Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Cracks in the Frank Fort

Something's eating away at the foundations of "Frankfurt on Hudson", K'hal Adath Jeshurun, a.k.a. the Breuer's community, in Washington Heights, Manhattan.

From the Jewish Press

Controversial Moments
At Rav S. R. Hirsch Memorial Celebration

Speaking at the 200th birthday celebration of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch this past Shabbos, Khal Adath Jeshurun’s Rav Yisroel Mantel declared that the philosophical credo of Rav Hirsch, Torah Im Derech Eretz, is not viable in the absence of its chief advocate.


Rav Mantel’s declaration, which angered many in the community, came at a sit-down kiddush at Dr. Raphael Moller Hall in Washington Heights after Shabbos morning services. He said that only Rav Hirsch, a great man who knew the fine boundaries between what is religiously permissible and what is prohibited, could make Torah Im Derech Eretz workable.

Our generation, he said, must follow today’s gedolei HaTorah (great Torah leaders).

After Shabbos, Dr. Eric Erlbach, KAJ president for over two decades, resigned.


Samson Bechhofer, a great-great-grandchild of Rav Hirsch, spoke first at the kiddush. The synagogue’s choir conductor and a lawyer by profession, Bechhofer lamented the educational policies of the community’s Yeshiva Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch school in recent years.

“If the goal of our kehilla and yeshiva is to have all of our sons and daughters end up in Lakewood – and I use Lakewood as a metaphor – then I submit that we are not being faithful to our founder’s philosophy or Weltanschauung, nor are we doing the future of our kehilla any great favors,” Bechhofer said.

Rav Mantel stood up and walked out of the hall at these words. He later returned and told the several hundred assembled that “grandchildren and lawyers” will not decide how to implement Torah Im Derech Eretz.


hhakhamim (and the rest of us too), hizaharu bedivreikhem!
also, you know what they say about what happens when you assume...


Blogger rabbiben said...

It's sad that this had to be dealt head on at the banquet but it has been an obvious reality for quite some time that KAJ has strayed far from TIDE. The statement from Rav Mantel is only one of many proofs to that point.

6/25/2008 8:51 PM  
Blogger Neil Harris said...

I had not read the article but thanks for pointing it out. Breuer's is a kehillah (kehillo if you leave there) and these is always bound to be people that see things differently.

6/26/2008 1:48 AM  
Anonymous sister miryam said...

Nice! Go go go go go G.O.S.O.T.T.F.C.!

6/26/2008 11:43 AM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...


6/26/2008 11:45 AM  
Anonymous sister miryam said...

dude it's your term, i just abbreviated it.

6/26/2008 12:52 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

thanks for explaining on a different communication medium, but "the great orthodox schism of the twenty first century" was actually *your* term originally.

6/26/2008 5:48 PM  
Blogger Garnel Ironheart said...

If KAJ has strayed from TIDE, exactly who else is left to endorse it?

6/27/2008 12:29 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Garnel Ironheart:

well, there's pretty much the entire Modern Orthodox world, although many MO people follow R' Hildesheimer's TiDE instead of R' Hirsch's.

6/27/2008 2:08 PM  
Anonymous sister miryam said...

What's the difference between the two?

6/27/2008 2:26 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

RAH was pro academic jewish studies, while RŠRH felt that Torah could never be studied using external methodologies. Also, RAH wasn't into Austritt.

6/27/2008 2:34 PM  
Blogger ClooJew said...

While the incident is another setback for the already fragile and fraying Washington Heights/KAJ community, Rav Mantel said nothing that any Torah authority would argue with: We must be directed by the leaders of our time. "Dor dor vedorshov."

The German-Jewish absorption into the melting pot of Orthodox Jewish America appears now to be nearing completion. Much of the Washington Heights community blended into Monsey (which has its own KAJ) and other communities. For the most part, all the yekkes I grew up with are, today, indistinguishable from all the other yeshiva guys I went to school with.

Yekkes are barely any longer a distinct "community," not because they haven't tried, but because the culture of the United States, in all its democratic glory and fiscally upward mobility, does not lend itself to those sorts of enclaves.

Fortunately, none of that matters. What the Yekkeshe community can take pride in - and this is, lulei demistafina, the ultimate trophy - is that Torah Im Derech Eretz is the de facto standard of American Orthodoxy.

Most of us go to work, speak unaccented English, and are friendly and honest with the "outside" world. Again, that's most of us. Even in Lakewood, the vast majority of heads of households are not sitting in Kollel but hold jobs that require them to deal with the outside world. Lakewood is not the ghetto that it is perceived - nor that it perceives itself - to be.

Two centuries later, Rav Hirsch has won not only the battle, but also the war.

6/29/2008 9:53 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...


i disagree — the "yeshivish" world goes to work and even goes to college sometimes, but they consider it a bedi‘avad. they learn about the world — but not because learning about God's world is religiously meaningful, or because human creativity connects us to God — but just in order to earn a living. That's not Torah ‘im Derekh Eretz. That's Torah uPharnasa.

6/29/2008 10:24 PM  

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