously from the Jewish State. Furthermore, R. Shalom Carmy points out that denigration of gentiles and distrust of natural morality are quite prominent in ultra-Orthodox circles.

Where has Religious Zionism erred? R. Hillel Goldberg thinks it lacks self-scrutiny and exhibits an unwarranted messianic certitude. R. Yigal Shafran says that the movement mistakenly related to the state as malkhut David when it is more akin to malkhut Shaul. According to R. Walter Wurzburger, Religious Zionism celebrated the particularistic aspects of Judaism while ignoring the universalistic themes.

How does Religious Zionism differ from Kahanaism? Authors focus either on acknowledging the legitimate authority of the State (R. Avi Weiss, Dr. Joel Wolowelsky), valuing democracy (Dr. Gerald Blidstein, Dr. Avie Walfish) or on the role of force and violence in the Jewish world view (Blidtsein, R. Sol Roth).

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik zt”l Memorial Issue (Summer 1996)

This issue includes both studies of particular issues in R. Soloveitchik’s life and thought and more sweeping portrayals of this rabbinic giant. R. Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff offers a biography of the Rav through 1941. Dr. Stanley Boylan provides a portrait of the Rav’s shiur, R. Bernard Rosensweig writes of the Rav’s role as a communal leader, and Dr. Marvin Fox analyzes R. Soloveitchik as a master eulogizer.

Turning to the Rav’s thought, Dr. Gerald J. Blidstein analyzes his approach to mourning, R. Menachem Genack explores parallels between R. Soloveitchik and Ramban, and R. Walter S. Wurzburger writes of the centrality of creativity in the Rav’s philosophy. According to R. Wurzburger, the Rav’s emphasis on creativity matches that of R. Chaim Volozhin but he differs from his rabbinic predecessor in adopting an activist rather than a quietist approach to human existence. R. Shalom Carmy sets up two possible models for understanding the role of the ethical in R. Soloveitchik’s thought. The “identity model” subsumes the ethical under the religious. The “hierarchical model” grants ethics an independent identity that trumps other values but still gives way before religious commandments.

Four family members offer more general portraits. Prof. Yitzhak Twersky focuses on the Rav as a teacher and points out how he makes great use of Western thought without feeling the need to offer a programmatic justification of this endeavor. R. Aharon Lichtenstein notes the Rav’s novel contributions to the world of Brisker lomdus even as he writes that the Rav’s major innovations were in the world of Jewish thought. R. Lichtenstein also highlights R. Soloveitchik’s frustration in feeling that he was more successful at teaching conceptual ideas than in imparting the warmth of religious experience. R. Mosheh Lichtenstein analyzes the Brisker derekh in general and the Rav’s place in that tradition. R. Mayer Twersky writes about a gadol’s halakhic intuition and applies this to the Rav’s attitude to many communal issues.

Two themes run through many of the essays: R. Soloveitchik’s combination of tradition and innovation and his integration of intellect and emotion.

The Sea Change in American Orthodox Judaism (Summer 1998)

This symposium asked thirty-five writers to respond to five questions focusing on Orthodoxy’s approach to other denominations, the internal relationships of various Orthodox sub-groups, and Orthodoxy’s greatest successes, failures, and threats.

Several writers (Dr. David Berger, Rabbis Avi Weiss and Walter Wurzburger) advocated a more positive approach to Conservative and Reform Jews while Rabbi Moshe Tendler advances a harder line.

In terms of our biggest threat and our failures, many focused on different aspects of the broader world, be it materialism (R. Pinchas Stolper), secularism (R. Alfred Cohen), excessive individualism (R. Jacob J. Schacter), or the disintegration of the family (R. Berel Wein). Others insist we look inward at our own communities’ moral failures including how batei din function (Dr. Joel Wolowelsky), our attitude to gentiles (Dr. Marvin Schick), conformism (Dr. David Klinghoffer) and more (R. Shalom Carmy).

Interesting responses range from bemoaning the dearth of gedolim (R. Yitzchok Adlerstein) to lamenting the lack of Orthodox poets (Dr. Michael Wyschogrod). (Two additional respondenses appeared in Spring 1999.)

Orthodoxy and the Public Square (Spring 2004)

In this symposium, six respondents answer questions about Orthodoxy’s responsibilities towards influencing public policy for the broader world and the role of rabbis in that process. Chaim Dovid Zwiebel affirms the Da’at Torah position while Dr. Dov Zakheim both challenges reliance on Da’at Torah and emphasizes the role the laity can play in this endeavor.

Interestingly, all the respondents agree that Orthodox Judaism has something to say and should say it. R. Jack Bieler notes that public policy is different than pesak. Along similar lines, R. Meir Soloveichik writes that we are not primarily discussing the permitted and forbidden but rather about the creation of a moral society. Going even further, Dr. Suzanne Last Stone states that we should focus more on ideas and values than on concrete policies. Among other factors, the distinction between halakha for Jews and the Noahide laws make advocating for specific policies difficult.

Rav Soloveitchik’s Kol Dodi Dofek at Fifty (Fall 2006)

Ten respondents, half of them living in Israel, analyze the meaning of Kol Dodi Dofek and its relevance for today. Obviously, Rabbi Soloveitchik’s essay is a strong Zionist assertion yet several writers note Zionist themes the Rav does not enlist. R. Shubert Spero wonders why the Rav does not talk about the State as the fulfillment of biblical prophecies. R. Nathaniel Helfgot notes that the Rav does not mention the value of sovereignty or of realizing Judaism on a national scale.

The contrast between the Rav and R. Kook on Zionism is a recurring theme. R. Yuval Cherlow discusses a Zionism of inevitability versus one of contingency. Dr. Avraham Walfish offers a suggestion for why R. Kook’s mystical vision energizes the masses more effectively.

