Monday, January 31

"Observant Reader (and Writer)"

The NYT Book Review asks and interesting question this week...

Some writers claim to portray ultra-Orthodox Jews from an insider's perspective. But are these writers really insiders?
Read here.

Sunday, January 30

Rupture, Reconstruction, and Admissions Policy

What does Prof. Haym Soloveitchik's landmark essay, "Rupture and Reconstruction," have to do with which young haredim are accepted to the exclusive Yeshivas Brisk in Jerusalem? More than you might think!
Read here in original Hebrew, or here in English translation.

Thursday, January 27

Auschwitz +60

"No wonder many of the survivors went on to Israel. No doubt, they wanted to get to a place where they could leave their victimhood behind and assert responsibility over their fate, a place where they could connect with the culture of their forefathers, to the language of the Bible, and to the land that gave birth to the Bible."
Aharon Appelfeld reflects on Auschwitz liberated, sixty years on.

Guide Online

Michael Schwartz's new Hebrew translation of Maimonides' Guide for the Perplexed is now available on-line (and it's searchable). This new translation will become the standard Hebrew text. The notes and bibliographic references to classical and contemporary interpretation are extremely useful to student and teacher.

Wednesday, January 26

The Little Prince shlit"a

Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev meets the Little Prince...

Tuesday, January 25

MeEver LeYam

Our friend Rabbi Yitzchak Blau wrote an insightful Op-Jed essay for the ATID website a while back. He examined the often tense relationship between American high schools and Israeli yeshivot and seminaries.
Read it here:
"MeEver LeYam": Rethinking the Relationship Between Israeli Yeshivot and Diaspora Schools
Read it, think about it, read the on-line replies, send us your response. Or, submit your own Op-Jed (= opinion piece for Jewish education) for publication.

What made us think of this now?

Sunday, January 23

Lonely Profession II

A few days ago we posted an essay about how the military as a profession learns from itself, implying that teaching is still in need of better ways to do this.
Here's another article (also from The New Yorker) about how the medical profession learns from its mistakes. In teaching we don't even always know when we've made a mistake--but the example of collegial review is something we should do more of (and something we do with our ATID Fellows).
Click here for the essay as a PDF (slightly large download, but you get the cartoons).

Friday, January 21

On Har Hamenuchot

Jewish Action published a moving poem by Rabbi David Ebner, describing a nighttime visit to the gravesite of his cousins, R. Dr. David Applebaum and daughter Nava z"l. Read it here.

Another fine example of sensetive reading of Torah texts, processed through the pen of a "Torah poet"-- see more in Rabbi Ebner's volume, The Library of Everything: Poems and Torah Commentaries. (Click here to read other poems and listen to him read on-line.)

Thursday, January 20

ATID Fellows 2005-06

Are you the future of Jewish education?
ATID has been established in order to enable talented Orthodox men and women, who have a rich background in Torah study, to develop the tools to make informed decisions about the education of the next generation. We have established ATID to help shape and develop the future of educational leadership in our community. These future leaders and visionaries will be the teachers and builders of educational institutions, and the forces in setting the educational agenda within the Jewish community in Israel and abroad.

In the coming academic year (starting September 2005) the ATID Fellowship will again be comprised of a select number of people who have shown early promise of taking roles as leaders for Torah education. The Jerusalem-based in-service program consists of weekly seminars, individual and group research projects and field work, and mentoring by senior educators. Fellows are generally in the first 5-10 years of their professional life, and have at least a BA (or equivalent). The fellowship is awarded for two consecutive academic years, and the academic program runs from September-June (inclusive). Each Fellow will receive a yearly stipend of $3,500 (US).

We ask prospective Fellows to submit a CV before applying. Qualified candidates will be invited to complete the application process (the deadline for which is April 21, 2005). Send your CV by email to or by fax to 02-567-1723. (Be sure to indicate your contact details, and date of birth.)

For more details on the ATID Fellows program, click here.
For details in Hebrew, click here.

Wednesday, January 19

Deserving the Land

The most recent issue of the OU's Jewish Action just went on-line.
It contains a very good summary (by Myles Brody) of the debate which grabbed hold of the Israeli Dati Leumi community recently in the wake of an exchange between Yeshivat Har Etzion's R. Amnon Bazak and R. Yaakov Medan on the theological significance of withdrawal form Gaza. Get the PDF of the article here.

"Neither can be dismissed as a 'knee-jerk liberal' or a 'right-wing fundamentalist,' and their wisdom as well as their civility demand respect."

R. Bazak: "We may deduce..that there is no absolutevalue in advance into Eretz Yisrael--rather the absolute value lies in listening to the voice of God"--so the very possibilty of withdrawal seems to be punishment for our spiritual shortcomings. The religious establishment doesn't recognize this because of its "messianic illusions."

R. Medan: "If we lose the Land, God forbid, then we must indeed see it as a punishment for our sins. But until that time, we sinfully err in voluntarily surrendering any territory, especially to murderers that threaten all of Israel."

The full, Hebrew essay by R. Bazak is here. R. Medan's original Hebrew reply here. R. Bazak's counter-reply, here.

