Monday, May 07, 2007

True Leadership in Modern Orthodoxy

It's worth it to dedicate a new post to this.

What is leadership in Modern Orthodoxy? We've been having a fascinating discussion on the Hirhurim comments to this post about what it entails. (Here's a direct link to the comment thread.)

I mantain that there are two types of leaders. There is the Rabbi, who is the role model, the teacher, the one whose piety and erudition astonishes and stuns his audience. This is the man whom we respect and want to follow, the person who embodies true religousity, the person whose very essence is bound up with Torah. This Rabbi is both pious and knowledgable; he practices what he preaches. He is a man who is aware of the modern world and lives within it rather than hiding from it in despair, but he focuses on halakha and on texts. His textual study impacts his halakhic rulings which impacts his life.

The second type of leader is what we might term the real-world leader. This is the person who is involved with things as they are, not as they could be in an ideal state. This is the person who works with politics, works to bring the fun and meaning back into Judaism, to make it attractive to teenagers. This is the person who creates and funds programs like NCSY and Eimatai and CJF. This is the person who works through practical measures to create a workable vision of Modern Orthodoxy.

You could even make a case for the Rabbi acting more like the real-world leader. Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik's definition of a Rabbi:
    ...for guidance in Jewish law, one may go to a dayyan [rabbinical judge]. However, the main role of the rabbi is to help the needy, protect the persecuted, defend the widows, and sustain orpahns. In a word, it is acts of loving-kindness [gemilat hasadim]. (The World of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, 193)
As I put it (regarding a comment by Steve Brizel regarding Zev Eleff's quote in The Commentator:)
    Why doesn't Judaism have room for both types of leadership? Surely we need impressive thinkers and scholars, people who "wrestle with a R' Chaim Al HaRambam" but we also need noble, caring individuals (perhaps laymen!) willing to dedicate their time to creating a workable vision of Modern Orthodoxy. These people may not be scholars or particularly learned, but their efforts are no less valuable. It would seem that the scholars and the political movers are both necessary.
Zev explained his rationale as follows:
    My comment about Orthodoxy was in response to Mr. Brizel's feeling that our newspaper represents Modern Orthodoxy. I don't really know what that term means. In fact, I changed the Rav Hayyim line in the actual print edition to read "mastery of Shulhan Arukh." To me, that is the true ideology of any Jew -- halakha. Therefore, coming back, briefly, to the question you both raised: Jewish leadership, like anything else in Judaism is based in our halakhic code. Rambam might disagree with the Tosafists about a given halakha, but both are properly anchored in an interpretation of halakha that is valid. You do not need to be able to understand every Rav Hayyim to be a leader, but you certainly need to be grounded in halakha to be a proper representation of our people.
I questioned why those who engage in CJF/ Eimatai are not necessarily grounded in halakha. He explains that I'm misunderstanding:
    ...while these programs certainly help bolster an individual's social skills and may even hone his leadership skills, leadership has to grounded in Torah exclusively. The extra elements are just extra. They may help a great deal, but the core cannot be a 'leadership training' seminar. That's all I meant.

Menachem Butler later qualifies:
    If the current RIETS roshei yeshiva are perceived to be the inspirational leaders and driving forces in Modern Orthodoxy, and that we seek to be like them and their ilk, then why don't we follow in their path? I don't think that Rav Hershel Schachter or Rav Aharon Lichtenstein -- among thirty, or so, others -- took any CJF leadership courses.
To which I respond:
    Menachem,Very true that R' Herschel Shachter and Rav Aharon Lichtenstein didn't take any CJF leadership courses. Is that reason to denigrate the type of leadership that differs from theirs, such as President Richard Joel's?
All right. The conversation is still ongoing and is fascinating.

Now, what do you think? What makes a leader in Modern Orthodoxy? Are there two types? Only one? How does it work?

35 comments:

Josh M. said...

