The Two Men Who Helped Revive Orthodox Jewish Thought in America

Among the many outstanding and venerable religious leaders the Jewish world lost in the past year was Rabbi Norman Lamm, a scholar and congregational rabbi as well as the long-time president of Yeshiva University. Zev Eleff relates yet another of Lamm’s many accomplishments: his role in founding Tradition, which has for decades been Orthodox Judaism’s most serious and ambitious English-language periodical.

Launched in 1958, Tradition benefited from Rabbi Lamm’s originality. More important, however, was his resolve. . . . Orthodox leaders started several journals during the 1950s. They were motivated by the earlier initiatives of other members of the American Jewish elite such as Rabbis Robert Gordis and Samuel Dresner of the Conservative movement. The Orthodox reckoned that such projects were useful to help jumpstart a renaissance amid allegations that their community was stuck in a rut, mired in what sociologist Marshall Sklare described as institutional and intellectual “decay.”

The most ambitious attempt to cultivate a class of Orthodox public intellectuals was the brainchild of Norman Lamm and Marvin Fox. The latter was an important Jewish philosopher, first at Ohio State University and then at Brandeis. He was a leading scholar of Moses Maimonides, long before Jewish studies was fashionable in academe. Both men shared a vision of elevating Jewish ideas through mentoring young scholars and writing in an accessible manner for general readers.

Soon Tradition was involved in lively and heated arguments with leading Conservative journals, demonstrating that Orthodoxy could hold its own. Indeed, Eleff credits Lamm and Fox most with their “uncanny” conviction, at a time when Sklare’s evaluation was that of many astute observers, that there could be “an unforecasted Orthodox comeback in American Jewish life.”

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More about: American Judaism, Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Norman Lamm, Orthodoxy

 

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

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Read more at 19FortyFive

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship