Thursday, June 12, 2008

good weekend last week

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the annual Lawyers and Government Agencies Dinner sponsored by the JUF. It was good to meet different types of people in my field and outside of it.

There was a moving video in the beginning of the program, that lasted about ten minutes long, telling us what types of people JUF helps. It could be the Jewish Community and Hillel at Virginia Tech, after last year's massacre. It could be elderly folks at the CJE or it could be families in Israel.

Also, we had the privilege of listening to Bob Costas, the esteemed sportscaster, tell us some funny stories from his broadcasting career, whether in baseball or basketball or even in the Olympics. He will be anchoring NBC's Olympic coverage starting August 8th.

Then last shabat, I went down to Lakeview for shabat. It was the first time that I went when my cousins weren't there, as they moved to Skokie last year. I liked it, it was a little different, but a good and NEEDED change of pace.

The last thing that I want to comment on this post is how I feel that Modern Orthodox Judaism will separate into three camps. The first is the Modern Orthodox Machmir camp, which is modern in terms of secular education and livelihood (number of attorneys, accountants, etc.) but closer to the Yeshiva world in terms of dress, commitment to learning and aversion to mixed meals and other events where men and women would mingle.

The second camp is what I call the old-school Modern Orthodox. This camp is a little more well off than some of the members of the first camp. In general, women in this camp aren't as careful about covering their hair and wearing long skirts. Their numbers are diminishing, as evidenced by the fact that Camp Moshava, which used to have four or five locations, now only has three or four. This camp is traditionally Orthodox, and would not be comfortable with women leading the Tefillah or a Woman's megillah reading.

The last camp is what has been referred to by some as Open Orthodoxy. They are open to changes, particularly within social areas like justice for the disadvantaged, making sure the slaughterhouses are humane, and other related causes.

This camp may be closer to Conservative Judaism in some respects, particularly with respect to the gender role in Judaism. My hope is that these three can find some more common ground.


Blogger wrpn said...

Allow me to post a few comments....

Of your 3 camps, I've always been in the "Open Orthodox Camp". I like this term very much. For a lack of a label I had taken to calling myself a "Judeo-Catholic" because I appreciated some of Rome's strong positions on social issues.

That said I don't think Open Orthodoxy is closer to Conservative Judaism. It is a way of, in the words of Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch, "accepting the wisdom of Greece, while rejecting the materialism of Rome." Look, if how we define Orthodoxy is based on whether our wives cover their hair, my wife does for instance, or if we support separate seating at simachot, I personally don't, Religious Judaism is in very serious trouble.

"Open Orthodoxy" strives to bring the best to the table of Torah and that means appreciating for instance Reform Judaism's long connection to social action and Tikkun Olam. We can learn from Rabbi Eric Yoffie on that one. It means understanding that certain giants of Christian faith have things we can learn from as well. The legacies of Sir Thomas More, Soren Kierkegaard, Thomas Merton, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, or Oswald Chambers are amazing testimonies to the power of faith that any serious religious person would want to look at. Likewise, Orthodox feminists who are serious about Tefillah couldn't do better than to check out the lives of Teresa of Avila, Dorothy Day, or Catherine Dougherty.

June 13, 2008 8:37 AM  
Blogger JMNOR55 said...


Excellent point about defining Orthodoxy by certain "ritual practices". It is kind of sad, but unfortunately I think more and more Orthodox Jews live by this credo because it's easy and convenient. To investigate a person's stance on Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch is too complicated and time consuming for some people.

I never heard of the term Judeo-Catholic. Do Roman Catholics in this neighborhood as well as other strongly Catholic areas in the Chicagoland area know about this?

June 13, 2008 10:34 AM  
Blogger wrpn said...

I coined the term "Judeo-Catholic" for myself. I was frankly tired of meaningless labels of left vrs right and I came up with this but like many traditional Catholics I oppose abortion, I think that the Catholic Church is probably right on divorce and contraception although I'm not sure those are benchmarks I'd want to be held to, and as a conservative Iraq War opponent I like Pope John XXIII's famous comment "everything is gained through peace, everything is lost through war!"

June 13, 2008 1:12 PM  
Blogger frumhouse said...

I'm not sure if I agree with your three camps, but it's interesting to read your take on the evolution of Modern Orthodoxy. I'm glad you had fun at the JUF dinner and your Lakeview Shabboton. Were you at the Jewish Folk Arts festival this year? We went. It was a nice event.

June 16, 2008 5:08 PM  
Blogger wrpn said...

My wife and I have come to dislike the Jewish Folk Arts Festival over the years. Last Sunday, inspired by the Tribune's "One Fine Day" column, we went to Kenosha with our 7 year old son. We enjoyed free kid friendly museums, beautiful lakefront parks and beaches, and the solitude that would have been denied us had we opted for the "Balagan" in the Morton Grove Forest Preserve!

June 17, 2008 7:17 PM  

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