The Lonely Profession

The nature of teaching is such that teachers--from the very beginning of their career--spend most of their time in isolation from their colleagues--that is, behind the classroom doors. Classroom teachers make hundreds of decisions every day, and do so in isolation from peers or supervisors. Often, young educators resist seeking out advice, fearing to admit their shortcomings. In the best of our educational settings, mentoring and supervision are rare, and when it does exist experienced colleagues can at best only be present for a small fraction of beginner’s classroom activities. As someone else put it:
Teaching is not like other crafts and professions, whose members talk in a language specific to them and their work… Without such a framework, the neophyte is less able to order the flux and color of daily events and can miss crucial transactions which might otherwise be encoded in the categories of a developed discourse. Each teacher must laboriously construct ways of perceiving and interpreting what is significant. [Dan C. Lortie, Schoolteacher: A Sociological Study (U. of Chicago Press, 1975): 73-74.]
Click here for a report on how one profession (the U.S. military) has constructed a grass roots effort to enable its members to learn from each other. There are implications for education--but we must process them.

Sunday, January 16


The new volume of The Torah u-Madda Journal (12) is now on-line here. (Contains a very nice review of Wisdom From All My Teachers--read it here.)
TUMJ archives are now housed on the truly outstanding new YU Torah website.

Wednesday, January 12

Save the date...

ATID's 7th Annual Winter Conference
Wednesday, February 16, 2005 at 7:45 PM
Menachem Begin Heritage Center, Jerusalem

Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter
Dean, Soloveitchik Institute (Brookline, MA)


Panel of respondents:
Dr. Meir Ekstein
Clinical Psychologist; Founder, Noga & Nachshon Schools
Mrs. Sally Mayer
Faculty, Midreshet Lindenbaum
Rabbi Reuven Ziegler
Faculty, ATID; Director of Research, Toras HoRav Foundation
Conclusion: Rabbi Chaim Brovender, President, ATID

Click here for more info.

Tuesday, January 11

Treating the Soul

"It is easy for rabbis to collaborate with doctors because rabbis deal with the soul and doctors with the rabbi. Conversely, it is hard for them to work together with psychologists, because both of them deal with the human soul." Haaretz reports.
(See especially towards the bottom re: upcoming crisis for the Religious Zionist camp and hitnatkut.)

Monday, January 10

A Good Job

William Safire, who retires his op-ed column in two weeks (boo-hoo), delivers another nice drasha on Sefer Iyyov, reminding us that suffering (tsunami, e.g.) isn't so much a question about God, as it is a question about us. Read it here.

You may recall that Rabbi Soloveitchik makes this point (but does a better job) in the opening chapter of Kol Dodi Dofek. Safire does, however, give us the following great quote from Virginia Woolf, who wrote in her journal, "I read the Book of Job last night--I don't think God comes well out of it."

Thursday, January 6

After the Wave, Shallow and False

Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein rejects moral, philosophical and religious pretentiousness. We simply don't know why God sends tsunamis. (Full transcript, click here.)
Some people concern themselves with the question of why it happened, voicing opinions on why the tragedy occurred specifically in that place and that time. These same people, in different circumstances, also explain why infants and young children die. Apparently, they consider themselves experts in the ways of Divine Providence. We must distance ourselves completely from such shallow and false answers...
We have no business explaining, or pretending to explain, things that cannot be explained. We must remember Chazal's teaching concerning Bilam, who thought that he understood God's supreme wisdom. The Gemara derides him: "This person, who claimed to know God's mind--could he not understand his donkey's mind?" This pretentiousness--moral, philosophical and religious pretentiousness--we totally reject.

Wednesday, January 5

Belief on the Edge

The great website EDGE sponsors a yearly symposium on some issue related to the crossroads of science and philosophy. This year's question: "What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?" Lots of responses, some better then others of course, but all thought provoking. The implications for Jewish life and teaching should be clear. (NYT also takes note.)

Reminds us of Rabbi Shalom Carmy's recent volume from ATID, Letter To A Philosophical Dropout From Orthodoxy, in which he deals with this issue head-on. Read more about it here. Purchase copy here.

Tuesday, January 4

Voice of Reason

Our friend, Daniel Gordis, an eminent voice of reason (even when you disagree with him), wonders on his Blog if the Jewish people have lost their mind, become completely unglued--you know, gone absolutely berserk. (Re: tsunamis, hitnatkut, Zionism, etc.)

Sunday, January 2

Where Was God?

It's a tough question. Tsunamis only sharpen it. Teachers are likely to have to deal with it.
Here are some articles from this week that deal with it (might not agree; questions better than answers; might trigger your own thinking though):
Wall Street Journal
The Guardian (London)
Telegraph (Calcutta)
Sunday Morning Herald (Australia)

Jewish points of view? Be careful, some of things written and spoken this past week in the "name of Torah" are nothing but perversions of the word of God. However, do see Rav S.R. Hirsch to Tehillim 22:2 ("Keli, Keli lama azavtani...").

Finally, here's a lesson about the power of education.