I'm not at all familiar with the goals of the CJF and Eimatai, but I don't see that anyone would argue with the contention that people have different skillsets and can contribute in different ways to the Jewish community. On the one hand, experts in politics, etc., must concede to the rabbinic leaders when it comes to deciding what acceptable options exist from a halachic standpoint, but it is often also necessary for the rabbinic leaders to collect input from leaders in other fields.

The miscellaneous leaders are ultimately k'fufim to the rabbinic leaders, but if this has already been accepted as a given in the discussion, I don't see what the basis of your debate with Menachem and Zev is.

Anonymous said...

there is no real leadership in modern orthodoxy. sadly, this is the cause of its dwindling and ultimate downfall. there is no real leader, no tone setter, no official posek , no final word or grand daddy of the movement.

Chana said...

Josh,

The problem lies with your very first assertion, "people have different skillsets and can contribute in different ways to the Jewish community." I don't know if the others would agree to that; we seem to be saying that regardless of skillset, one is supposed to strive for the rabbinic/spiritual type of leadership.

Then comes the question of which type of leadership is valid and legitimate. It appears that some believe that the ultimate goal is the spiritual/ rabbinic leadership over the real-political one. I don't think that's true; I think we need both. That's the debate: Is a true leader really only someone "grounded in Torah," only someone with a mastery of the Shulchan Aruch?

Chana said...

Anonymous,

If that is so, then what ought we to do about? Any suggested solutions?

Ezzie said...

I'm going to basically agree with Josh M. Assuming a *proper* rabbinical leadership which does strive to collect input from leaders and advisers elsewhere, they *would* be "above" the rest in terms of which leadership to follow. Or, alternatively, a secular leader(ship) with a proper Torah background, even if not an expertise. [I think it safe to assume that Saul, Dovid, Shlomo had them.]

I guess the best way is to add to what Josh M says - leaders in other fields deferring on halachic - and perhaps some hashkafic - matters, Rabbinical leaders deferring on matters in which they don't have a proper understanding, and proper discussion and input from both in all situations. Someone (or multiple someones) who can do both would obviously be wonderful, though seemingly unrealistic nowadays; we only have people who are *very good* in both, never a true leader it seems.

I think anon's point is a good one as well, however they may have meant it; of course, I think the same basically applies in the UO world today. The differences are only that the UO tries to make everyone a 'leader' while the MO tries to make nobody their 'leader'. Interesting, really.

Anonymous said...

You're right, Ezzie. As one who was raised in the UO world and have chosen to raise my children and lead my own life in the MO world, I am with you. I have something else to add. Why are the educators in the middle of the road MO schools all UO? There are very few MO educators.
Chana, I believe that a leader should be a Talmid Chacham and a Gomel Chesed. I believe an Askan should be a Gomel Chesed and a Mechabed Talmidei Chachamim. The Askan bows to the Torah Knowledge of the leader. The leader recognizes the input of the Askanim and Melamdim of the Klal with regards to what is going on day to day in the lives of the Klal. MO just needs more Melamdim and leaders.

daaty said...

Jewish history especially from medieval times always had the Rav and the Community leader.

Chana said...

This is interesting (and apparently linked this post.)

I like their list of five most important traits- it seems very right.

DK said...

Chana, you wrote,

"This is the person who creates and funds programs like NCSY and Eimatai and CJF."

NCSY is NOT Modern Orthodox. NCSY is a major -- in fact, the major -- recruiter of secular/liberal Jewry into haredism including hardline B'nai Torah institutions such as Ohr Somayach/Neve Yerushalayim to inferior (third tier) schools like Touro.

Chana said...

DK,

NCSY is not Modern Orthodox?

As I understood it, NCSY is affiliate with the OU and was more Modern Orthodox. They host coed activities, for example, surely not something the more haredi elements would approve of. Certainly the people who are part of NCSY in Chicago are the Modern Orthodox group.

When you say NCSY is not Modern Orthodox, whose standards are you using? Do you mean that it does not appear Modern Orthodox to you or that they do not identify themselves as Modern Orthodox?

