13 June 2006

Blogging the Modern Orthodoxy Conference, Part 1: My Arrival

As I mentioned a month ago, I am now at the "Modern Orthodoxy 1940-1970" conference taking place at the University of Scranton, co-sponsored by Edah and the University of Scranton and organized by Dr. Marc Shapiro and Dr. Rabbi Alan Brill. Menachem, who is also here at the conference, has also reported a bit on the conference beforehand here and initially here (look for him to blog as well about the conference's proceedings).
I decided to attend mainly because as a Modern Orthodox (or Open Orthodox) rabbinical student, it is important that I get a sense of the history behind it, even if it is from several decades ago. Such that, as a rabbi (or even as a rabbinical student), I can get better understand it not only on its own terms, but also to be able to answer questions concerning the movement (not only to members, but also to those on the left and the right).
As my Greyhound bus (the first one of the day) arrived near noon, I arrived only to catch the very end of the first session, giving the background to everything on "Religion in the Post-War Era." Then came lunch, which entailed food and now blogging. Another reason I about which I had apparently forgotten for coming (well, really, about all conferences and conventions) is making connections or at least meeting people. For instance, I've already met Dr. Alan Brill, Dr. Rabbi Lawrence Kaplan, and Dr. Steven Fine. There are other academics and rabbis here, which is pretty neat ("birds of a feather flock together"). At least a third reason, which I started realizing as well, was that I appreciate academic discourse - both the expanded lexicon as well as the employment of concepts (something which I think I started appreciating in my last semester (or maybe my second-to-last semester(?)) of college) and this is certainly a place where this elevated discourse is occurring.
However, one handicap I have is a lack of knowledge concerning the subject matter, having read very little on the subject matter. Hopefully, by being exposed to the information, I will have a much improved sense of what is significant here.
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Anonymous said...

Looking forward to hearing more about the conference. I considered attending, but a little too far from OH. BTW, do you get a notification when new comments are posted to older blog entries? I just discovered your blog today and added some comments to your 10/11/05 -Career Considerations entry.

Drew Kaplan said...

I do get a notification and I will be responding to some of those posts, so stay tuned.

The Town Crier said...

Wow, keep us informed. Sorry to miss it.

Menachem Butler said...

Drew -- Where are you sitting?!?!? --Menachem

Anonymous said...

Dave - where in OH?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

really? me too - I'm from Gahanna, but spend Shabboses in Bexley/Berwick...do I know you/do you know me?

~Alexis Kaplan

Anonymous said...

Drew just pointed out to me that in another comment you say you daven at Main St., so if you meet someone named Alexis, I am the sister of a blogger you seem to enjoy.

Anonymous said...


Edah is also sponsoring a mini-version of this conference, from 1-5 PM on Sunday the 18th in NY. Info is at http://www.edah.org

Adam said...

Thanks for the reports--sounds like it was a very interesting conference.

I'm just curious about your statement that you had little background in the subject matter.

I'm guessing that Reconstructionist, Reform, and Conservative rabbinical students get a lot of modern Jewish history, including/especially the history of their denominations in their seminary curricula. Sounds like you don't (at least at YCT; what about at YU?)

At least two of these movements highly value historical scholarship as part of their ideology and as useful in interpretation of halakhic issues (Conservative and to some extent Reconstructionist) and the third (Reform) relies heavily on a certain kind of periodization of Jewish history.

One of Orthodoxy's major claims to legitimacy is a certain denial of the role of history in changing halakha. But at the same time Orthodoxy very much has a history and this history has been studied by such a large number of academic historians, many of them Orthodox themselves. So what's the role of history in Orthodox rabbinical education?

Drew Kaplan said...

As far as denominational history goes, I don't think YU or many of the other Orthodox rabbinical schools teach it. However, YCT does do some in this field. For instance, in the first year, the students take a class called "Issues in Modern Orthodoxy" which touches on some historical stuff, but not much. THere may be some other stuff ass the years go by. Additionally, another unique feature among Orthodox rabbinical schools YCT offers is a denominations class (taught, for now, by Dr. Marc Shapiro). However, for a class on Orthodoxy, itself, I'm not quite sure (though there is a second year class on beliefs, etc.). Also, even if we had studied the history of Modern Orthodoxy or Orthodoxy, in general, I think that the 25-30 year span at which this conference was exploring, a lot fo the information still would've been new to me.
As far as the role of history in Orthodox rabbinical education, I cannot say for sure with many rabbinical schools, though my guess would be that they don't mention much about it or make it much of a thing. However, another unique thing among Orthodox rabbinical schools that YCT does is to recognize historical change. Up until last year, a course was offered, entitled "History of Halakhah."

Adam said...

Thanks for the informative answer.