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Fuchs, “The Yeshiva as a Political Institution,” and other articles of interest from _Modern Judaism_

September 24th, 2013

The most recent issue of Modern Judaism features a number of articles of interest to readers of this blog.  Among them is Ilan Fuchs's "The Yeshiva as a Political Institution." The full-text of the article is accessible to subscribers only, but here are the opening paragraphs:

Since its beginnings in 18th century Lithuania, the modern yeshiva has not sought to create adjudicators of practical matters, but rather Talmudists to deal with Jewish laws and customs on an abstract, theoretical plane.1 As an institution of intellectual and spiritual formation, the yeshiva has also provided a calm retreat from the political challenges that might distract from Torah study. In late 19th century Russia, postwar Poland, and modern Israel, however, a proactive transformational model of the yeshiva emerged which can only be termed “political.”

These yeshivas offered an alternative to the political options in the Jewish community, both secular national forces and mainstream political Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy entered the modern political arena after the secular political forces were already well established and when Orthodoxy had also adopted modern political tools. Whether Agudat Israel or the Mizrachi, they were mainly pursuing sectarian interests, abandoning the hope to take back leadership. This criticism of the political yeshivas also referred to the inadequacies of the Litvish model of the yeshiva. The latter’s attempt to create a closed environment was not always successful: the liberal and secular ideas of the Haskala movement influenced even the most important yeshivas.

Though arising in different historical contexts, these political yeshivas betrayed striking similarities. They all articulated a vision of traditional Judaism countering a hegemonic, predominantly secular, ideology. Their primary goal was to educate a future generation of activists strong enough to confront secularism and reassume leadership of the Jewish community. Central in each case was a corpus of ideological texts equal in importance to the Talmud. These yeshivas also adopted modern political tools such as the publication of magazines and journals and a branch organization with a central leadership, all the while identifying secular political movements as their primary rivals. As they sought through these …

This issue also includes an article by Ronit Irshai, "Dignity, Honor, and Equality in Contemporary Halachic Thinking: The Case of Torah Reading by Women in Israeli Modern Orthodoxy." The rest of the table of contents is accessible here (another blog post on Avraham Reiner's article, "R’ Yosef Shalom Elyashiv as a Halachic Decisor," is forthcoming).

Conference on “Judaism, Law and Literature”

September 17th, 2013

The following call for papers for a conference on "Judaism, Law and Literature" comes from the Jewish Law Association:
The next International Meeting of the Jewish Law Association will take place in Antwerp, Belgium, on 14th-17th July 2014, hosted by the university's Institute for Jewish Studies directed by Professor Vivian Liska.
The Conference will give preference to papers on the theme "Judaism, Law and Literature", viewed broadly as including papers on any period (law and literature in the Bible, rabbinic literature, and modern secular literature), and as encompassing both law in literature and law as literature, from both applied and theoretical/methodological perspectives.
Comparative perspectives will also be welcome.
Proposals of papers should be sent to the Chair of the Conference Organising Committee, Professor Bernard Jackson at by December 31st 2013. They should contain a title and abstract.