DK said...

"Do you mean that it does not appear Modern Orthodox to you or that they do not identify themselves as Modern Orthodox?"

Those that do not identify as Modern Orthodox.

"They host coed activities, for example, surely not something the more haredi elements would approve of."

But they do. This is for "kiruv." Misrepresentation of self is encouraged in such situations.

Check this out, and please warn your friends that what NCSY is attempting to do to liberal Jewish teens is not nice at all: http://kvetcher.jewschool.com/2006/11/21/ncsy-wants-to-help-your-high-school/

Ezzie said...

WADR, don't listen to DK.

The yeshivish world generally doesn't like NCSY because of what they do and how... and frowns upon their teens being overly active in it. NCSY people generally end up in the MO world, not the yeshivish one.

DK said...

The yeshivish world absolutely supports NCSY as a kiruv organization, with very small exceptions.

NCSY recruits for the worst haredi organizations and third tier Touro, and is in our public school system under false ecumenical pretense.

NCSY lies both about who they are and about what they want. They are not Modern Orthodox anymore than they are ecumenical. They are truly a deceptive recruiting organization, and might I remind you -- one that focuses on underage kids.

Please tell your Modern Orthodox readers that ignorance is no excuse. Please distance yourselves from NCSY as far as recruitment of liberal Jewry. NCSY seeks to take them to very inappropriate places. For a change.

Ezzie said...

The yeshivish world absolutely supports NCSY as a kiruv organization, with very small exceptions.

Bull. Where I grew up, it was mockingly referred to as "Negiah Can Save Yiddiskeit".

NCSY recruits for the worst haredi organizations and third tier Touro, and is in our public school system under false ecumenical pretense.

What does "third tier Touro" mean? What does that mean for the "worst Haredi orgs"? You're spewing nonsense DK.

DK said...

Ezzie,

There is a difference between a yeshiva wanting its buchrim involved with NCSY and supporting its existence.

NCSY lures teens into Touro through frumkeit, and is way too close to this college, which U.S. News and World Report consistently give a "third tier" ranking. Machon Maayan was created in partnership with NCSY and Touro, and the relationship--a two step program into Touro--is dirty to its core, and set to expand: http://www.ou.org/news/article/with_37_girls_from_n_america_and_canada_in_attendance_machon_maayan_college/

As for haredi orgs NCSY works with, or rather recruits for, this can be seen on their own list of yeshivas and seminaries, the ones for public school teens including Ohr Somayach, Neve Yerushalayim, and Aish HaTorah.

Look at the first two yeshivas -- and click on "Derech," it is in fact Ohr Somayach: http://www.ou.org/ncsy/projects/yeshivas/boys_schools.htm

Additionally, NCSY recruits into NCSY proper in our public schools, under the guise of the JSU (Jewish Student Unions) owned and operated, despite ecumenical pretense, by NCSY: http://www.jsu.org/z_advisors.php

The relationship between NCSY and these orgs is not in question. That these institutions are haredi is not in question.

So what part is "nonsense?" Please explain.

Anonymous said...

I think you need to make a distinction between NY NCSY and National. NY is more heavy on Chareidi leadership and has leaned a bit too heavily on the right in recent years. Things are changing now. In terms of Touro, I was at a recent Shabaton and while Touro was talked up so was Y.U. Two lucky NCSYers were given scholarships to Y.U. I know some of you people out there think Y.U. is not as liberal as it should be, but it definately is MO and identifies with that philosophy. NCSY is a truly exhilarating experience for any Jew, young or old/ secular or not. Their programs are vibrant and fun, their message is about connecting to your Judaism and many teenagers are plugging in. It's a joy to see. It's good stuff. If parents--and these are the only adults that should matter in this debate--of NCSYers are uncomfortable with the choices that some of them make, they should probably offer them some other form of meaningful connection to Judaism. USY is out there. And I don't mean to belittle the parents, I mean to challenge them and encourage them. I have been in the Public Schools. I have been at the Synagogue meetings. It's about Judaism first. And yes there is an Orthodox approach. Chareidim do not, not, not approve of NCSY or its tactics. You obviously don't know a lot of Chareidim. We just hosted a friend of ours for Shabbos who became orthodox through NCSY in the last 6 years. He is by no means Chareidi. And he is the majority. Sorry.

