Joseph B. Soloveitchik’s Forgotten Statement on the Conflict between Jewish and Secular Education

Not long after arriving in the U.S. in 1932 and becoming the rabbi of Boston’s Orthodox community, Joseph B. Soloveitchik gave an interview to a reporter from the Boston Herald—presumably in Yiddish or German—which she then translated for publication. In it, Soloveitchik speaks of the “difficult problem” of trying to blend “two hostile educational systems,” namely the religious and the secular:

The study of the Jewish religion—of the Talmud and Jewish law—represents a complete culture in itself. The modern secular educational system is another. Jewish religious culture and the modern educational culture have no conflicts [in and of themselves, but only in the received approaches to teaching them]. They belong side by side; instead, they are separated by a so-called Chinese wall. To penetrate the wall between these two entirely different kinds of culture—to combine them into an ideal oneness—is the problem Orthodox Jews [face]. . .

The Talmud and the Torah once demanded one’s mind and attention entirely. The new educational system demands time and attention also. One of the two systems must suffer. Obviously, it is religious study.

The problem, then, is to give our generation of growing boys and girls an all-embracing, well-balanced education, one that will include the complete Jewish spiritual education as well as modern secular training, both to meet side by side on an equal footing, neither one to suffer because of the other. . . .

To bridge this gap between the old Jewish culture and the modern culture is not an easy task. It is a task for the generations.

Read more at Lehrhaus

More about: American Judaism, Jewish education, Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Religion & Holidays


Why President Biden Needs Prime Minister Netanyahu as Much as Netanyahu Needs Biden

Sept. 28 2023

Last Wednesday, Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu met for the first time since the former’s inauguration. Since then, Haim Katz, Israel’s tourism minister, became the first Israeli cabinet member to visit Saudi Arabia publicly, and Washington announced that it will include the Jewish state in its visa-waiver program. Richard Kemp, writing shortly after last week’s meeting, comments:

Finally, a full nine months into Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest government, President Joe Biden deigned to allow him into his presence. Historically, American presidents have invited newly installed Israeli prime ministers to the White House shortly after taking office. Even this meeting on Wednesday, however, was not in Washington but in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Such pointed lack of respect is not the way to treat one of America’s most valuable allies, and perhaps the staunchest of them all. It is all about petty political point-scoring and interfering in Israel’s internal democratic processes. But despite his short-sighted rebuke to the state of Israel and its prime minister, Biden actually needs at least as much from Netanyahu as Netanyahu needs from him. With the 2024 election looming, Biden is desperate for a foreign-policy success among a sea of abject failures.

In his meeting with Netanyahu, Biden no doubt played the Palestinian issue up as some kind of Saudi red line and the White House has probably been pushing [Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman] in that direction. But while the Saudis would no doubt want some kind of pro-forma undertaking by Israel for the sake of appearances, [a nuclear program and military support] are what they really want. The Saudis’ under-the-table backing for the original Abraham Accords in the face of stiff Palestinian rejection shows us where its priorities lie.

Israel remains alone in countering Iran’s nuclear threat, albeit with Saudi and other Arab countries cheering behind the scenes. This meeting won’t have changed that. We must hope, however, that Netanyahu has been able to persuade Biden of the electoral benefit to him of settling for a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia rather than holding out for the unobtainable jackpot of a two-state solution.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship