Yitz Greenberg and Modern Orthodoxy: The Road Not Taken

Yitz Greenberg and Modern Orthodoxy: The Road Not Taken

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Edited by Adam Ferziger, Miri Freud-Kandel, and Steven Bayme

ISBN:  9781618117496 (hardcover) / 9781618116147 (paper)
Pages: 310 pp.
Publication Date: September 2019


Sixteen scholars from around the globe gathered at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies in the bucolic Yarnton Manor in the Oxfordshire countryside in June 2014, for the first (now annual) Oxford Summer Institute on Modern and Contemporary Judaism. The current volume is the fruit of this encounter. The goal of the event was to facilitate in-depth engagement with the thought of Rabbi Dr. Irving “Yitz” Greenberg, concentrating particularly on the historical ramifications of his theological and public stances. Consideration was given to his lifelong and complex encounter with the Modern Orthodox stream of American Judaism and the extent to which his teachings functioned as “the road not taken.” This auspicious gathering was most certainly characterized by deep appreciation for Greenberg’s original outlook, which is predicated on his profound dedication to God, Torah, the Jewish people, and humanity. But this was by no means gratuitous homage or naive esteem. On the contrary, those in attendance understood that the most genuine form of admiration for a thinker and leader of his stature—especially one who continues to produce path-breaking writings and speak out publicly—is to examine rigorously and critically his ideas and legacy. We are confident that the creative process that was nurtured has resulted in a substantive contribution to research on the religious, historical, and social trajectories of contemporary Judaism, and, similarly will engender fresh thinking on crucial theological and ideological postures that will ultimately enrich Jewish life. This volume offers readers a critical engagement with the trenchant and candid efforts of one of the most thoughtful and earnest voices to emerge from within American Orthodoxy to address the theological and moral concerns that characterize our times.

Adam S. Ferziger is an award-winning scholar of modern and contemporary Judaism. He holds the S.R. Hirsch Chair for Research of the Torah with Derekh Erez Movement in the Israel and Golda Koschitzky Department of Jewish History and Contemporary Jewry at Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel, and is head of its Center for the Study of Judaism in Israel and North America. He is a senior associate at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, University of Oxford, UK, and is co-convener of the annual Oxford Summer Institute on Modern and Contemporary Judaism.

Miri Freud-Kandel, a scholar of the theological development of modern and contemporary Judaism with a particular focus on Orthodox Judaism in Britain, is Fellow in Modern Judaism in the Faculty of Theology & Religion at the University of Oxford. She is also co-convener of the annual Oxford Summer Institute on Modern and Contemporary Judaism.

Steven Bayme serves as National Director of the Contemporary Jewish Life Department, American Jewish Committee and as Director of its Dorothy and Julius Koppelman Institute on American Jewish-Israeli Relations. He is also Visiting Faculty, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in Riverdale, NY.

Table of Contents

Editors’ Introduction
Adam S. Ferziger, Miri Freud-Kandel, and Steven Bayme

A Personal Retrospective

Modern Orthodoxy and the Road Not Taken: A Retrospective View
Irving (Yitz) Greenberg

Part One: Law and Theology 

History and Halakhah 
Steven Katz

Rabbi Yitz Greenberg’s Covenantal Theory of Bioethics 
Alan Jotkowitz

Irving Greenberg’s Theology of Hybrid Judaism 
Darren Kleinberg

On the Meaning and Significance of Revelation for Orthodox Judaism 
James Kugel

Divine Hiddenness and Human Input: The Potential Contribution of a Postmodern View of Revelation to Yitz Greenberg’s Holocaust Theology 
Tamar Ross 

Modern Orthodoxy and Religious Truth 
Marc B. Shapiro

On Revelation, Heresy, and Mesorah—from Louis Jacobs to the TheTorah.com
Miri Freud-Kandel

Part Two: Past and Present

What Is “Modern” in Modern Orthodoxy?
Alan Brill 

Can Modern Orthodoxy Survive?
Jack Wertheimer

Where Have All the Rabbis Gone?  The Changing Character of the Orthodox Rabbinate and its Causes 
Samuel C. Heilman 

Modern Orthodox Responses to the Liberalization of Sexual Mores 
Sylvia Barack Fishman

“The Road Not Taken” and “The One Less Traveled”: The Greenberg–Lichtenstein Exchange and Contemporary Orthodoxy 
Adam S. Ferziger

Editors and Contributors