DK said...

That they are only a bit "right" in NY is a joke -- like in Baltimore they are packed with serugees. But that isn't the real issue. The issue is not that the charedim approve or disapprove, it is that the public school kids are recruited for charedi orgs.

"Chareidim do not, not, not approve of NCSY or its tactics."

Neither do secular Jews when they understand them, as the favored tactics are deception and bait and switch.

"We just hosted a friend of ours for Shabbos who became orthodox through NCSY in the last 6 years. He is by no means Chareidi. And he is the majority."

He is one person, and you are anonymous. I am not impressed. NCSY has declined to give numbers of those they shipped to Israeli haredi BT yeshivas and seminaries, except to brag that they are high internally.

"Two lucky NCSYers were given scholarships to Y.U. I know some of you people out there think Y.U. is not as liberal as it should be, but it definately is MO and identifies with that philosophy."

YU started forced davening -- just for the BTs, mid-year.

We will see if the secular community is as accepting of such discrimination for adults as the FFBs are. I think YU deserves to lose their standing -- and their donors -- for that obscenity.

"If parents--and these are the only adults that should matter in this debate--of NCSYers are uncomfortable with the choices that some of them make, they should probably offer them some other form of meaningful connection to Judaism."

I couldn't agree more. They should make a liberal Orthodox youth group that reports to them, and is under their auspices, even if the advisors and volunteers are Orthodox.

To trust NCSY with their kids is a bad risk.

Erachet said...

"YU started forced davening -- just for the BTs, mid-year."

.....What? That doesn't make any sense.

I think that, first of all, you need to take into account which NCSY region you're talking about, for each one sort of caters itself to the students in that area. I used to be part of NCSY when I was in 7th, 8th, and 9th grade and I can tell you that it was very much Modern Orthodox. It wasn't chareidi, it wasn't TOO secular. The kids it attracted might have been more secular than I was, but the leadership was Modern Orthodox or maybe a bit more to the right, but definitely not all out chareidi, nor did they preach being chareidi.

Again, NCSY is different depending on which region you're looking at. But you definitely cannot say that NCSY is chareidi. In fact, when I was an NCSYer, basically all the advisers were from YU and Stern. So there you go.

DK said...

I didn't say it makes sense, erachet. But that is what Yeshiva Colelge is doing. Oh yes they are. Forced morning prayers for the BTs. http://kvetcher.jewschool.com/2007/04/20/forced-prayer-for-ncsy-recruited-public-school-students-at-yeshiva-university/

DK said...

here; http://tinyurl.com/39494v

DK said...

And Erachet,

NCSY recruits for haredi institutions. Period. I have documented this ad nauseum. It is on their own website. They recruit for the haredim, which is why they had the heads of both Aish HaTorah and Ohr Somayach/Neve address NCSY staff last August.

Ezzie said...

DK, you have no clue what you're talking about... combined with a ridiculous hatred for Charedim and a VERY broad definition of Charedi. It's really sad.

NCSY isn't "close to Touro" by any means. One of the Deans in Touro is constantly trying to find students to join the Shabbatons et al so it won't be solely Stern & YU people whom they see... because overall, NCSY is MO. And this Dean is not Charedi by any means, rather, he simply wishes to get more students to see that Touro is a viable option for them. Touro itself is NOT Charedi, with each branch very different from the others. This Dean tries to recruit to the Manhattan branch (girls) primarily, which isn't Charedi whatsoever.

Why doesn't it make sense for the largest Kiruv youth org to work closely with Aish, OS, et al? Moreover, those orgs may *prefer* their students to become Charedi, but they by no means discourage those who wish to become religious and MO.

How is JSU Charedi?! How is NCSY Charedi?! You're just saying nonsense "They're Charedi, that's not in question." That's bull, period. I know a few of the people listed on the JSU link - none are Charedi. Nobody I know affiliated with NCSY is Charedi. That NCSY utilizes Aish et al on trips has nothing to do with a push toward being Charedi - that's nonsense.

As for "forced prayer", any student in YU chooses which program they enter into or stay in. You just can't stand that some are choosing these options. For that matter, they chose to go to YU, to a section that is meant for people who are religious.

All you have documented ad nauseum is that you hate Charedim and anything to the right of LW MO is Charedi in your book. NCSY doesn't recruit for anything but religious Judaism. That many of their members then choose to go on to Aish or OS/Neve is their choice, and it's not a huge majority that are doing so (if even half). Most slowly mainstream, depending on what age they begin to become more religious.

You seem to be blinded with hatred for the idea that kids are choosing not only to become religious, but some even gravitate toward the yeshivish atmosphere. It's pathetic.

DK said...

"Why doesn't it make sense for the largest Kiruv youth org to work closely with Aish, OS, et al? Moreover, those orgs may *prefer* their students to become Charedi, but they by no means discourage those who wish to become religious and MO."

That's bull! I was in OS. They spend more time trashing the MO then they spend anything on anything else.

More later -- I'm in the middle of something.

Chana said...

Ezzie and DK,

A) This is becoming pointless- you've got to the point where it's just "I say this," and "You say that..."

B) Don't you have WORK to do?

I think now might be a good time to break it up.

DK said...

Chana,

Ezzie is a perfect example of why the traditional-secular and liberal Jewish community needs to stop trusting the Right-wing Modern Orthodox.

I will take this over to my blog, and give Ezzie and his haredi-loving (for BTs, that is) RWMO's the calling-out they deserve.

Scraps said...

Having been a big-time NCSYnik in my day, I'm still rather loyal to the organization...but only in my region. They're very laid-back and not pushy there; the goal isn't to make kids frum, but to give them a positive association with Judaism that will hopefully last. If kids become frum, great, but it's a side benefit. However, as far as I know, that's not how most other NCSY regions operate.

By the way, Ezzie, not to burst your bubble but as for NCSY's association with Touro, I have two words: Dr. Luchins. 'Nuff said.

Anonymous said...

I'm anonymous 8:32. I'm 38, been connected to NCSY for 12 years, don't work for them, but have seen a lot. NCSY is good stuff. USY is good stuff. A kiruv organization that is orthodox, but more liberal is good stuff too if you want to start one. I'll hop onto your blog now and we can take this up there. It's about connecting to Judaism. And I just happen to prefer Orthodoxy and love it. Love when people love it however they wish. Love all Jews. You should try it. I get what you're saying though. You just sound young and bitter about something.

Anonymous said...

DK, I hopped over to your blog, but did not commentyd because I want to be anonymouser, but here's my comment:

I hear you, DK. I know that the Chareidim can be difficult to take. That's why my husband and I try to put our faces out there and attend and organize Kiruv events. We try to show kids and adults about our MO lifestyle. But, I gotta tell ya, I still love my Chareidi brothers--and trust me--I got me some real Chareidi brothers literally too--and I even love you furious leftist extremist. I even love you. I get what you are saying, but I know too many happy Jews, both MO and UO, who have become Orthodox through NCSY. And..about the pizza...my husband is in sales and--guess what--good Sushi sometimes gets you in the door. We have to get in the door. Should we be in public schools? I'll contemplate and ruminate about it. Why can't we have equal time with USY and other Jewish groups? There are so many culture clubs in the schools. Don't the Christian kids have prayer circles/meetings in the South?

DK said...

Anonymous,

The JSU is acting deceptively -- they pretend they are not NCSY. They pretend they are not Orthodox. The issue is deception. They give no hint about their contempt for good secular schools, or their connecting and recruiting practices for haredi yeshivas/seminaries and Third Tier Touro.

This is how NCSY's JSU presents itself on the site: "The mission of Jewish Student Union is to get more Jewish teens attending public high schools to do something Jewish! That’s it! It’s that simple!!!"

Look for yourself: http://www.jsu.org/z_about.htm

They deceive and lie. It's not okay. It must stop.

Anonymous said...

O.K. I get it. But lay off the pizza and face up to the fact that what you seem to insinuate are the Koolaid drinkers are actually very happy and are not committing suicide--literally or figuratively. And there are plenty who don't choose to become Orthodox at all, yet will tell you have chosen to marry Jewish or send their kids to Hebrew School because of this experience. They would tell you if you actually knew these people. I get why you're upset, but there is no evildoing. And way too much good stuff. Have you tried to speak with the powers that be and work within the system? Have you tried to organize your own teen outreach programs--assuming you do want these teens to connect more to Judaism? Are you proactive and productive like the "brainwashers" you demean or are you just another hot air blogger with an agenda and no bones?

DK said...

"I get why you're upset, but there is no evildoing."

But there is. In the haredi seminaries and yeshivas they recruit for, which promote maximum halachic compliance and intense downward mobility and reliance on "daas Torah." Or less radically, those who discourage the good schools in favor of a third tier dual curriculum one because of fear that the Newly Religious "won't stay frum" at a more appropriate and academiacally challenging secular school.

"Have you tried to speak with the powers that be and work within the system?"

This is not my system. But before I posted my 3rd and most damning (up to that point) article on Jewschool, I first appealed via email directly to Rabbi Burg, Rabbi FE, and others, Rabbi Burg sent an email exclaiming "Just ignore him" to me as well as to Rabbi FE and the others. That is his answer, and the answer of many like him. To rudely dismiss criticism, and dismiss all who do so as Ortho-bashers or the like.

But you are in our schools. You are recruiting from are camp.

You are the ones who are secular-bashing. liberal-bashing. You have contempt for us as we are.

No wonder you don't care what we have to say. If we are not potential converts, you have no interest.

On the Jewschool post, I made a call for B'nei Akiva to start a competing program for Jews from liberal backgrounds. I also asked YCT and the liberal Jewish community to start a competing program.

This is the link to that post:http://jewschool.com/2007/01/25/is-ncsy-appropriate-for-our-public-schools/

However, I expect no credit for that, and admit it isn't my main concern.

My main concern is 1) fundamentalism, 2) downward social mobility 3) Deception 4) bait and switch.

NCSY is the largest offender of facilitating and committing all of these problems issues, and does so operating in the underage Jewish community.

Anonymous said...

"My main concern is 1) fundamentalism, 2) downward social mobility 3) Deception 4) bait and switch."

My main concern is that young people connect to their rich heritage and religion. Period. I am an educator and I've seen way too much disenfranchisement by teens of all backgrounds. We are giving them nothing to chew on, to rejoice about, to revel in. That includes Chareidi teens.

I'm interested in your initiatives or calls to action. I will look into them further on your blog. As far as I'm concerned, it's all good--like I said before, even USY--as long as teens are hooking up with Judaism. As long as people are proactive and productive, more power to them, even if the motivator is frustration with a certain camp of Judaism. But, mere frustration and Jew-bashing gets old really fast and I've heard it on all sides, like you've testified to regarding the NCSY establishment. Bashing, ignoring, etc. is adolescent stuff--that's who I'm trying to reach. I have no interest in adults who emulate them. You too.

DK said...

"My main concern is that young people connect to their rich heritage and religion. Period."

Then we will often disagree. It sounds accepting of an 'ends justifies the means philosophy,' which I am dead set against, and consider immoral.

Anonymous said...

Nah. I'm not that black and white a person. Are you? I'll check your stuff out next week. Shabat Shalom.

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