TRADITION Today Summit: Material Success and Its Challenges 

Tradition Online | April 28, 2023

On April 23, 2023, TRADITION: A Journal of Orthodox Jewish Thought and the Rabbinical Council of America convened our first TRADITION Today Summit, hosted at Congregation Rinat Yisrael, Teaneck, NJ. The Summit explored “Material Success and Its Challenges.”

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 traced the contours of this trend and considered its advantages and challenges in light of Jewish tradition. It brought together sociological and cultural reflections as well as a range of hashkafic and halakhic perspectives, with an eye towards better understanding and managing this underexplored communal matter.

The program gathered 75 communal leaders, rabbis, scholars, educators, and philanthropic and business leaders—bringing together the most senior members of North American Orthodoxy and distinguished younger figures in our community. With the aim of helping to shape a larger communal conversation on these topics, content generated at and by the conference will be made available to the public from within the pages of TRADITION and on our other media platforms. The papers presented included:

  • 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. 
  • 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. 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. 
  • 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.

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

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