05 March 2012

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to Creating a Rabbinical School

When Rabbi Avi Weiss set out to create a rabbinical school, his aim was to provide for rabbis to be with the people and on the ground, so to speak.  It wasn't to necessarily create scholars who would generate written output in the form of articles in journals, let alone writing books.  Inasmuch as he has written books and articles, I imagine he hadn't intended writing as a byproduct of this endeavor.
     With Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz' first book, Jewish Ethics & Social Justice: A Guide for the 21st Century (Derusha, 2012), coming out later this month, it seems timely to consider the written output of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (YCT) graduates.  Rabbi Yanklowitz is the third graduate to publish a book. The first was Rabbi Jonathan Duker, who graduated in the first class in 2004. His The Spirits Behind The Law: The Talmudic Scholars (Jerusalem: Urim Publications, 2007) was then followed by Rabbi Ben Greenberg's self-published compilation of tweets entitled Twitter Torah: Thoughts on the Hebrew Bible in 140 Characters or Less (Urim, 2009), followed by a self-published book of essays on Genesis and Deuteronomy, Covenantal Promise and Destiny: Wisdom for Life (Urim, 2010).
     In addition to these books, there have been 2-3 dozen articles that have been produced by students and graduates of YCT, most of them in Milin Havivin, the journal that is published by YCT.
     It will be interesting to see what Rabbi Yanklowitz' book brings, which seems to be a collection of essays on social justice, many of which come from his Street Torah column in the Jewish Week. Rabbi Duker's book focused on certain Talmudic sages, with a non-critical eye designed to paint their biographies with broad strokes (seemingly for Talmudic novices?). Rabbi Greenberg's Twitter Torah is a compiled collection of tweets from a variety of Jewish Twitterers from three years ago and his essays come from his discussions in his position with Harvard Hillel.
     With the tagline of "Where Open Orthodoxy Begins", YCT was designed to create rabbis who would endeavor to be with the people, but there has been a happy unexpected result of turning out some who would generate written scholarship, benefiting the Jewish people.

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