Some Tough Questions for Modern Orthodoxy

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Some insights and tough questions for serious Modern Orthodox people, back from when there was a push to refer to the group as Centrist Orthodox. Unfortunately, this is the kind of self-criticism that may be cathartic but is entirely ignored and unproductive.

R. Yitzchok [Irving] Breitowitz, “A Symposium on Divided and Distinguished Worlds” in Tradition 26:2 (1992), pp. 20-21:

“[L]et us learn to cultivate within ourselves the quality of heshbon hanefesh instead of seeking fault in others. Centrist Orthodoxy must ask itself some hard questions. Do we strive for our children to become talmide hakhamim? Do we consider the quality of Jewish education to be at least as important as secular? Is it true, as oft stated, that on the whole Centrist Orthodoxy produces individuals who are committed to limud ha-torah, tefillah betzibbur, and meticulousness in kashrut as is commonly assumed? Is Centrist Orthodoxy as practiced a truly integrated philosophy of life or a convenient cop-out? Perhaps we must open our hearts and sould and learn from the Right Wing a greater sens of reverence and kedusha. Perhaps we have lost the capacity to be outraged by sin and are no longer capable of a sense of kanau-ut. Could it be that our oft-praise tolerance of nonhalakhic deviations is essentially predicated on indifference?…

[I]f a true rapprochement [between Centrists and the Right] is to be attained, the Centrist camp must learn to be intolerant of ideas that are fundamentally incompatible with Torah and must unequivocally disassociate itself from spokesmen and statements that degrade Da’at Torah, denigrate gedolim, or dilute halakha. In our desire to be liked and accepted, we must no betray our sacred heritage by deliberate distortion. If this amounts to the horrendous accusation of “turning to the right,” then let us plead guilty with no apologies.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Editor of, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student currently is serving his third term on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and also serves as the Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazineand the Board of OU Press. He has published four English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

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