Why the “Torah and Secular Scholarship” Movement Hasn’t Triumphed

Nov. 14 2016

When, in 1946, Yeshiva University made Torah u-Madda—Torah and secular scholarship—its official motto, the phrase very much became a slogan for Modern Orthodoxy as a whole. Now, however, some observers have declared the “era of Torah u-Madda” over and see it as no longer the defining principle, or even a defining principle, of any stream of Orthodox Judaism. The rabbi, author, and educator Jack Bieler comments on the failures of Jewish education in this regard:

At the outset, . . . it is important to acknowledge that there are numerous reasons why Torah u-Madda has failed to capture the imaginations of contemporary American Modern Orthodoxy. . . .

Having spent my working life as a religious educator in day schools and synagogues, I tend to view this, and many other issues, both religious and secular, in educational terms. . . . I [primarily] attribute the failure of Torah u-Madda to the inability of Modern Orthodoxy’s key educational institutions, Yeshiva University in particular, to produce, self-consciously, individuals committed to such an outlook who also aspire to leadership and influence in the community’s key institutions, i.e., its synagogues and day schools. . . .

[Furthermore], the structure by which Jewish education is delivered . . . countermands the development of a Torah u-Madda approach. Torah u-Madda is by definition an interdisciplinary approach, whereby elements of Jewish tradition and general studies are brought to bear upon each other. However, over the course of a [typical] school day, not only are English and Tanakh, history and Talmud, Hebrew and French, mathematics and Jewish thought usually presented in splendid isolation from each other, but even subjects within the Judaic-studies and general-studies curricula are rarely allowed to interact within the classroom.

While, occasionally, some teachers may personally be conversant with “both sides of the curriculum,” the need to cover ground in the highly pressurized context of a double-curriculum educational institution usually precludes them from regularly incorporating “outside” ideas and thoughts into the classroom context.

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Read more at Book of Doctrines and Opinions

More about: American Judaism, Education, Modern Orthodoxy, Orthodoxy, Religion & Holidays, Yeshiva University

 

The Significance of Mahmoud Abbas’s Holocaust Denial

Aug. 19 2022

On Tuesday, the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, during an official visit to Berlin, gave a joint press conference with the German chancellor Olaf Scholz, where he was asked by a journalist if he would apologize for the murder of Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics. (The relationship between the group that carried out the massacre and Abbas’s Fatah party remains murky.) Abbas instead responded by ranting about the “50 Holocausts” perpetrated by Israel against Palestinians. Stephen Pollard comments:

Scholz’s response to that? He shook Abbas’s hand and ended the press conference.

Reading yet another column pointing out that Scholz is a dunderhead isn’t, I grant you, the most useful of ways to spend an August afternoon, so let’s leave the German chancellor there, save to say that he eventually issued a statement hours later, after an eruption of fury from his fellow countrymen, saying that “I am disgusted by the outrageous remarks made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. For us Germans in particular, any trivialization of the singularity of the Holocaust is intolerable and unacceptable. I condemn any attempt to deny the crimes of the Holocaust.” Which only goes to show that late is actually no better than never.

The real issue, in Pollard’s view, is the West’s willful blindness about Abbas, who wrote a doctoral thesis at a Soviet university blaming “Zionists” for the Holocaust and claiming that a mere million Jews were killed by the Nazis—notions he has reiterated publicly as recently as 2013.

On Wednesday, [Abbas] “clarified” his remarks in Berlin, saying that “the Holocaust is the most heinous crime in modern human history.” Credulous fools have again ignored what Abbas actually means by that.

It’s time we stopped projecting what we want Abbas to be and focused on what he actually is, using his own words. In a speech in 2018 he informed us that Israel is a “colonialist project that had nothing to do with Judaism”—to such an extent that European Jews chose to stay in their homes and be murdered rather than live in Palestine. Do I have to point out the moral degeneracy of such a proposition? It would seem so, given the persistent refusal of so many to take Abbas for what he actually is.

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Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Anti-Semitism, Germany, Holocaust denial, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority