TRADITION Today Summit: Material Success and Its Challenges (April 23, 2023)
Convened by TRADITION: A Journal of Orthodox Jewish Thought and the Rabbinical Council of America
Hosted by Congregation Rinat Yisrael, Teaneck, NJ

In many ways, Orthodox life in the United States has seen increasing material success in recent decades. This has had an impact in a wide range of areas – consumptionary trends, philanthropy, career choice, institutional sustainability (e.g., the tuition crisis), social and communal gaps between haves and have-nots, and more. While many of these topics have been discussed informally, little has been written about them in a systemic and organized fashion. This day-long summit aims to both trace the contours of this trend and consider its advantages and challenges in light of Jewish tradition. It will bring together sociological and historical reflections as well as a range of Hashkafic perspectives, with an eye towards better understanding and managing this underexplored communal matter.

For more information contact [email protected]


9:00 Arrival & Registration 

9:30 Greetings: R. Binyamin Blau, President & R. Mark Dratch, Executive Vice President, RCA

9:45 Introduction to the TRADITION Today Summit: Jeffrey Saks, Editor, TRADITION

10:00 Session I (Chair: R. Chaim Strauchler, Rinat Yisrael & TRADITION)

Dr. Erica Brown, “Suburban Orthodox: Good for the Jews?”
Vice Provost for Values and Leadership at Yeshiva University and the founding director of its Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks-Herenstein Center for Values and Leadership.

R. Dr. Michael Rosensweig, “Jewish Tradition on the Implications of Wealth and Material Acquisition”
Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University and Rosh Kollel of the Beren Kollel Elyon. 

12:00 Lunch

1:00 Session II (Chair: Dr. Malka Simkovich, Catholic Theological Union)

Mr. Yossi Prager, “Implications of Material Success on Jewish Philanthropy and Institutions”
Yossi Prager has spent 30 years as executive director of Jewish foundations, including The AVI CHAI Foundation.

Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt & Prof. Chaim Saiman, “מפת במלח לסעודת שלמה המלך: Materialism and the Rise of ‘modern, Orthodoxy'”
Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt is a journalist and rebbetzin at the Altneu Synagogue in New York City. Chaim Saiman is Professor of Law & Chair in Jewish Law, Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law, and Albert J. Wood Fellow, Katz Center for Adv. Judaic Studies, U. Penn.

3:00 Break

3:30 Session III (Chair: Mrs. CB Neugroschl, Head of School, Ma’ayanot)

Michael Eisenberg, “V’heyeh Berakha: The Wealth of Nations or Wealthy Nation?”
Co-founder and general partner of Aleph, a Tel Aviv-based venture capital firm; author of The Tree of Life and Prosperity.

R. Dr. Jeremy Wieder, “The Cost of Materialism in the Orthodox Community”
Rosh Yeshiva and Joseph and Gwendolyn Straus Professor of Talmud in the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University.

5:30 Concluding Thoughts and Future Directions
R. Dr. Shlomo Zuckier, Research Associate at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, Maggid Shiur at Stern College and GPATS, and member of TRADITION’s Editorial Committee.

TRADITION Today Summit – Organizing Committee: Jeffrey Saks and Shlomo Zuckier, chairs; members: Binyamin Blau, Erica Brown, Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt, Mark Dratch, Chaim Saiman, Malka Simkovich, Chaim Strauchler, Yaakov Taubes