The theme of working together with secular Zionists also permeates several essays. R. Helfgot argues that we can share some of a “covenant of destiny” with such Jews and not only a “covenant of fate.” Prof. Shalom Rosenberg expresses concern about a post-Zionism that knows only of fate but not destiny. R. Simcha Krauss worries about growing Religious Zionist estrangement with the state. Finally, Prof. Dov Schwartz suggests how recent developments in the dati leumi world might make it more open to the Rav’s thought.

Essays on the Thought and Scholarship of Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein (Winter 2014)

R. Aharon Lichtenstein zt”l was the foremost rabbinic leader of the Modern Orthodox community for over thirty years. This volume, published in hard-cover and guest edited by Yitzchak Blau, Alan Jotkowitz, and Reuven Ziegler, explores different aspects of his thought. R. Shalom Carmy and R. Shlomo Zuckier begin with a brief biographical sketch. Dr. Shlomo Fischer writes that R. Lichtenstein should be categorized as a “religious humanist” rather than as a “liberal” and Dr. Yoel Finkelman explores the theme of complexity in R. Lichtenstein’s writings.

R. Nathaniel Helfgot and Dr. Adam Ferziger compare and contrast R. Lichtenstein with his father-in-law and teacher, R. Soloveitchik. R. Helfgot does this regarding a broad survey of topics while Dr. Ferziger does this in the context of analyzing R. Lichtenstein’s attitude to non-Orthodox Jews.

Two other essays evaluate R. Lichtenstein’s novel contributions to Talmud Torah. R. Daniel Wolf isolates what R. Lichtenstein brought to Brisker analysis including the usage of modern terminology and substituting the topic for the text as the unit of study. R. Yaakov Beasley sees R. Lichtenstein as an early practitioner of a more literary approach to Tanakh and notes how he combined reverence for biblical heroes with treating them as fully human figures.

R. Lichtenstein also issued some significant communal pesakim. R. Yair Khan and Dr. Kalman Neuman use an exchange of letters between R. Lichtenstein and R. Avraham Sylvetsky to explore his approach to land for peace and refusing orders. Dr. Jotkowitz investigates the role of ethical concerns in halakhic rulings with particular attention to the question of abortion.

Dr. Aaron Segal and R. Shalom Carmy elucidate R. Lichtenstein’s brief essay on the source of faith. Dr. Segal translates this essay into an analytical argument for faith while R. Carmy emphasizes faith as a lived experience. Both R. Carmy and R. Jeffrey Saks contribute essays on R. Lichtenstein’s appreciation of Western literature. Finally, R. HiIlel Goldberg writes a personal tribute to his former rebbe.

The Problem of Sexual Abuse in Our Community (Summer 2017)

Six authors tackle this major issue from different perspectives in this symposium guest edited by R. Yitzchak Blau. R. Yosef Blau and Dr. Shira Berkovits trace the roots of the problem and outline paths towards improvement. R. David Brofsky explains why reporting such abuse to the secular authorities is not a problem of mesira or lashon hara. Dr. Erica Brown addresses the phenomena of enablers who stand idly by or even help the abuser. R. Mark Dratch analyzes whether or not an abusive rabbi can ever achieve reinstatement. Prof. Yedidya Stern offers a fascinating portrait of the Takana Forum, an Israeli body created to address this problem.

“Rupture and Reconstruction” Reconsidered (Fall 2019)

Prof. Haym Soloveitchik’s essay from TRADITION’s Summer 1994 issue was one of the most widely read and influential essays in the history of our journal. The range of issues that this symposium raised indicates how broadly significant the original article was and remains twenty-five years after its publication.

Several writers note that the original essay did not address women’s new exposure to traditional texts. Rabbanit Nechama Goldman Barash expresses her love of learning together with her sense of estrangement from certain classical Jewish texts about women. Sarah Ridner explores how the revolutions of modernity impact on traditional gender roles.

The growing split between the Orthodox right and the Orthodox left receives attention. R. Efrem Goldberg worries that we will lose the center. R. Gedalyah Berger notes that a return to text can lead to both stringencies and leniencies. Heshey Zelcer writes in a personal vein as to how someone who grew up in the Hasidic orbit relates to Soloveitchik’s theses.

Some challenge the uniqueness of the modern rupture. R. Elli Fisher sees similar ruptures in earlier periods of Jewish history. R. Yehoshua Pfeffer portrays modern changes as more of a gradual transformation than a dramatic rupture.

Ilana Kurshan investigates the shift from mimetic tradition to a text-based Judaism in the context of her personal religious life. Yoatzot Halacha Atara Eis and Laurie Novick argue that there is a social form of mimetic tradition that has persisted for women and still dominates their halakhic discourse.

“Rupture and Reconstruction” famously claims that greater punctiliousness in observance has come with a loss of sense of the divine presence. R. Elazar Muskin bemoans our community teaching halakhic details without conveying the warmth of Judaism. R. Daniel Korobkin writes of new educational models that address this concern. R. Chaim Strauchler utilizes the writing of Charles Taylor to explore the secularity of our age and what we can do about it. In contrast to all of the above, Prof. Chaim Saiman thinks that the focus of religious life has shifted to Zionism and the Jewish state.

Other important questions appearing include the role of the internet (Lawrence Kobrin), the widening gap between Roshei Yeshiva and the laypeople of our community (Dr. Rivka Press Schwartz), the ability of a scholar of one period to apply his expertise to another period (Dr. Adam Ferziger), the situation as it plays out in England (R. Michael J. Harris), and the relationship between Judaism and asceticism (Harris).